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Esther Wheeler first female to complete Yukon River Quest in solo canoe

Congratulations to Harrogate’s Esther Wheeler, who recently became the first female to complete the Yukon River Quest in a solo canoe in the 19 year history of the race. 

Esther

The Yukon River Quest is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race based in Canada.

Covering 444 miles across four days, the Yukon River Quest attracts paddlers from across the world to test their endurance, whilst racing day and night.

There are many different ways paddlers can tackle the annual North American river race, with solo and tandem canoes and kayaks, solo SUP and C4 and voyager canoes.

Esther became the first female to complete the 444 miles on her own in a canoe, placing 58th overall in the standings.

Going under the team name ‘Yukoned Me Into It’, Esther finished the marathon battle in a very good time of 61 hours 33 minutes and 9 seconds.  

Esther only began to paddle approximately seven years ago, and has raced the Yukon River Quest twice before. First in 2013, where she paddled as a tandem canoe alongside a fellow club member, whilst more recently in 2016 as part of a seven person voyageur team.

Having just moved to Australia for work, Esther has been delighted with the responses she has received from the paddling work in Canada, the UK and Australia.

Speaking of her achievements, Esther said: “It was a great feeling crossing the line to the cheers of so many people.

“It is a relief to finish, but it was also the first time I realised I'd actually finished the race by myself. It didn't feel real until that time and it was a bit emotional realising I'd succeeded doing what I set out to do - and that others were so happy for me.”

She continued, “This race tests every part of your paddling ability; your focus and drive; your determination; your technique and style of paddling; how you hydrate and feed yourself; paddling in a close fought race and paddling alone for long periods of time; your ability to read river currents and navigate through the many options and braids the Yukon takes in the last day or so.

“Every minute of the last 9-10 months has been completely worth it just for how I feel now and how blessed I am to have raced down such a beautiful river. I am already looking forwards to going back next year for the 20th anniversary of the race.”