400 kilometres of endurance

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

SKIDEGATE, B.C. -- Haida Gwaii boasts some 12,000 years of human history, but not until yesterday had anyone seen anything like Raid the North Extreme.

At 6 a.m. in the sun-splashed cove at Qay'llnagaay (Sea Lion Town), 23 quartets of endurance athletes jumped into red Chinese-made inflatable kayaks outside the Haida Heritage Centre. They were beginning the first leg of the 400-kilometre adventure race.

"Biggest race of the season," said Squamish's Gary Robbins, captain of the Helly Hansen/MOMAR team. "It's the best race in North America."

The event began ceremonially on Sunday morning in Prince Rupert when racers biked from the Museum of Northern British Columbia to B.C. Ferries' Queen of Prince Rupert for a five-hour cruise to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Each team, which includes at least one woman, is paddling, cycling and trekking the unique ecosystem and its erratic weather until Thursday. Then the race returns to Prince Rupert. The original mainland course was scuttled because of late-spring flooding.

Raid the North, founded in 1998 by Dave Zietsma but now run by ex-Calgarian Geoff Langford, was last staged in Newfound-land three years ago. This is the seventh Extreme and second in B.C. Revelstoke 2000 was won by Team Spirit Canada, which included Kamloops' Chris Koch. He expects this week's course will be fast, yet remote.

"You can have 50-km treks and never see another soul," Koch said.

More than half the racers are from B.C., Alberta and Ontario, with the balance from United States, Australia, New Zealand and even Singapore.

Densely populated Singapore has more than 6,000 people per square kilometre. There are only 5,000 people among the 9,500-square-km Queen Charlottes.

"[Singapore is] definitely a little more hot and humid compared to the cold weather here," said Singapore Adventure Racing Team's Grace Chan.

Raid the North

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