Race to the Midnight Sun: Bart de Zwart takes 4th Yukon River Win

Starboard SUP team rider and endurance paddler Bart de Zwart has taken the fourth consecutive win in the 2019 Yukon River Quest, completing the 715km (444 miles) paddle expedition race from in Whitehorse to Dawson City, Canada in a winning time of 56 hours 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Bart raced the 14 x 24.5 All Star. He added some additional bungees to carry gear in his Starboard drybag

Race to the Midnight Sun

Known as the “Race to the Midnight Sun”, the Yukon River Quest, is an annual ultramarathon paddling race with multiple craft disciplines including stand up paddleboard (SUP), taking place in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Teams from around the globe came to challenge themselves in this self-supported non-stop paddling quest through some of Canada’s untouched wilderness.

Bart was joined by Chris Parker (Starboard/Sup Racer) along with eight other stand up paddlers and hundreds of canoe and kayak competitors who attempted to conquer the mighty Yukon River.

Bart’s Endurance Odyssey

Let’s hear from Bart himself as he shares his epic 715km SUP endurance odyssey:

“After some intensive training in the past 2 months, with plentiful hours on the water and many early mornings, I felt well prepared when I travelled to Whitehorse, Canada.

Although I felt confident in my preparation, I was not without concern about the weather as it showed a northerly wind brewing for the first day which can make for a treacherous paddle across the lake.

My support member, Kalin Palet, helped by holding my board steady – the new All Star 14 x 24.5 with all the obligatory gear – on the river’s edge as the race begins with a 400 meter run to the board. I had an excellent start and out of the 125 teams I was the first on the water. I knew that multi-person canoes would soon fly past me but my intent was to have some distance on the stand up paddleboard (SUP) racers in the first few hundred meters with whom I was competing. This sounds weird for a 715 km race but once I gain a gap I often won’t lose that until the finish – it’s a mental thing – so starts are important even in a race like this. But you will always be chased.

After 3 hours we hit the lake and pretty soon a small storm came up. Out was only a few hours but created chaos and hardship for the stand up paddlers and many canoes. I beat through it and after a few hours, things calmed down.

After 9 hours I was back on the river with the current now helping me along in the right direction. A little bit beat from fighting the winds and chops, I slowed down a little and paddled with not much trouble through the night. I realized it got quite cold, every time I sat down on the board to grab some food. Later I heard many people stopped because of hypothermia. I had put on just enough clothes and I knew that if I kept paddling hard enough I will stay warm.

After 25 hoursI made it to the 7 hour compulsory rest checkpoint. I was quite beat up and tired but the 7 hour rest and 5 hour sleep did an almost full recovery for me.

I started back on the river in the evening knowing that I had 1 hr and 45 minute advantage on my next competitor, Peter Allen, a good paddler who I knew wouldn’t give up after the first fight. I passed through the next section in good spirit and navigated the small navigational challenges well so I thought I made up for lost time on the windy lake and was going to make good time until a strong headwind picked up. Suddenly my advantage and good mood disappeared and I was fighting to keep the nose of the board into the wind. I planned to be at the next 3 hour rest stop in 6 hours. This ended up a long 8.5 hrs of battling the wind with no end in sight.

At Coffee Creek, the next rest stop in the middle of nowhere along the river’s bank, only accessible by helicopter or boat, I was done, toast and really looking forward to a break, all my muscles were hurting. 3 hours of food and sleep is not much but it did wonders, I felt great again.

In the next 12 hours back on the water I found a fast but steady pace and was quickly going towards Dawson City where the finish was. After being past by many kayaks and canoes into the tough headwind I made up and regained places. This doesn’t matter for my SUP category ranking but helps a lot mentally.

As I neared the finish a beautiful midnight sun shone with a sunset which lasts many hours in this part of the world. I passed the last difficult sections of the Yukon River where many make navigation mistakes without any problems. At 6.49 am I passed the finish in Dawson, not a record time due to the conditions but in first and happy with my performance.”

Here are the 2019 Yukon River Quest Paddleboard (SUP) Race Results:

1st: Bart de Zwart: 56 hours 47 minutes (Starboard)
2nd: Peter Allen: 59 hours 22 minutes
3rd: Shauna Magowan: 62 hours 3 minutes
4th: Brad Friesen: 65 hours 28 minutes
5th: Mike Procter: 70 hours 39 minutes
5th: Ben Ashwell: 70 hours 39 minutes
5th: Christopher Parker: 70 hours 39 minutes (Starboard/ SUP Racer)

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About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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