Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Racers up a creek without kayaks

Boats stolen the night before trip

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Two Manitobans' attempt to compete in the arduous Yukon River Quest got off to a bad start this week when their kayaks were stolen.

Ben Price and Darwin Wiebe spent the past year training for the 715-kilometre race on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City. They bought two 17-foot Kevlar kayaks last month and stopped at Price's sister's house on Oakland Avenue in North Kildonan this week before they left on their trip.

"We left our kayaks strapped to the top of our car," Price said. "When I got up (Tuesday) morning, they were gone.

"I was just shocked. I was walking around the neighbourhood in my underwear, thinking, hoping that they would be around the corner. I was completely blown away."

The kayaks cost Price and Wiebe $4,000 each.

Price said his first thought was to see if they could rent two more kayaks.

Rick Shone, owner of Wilderness Supply, on Ferry Road in St. James, who sold the two men their kayaks, said he sympathized with their plight. "They wanted to rent a couple of plastic ones but they wouldn't go anywhere near as fast as the ones that were stolen," Shone said.

Shone said he only had one more of the same kayak in stock and lent it to them without charge.

"I just wanted to help them," Shone said. "We had a couple of our staff do that race two years ago. I can imagine what they're going through, waking up the morning you are about to leave and find your kayaks stolen.

"The race takes a lot of preparation, a lot of time, a lot of work."

With one borrowed kayak strapped to their car, Price, 28, and Wiebe, 30, left Winnipeg Tuesday. The race starts June 27 and they've made arrangements to rent another kayak when they arrive in Whitehorse.

The Yukon River Quest is the longest annual canoe and kayak race in the world. According to its website, it has 188 paddlers from 33 countries registered to take part this year in team and solo categories.

Price said this would be their first attempt at the race. They said they got the idea to compete in the race after kayaking 730 kilometres to York Factory last summer.

"That was just camping and enjoying it," Price said. "This one will probably hurt."

Price said he doesn't know why anyone would steal the kayaks, adding he's holding out hope they'll be returned. As an incentive, he said he'd pay a reward if he gets them back.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2012 B2

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