Team Skagnificent glides across the middle of Lake Lebarge after about five hours of paddling. Katie Emmets
Skagway team finishes 18th out of 72 teams in Yukon River Quest
By KATIE EMMETS
Team Skagnificent arrived in Dawson City just before 3 a.m. on July 2, 52 hours and 58 minutes after leaving Whitehorse at noon on June 29.
On the way, Annie Brady burped 101 times, Denise Caposey led kindergarten sing-alongs, and they talked about everything from going to the bathroom to polygamy.
The eight-person voyageur canoe team finished in 18th place in 2011 Yukon River Quest while breaking the previous Skagway team’s record by 12 minutes.
The 460-mile route, from Whitehorse to Dawson City, would take any leisurely paddlers about a week and a half to complete, but Team Skagnificent, along with 54 other finishing teams, did it in less than three days.
“I’m thrilled with the way our team performed,” said team captain Jeff Brady, adding that they met all of their team goals which included finishing with a fast and happy crew.
“Our original goal was to finish under 55 hours,” he said. “But once we figured we could finish before 3 a.m. we pushed it to finish under (53 hours).”
And they did.
At 2:58 a.m. on July 2, Team Skagnificent paddled through the finish line with Brady screaming “we are” followed by a loud “Skagnificent” from the remaining seven teammates – something that became second nature to the team if ever they crossed paths with someone along the river.
Team Skagnificent was the first Alaskan team to complete this year’s River Quest, Brady said. A team from Anchorage finished two boats behind.
Brady said the best part of the race, which he thinks his teammates would agree with, was how well they got along.
“No one brought the boat down, which is something every teams worries about,” he said.
Team Skagnificent was made of up Skagway’s Jeff Brady, Annie Brady, Denise Caposey, Mike Healy and Bruce Schindler; Eric Nelson and Dave Sevdy from Juneau; and former Skagway News intern Molly Dischner from Kenai.
Schindler did the quest route in the Dyea to Dawson race in 1997.
“It was equally as brutal,” Schindler said. “But much more intense and compact.”
Schindler said the strategy of rest and how to portion food was completely different, as the River Quest is a 55-hour long race as opposed to the six- to seven-day time frame of the Dyea to Dawson race.
“The physical demands are obvious; the lack of sleep is obvious; sometimes when you’re in the boat you’re thinking ‘why did I sign up for this again?’” Schindler said. “And it took a lot more mindfulness to plan out resting so you didn’t burn yourself out early and have to drop out of the race.”
Along the same lines, Schindler said having a support crew during the River Quest was a big difference from the Dyea to Dawson race, and one that he was very thankful for.
“We had people that would just show up, whisk you away from the boat, give you food and put you to bed,” he said. “And when we got up five hours later, food was ready and our boat was clean.”
After leaving seven-hour mandatory checkpoint at Carmacks, where a support crew of faithful Skagway followers greeted them, the team didn’t fully start waking up until about a half hour later.
“After 25 to 26 hours straight of paddling, we were all falling asleep at the wheel coming into Carmacks,” he said. “And I thought I might have fallen asleep for five minutes in the boat and dreamed the whole checkpoint.”
But Schindler said the team eventually was wide-awake and headed into Five Finger Rapids in pursuit of the midnight sun.
“We felt great,” he said, adding that by the time 6 a.m. rolled around on the 2nd, it felt like lunch time.
Team Skagnificent throws its paddles up while pulling into Carmacks for a seven-hour mandatory rest. Katie Emmets
The team paddles into Five Finger Rapids at the start of its second night on the river. Mark Abadi
Bruce Schindler and Eric Nelson paddle in the front of the Team Skagnificent voyageur, leading the team in strokes toward the midnight sun on the last night of the race. Jeff Brady
Denise Caposey loses her balance after a 53-hour paddle from Whitehorse to Dawson City while Annie Brady lends a helping hand. Katie Emmets
Both Brady and Schindler remarked on the strength and determination of fellow teammates Nelson and Sevdy who did not sleep at all in the boat.
“Both Dave and Eric had the wisdom of a monk and the endurance of a sled dog,” Schindler said, adding that they were both remarkable with their attitude and calm demeanor during the race.
Brady said it was great to have their experience as they have paddled the YRQ several times each. With Nelson in the front navigating and Sevdy in the back steering, Jeff said they worked very well together as a team.
Although he plans on being involved in the race next year, Brady said be might not be in a boat.
“I’m thinking I might coach a team,” he said adding that he is looking into getting a faster voyageur canoe to use in future races.
No matter what the next few years hold for Brady and his participation in the quest, he said he will be paddling in a tandem canoe with his son Danny when the boy is about 16.
“I’ll definitely do a voyageur again, but (paddling tandem) is more of a father/son personal experience,” he said.
Brady and daughter Annie, also a member of Team Skagnificent, did the quest in a tandem canoe in 2005.
Because the team finished under 55 hours and came in second place in the mixed voyageur canoe division, they won a $592 cash prize.
“I wrote checks for $75 for everyone this week,” Brady said with a laugh.
Members only saw a return of 18.07 percent of the near $415 they each paid to enter the race and contribute to the boat rental.
“The prize money is just a bonus,” Brady said. “It’s more about bragging rights.”
The team thanks its support crew: Mike O'Daniel, Chris Maggio, Dorothy Brady, Megan Hahn, Danny Brady, and Denver Evans.