FAIRBANKS — The Yukon 800 Marathon could have a record purse, depending on the number of entries for what is considered the world’s toughest riverboat race.
The 54th edition of the roundtrip race from Fairbanks to Galena begins at 11 a.m. Saturday with a ceremonial start at Pike’s Landing.
The three-person crews each depart Pike’s in two-minute intervals but the race times become official when the crews reach the Chena Pump Wayside, where the Chena River meets the Tanana River. The course covers the Chena, Tanana and Yukon rivers.
Crews race to Galena on the first day and stay overnight there. A mass restart from Galena is set for 6 a.m., Sunday, and depending on the conditions of the rivers, the first crew could arrive back at Pike’s early Sunday afternoon.
Audrey George, race manager, said during a telephone interview Wednesday night that this year’s purse is expected to be between $22,000 and a record $30,000.
It depends on the number of crews who register by 5 p.m. Friday, when the weigh-in is scheduled at Pike’s Landing. The weigh-in is followed at 6 p.m., by the crews’ drawing, determining which boat departs Pike’s first on Saturday.
George said that the weigh-in and drawing will take place outdoors at Pike’s, whether it’s raining or the sun’s out. If it’s raining, the weigh-in and drawing will be conducted at a table underneath a covering.
The entry fee is $1,000 each for veteran captains and $500 each for rookie captains.
A veteran is considered to be a captain who has crossed the official starting line at least once. A rookie is considered to be anyone who has never captained a boat in the Yukon 800.
A rookie captain also can be a former crew member for a past Yukon 800 entry.
The origin of the Yukon 800 is a one-way race in 1960 from Circle to Fairbanks. The course was the same until 1964, when the race began running out and back from Fairbanks to Ruby.
The roundtrip course from Fairbanks to Galena started in 1972.
There have 12 multiple winners in the history of the race, including eight on the course from Fairbanks to Galena.
Harold Attla’s 10 victories is the most for a boat captain in the race’s history. All of his victories were on the Fairbanks-to-Galena route — 1992, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
His 2007 victory of 11 hours, 52 minutes and 43 seconds also is the race’s record elapsed time.
Bill Page and Wes Alexander were each five-time winners. Alexander won consecutively from 1986-90, and Page captained first-place crews in 1978, 1985, 1991, 1999 and 2004.
Ed Gustafson won four times, in 1975 and from 1980-82. Four captains won twice on the Fairbanks-Galena course — Jim Movius (1973, 1977); Jerry Evans (1974, 1976); Mick Manning (1993, 1994); and Click Bishop (1998, 2000).
Four captains had multiple wins on different courses.
Fred Pritcher won in 1961 from Circle to Fairbanks and in 1966 on the out-and-back course from Fairbanks to Ruby.
Bob Toombs was a three-time winner, placing first in 1963 from Circle to Fairbanks and a year later on the inaugural roundtrip course from Fairbanks to Ruby. He also won on the Fairbanks-Ruby route in 1967.
Milton Moses placed first 39 years apart — in 1969 on the Fairbanks-Ruby course Deland in 2008 on the stretch from Fairbanks to Galena.
Del Hayward holds a distinction in Yukon 800 history. He won in 1971 on the last course from Fairbanks to Ruby, and he repeated for the title in 1972, the first year that the race went from Fairbanks to Galena.
Tony Peter and the crew of Gwitch’in Warrior won last year in an elapsed time of 15 hours, 23 minutes on an extended course from Fairbanks to Kaltag.
The extension was because crews had to bypass Galena in 2013 because of damage from flooding on the Yukon River earlier in the year.
Eleven crews entered last year’s race, which was called the Yukon 1,000 Marathon.
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