At 10:51 local time, the spotter shouts out the news I have been waiting for, “Yukon do it and Yukon beat em are in view”. Another few mins and they are across the line… together.
The teams exit the boats, the emotions are running high, and I suspect a number of the team are having to fight back the tears. Lots of hugs (yes hugs) – we are passed the normal British handshake… I think it’s starting to sink in what the boys have just achieved.
So now they are all safely back on dry land, let me tell you all the real story of the trip – I heard a number of times, the river flow will take you to the end in a few days so it should be easy, nothing could be further from the truth.
The team left on Weds in good spirit, this much is true, and then three hours in they hit Lake Laberge (to contextualise the size of this lake, it took me 20 mins to cover the width of this lake in a speedboat going flat out… the teams had nearly 10hrs of paddling just to cross it!)
27 hours in they reach Carmacks which is a mandatory stop and is about 40% of the way to Dawson City. Upon arrival most of the team couldn’t stand without assistance, one of team had to be taken to the RV as he was suffering with hypothermia (this was serious) – unsteady, shaking and couldn’t string a sentence together. Whilst Ben was dealing with that, another crew member started to feel unwell, he couldn’t tell me his name and he couldn’t walk – I had to physically place him in the medical tent so we could get him looked at… urgently. The rest of the crew couldn’t follow the simplest of instructions. At this point both teams were at real risk of being medically scratched from the event and a number of the crew shared with me privately that they didn’t think they could continue. I reckon that we came within 30 mins of having to medically evacuate at least one if not two of the crew.
Seven hours later all of the crew were back on their feet. Despite what they were saying, they were hurting and hurting bad, but none of them wanted to quit… they didn’t want to let their teams down.
The captains Tim and Mark pulled everyone together before the restart. The tone of the crews had changed, it was now not one of which boat was the faster, this was about survival and finishing. The teams agreed from here on in they would stick together, look after each other and get to the end together and that is exactly what they did.
Along the way the team went without sleep, little food, they all talk of hallucinations, feeling cold and muscle aches (and these were the lucky ones). So I ask you this, when you see your husband / boyfriend / work colleague, take a moment to congratulate them. The stories that they share with you will not even come close to adequately conveying the pain (both physical and mental) that they have put themselves through over the last 60 hours. These boys were incredibly fit and it nearly broke them and in fact, a few of them it did.
The courage shown by all to keep going, to not quit was phenomenal. I doubt I will ever come across a group of people with such courage again.
So in signing off this extraordinary trip, I would like you each to remember, this was no jolly, no walk in the park, this was, one of the toughest endurance races on the planet…..
They stayed safe