Sixth Annual Défi à Canot à Glace Montréal Hopes to Raise Funds for ALS

The Unique Event is About Much More Than Just Endurance

  • Part of the proceeds from the race went towards ALS research. Photo Courtesy Alain Gauthier

  • The race tests contestants on skill and endurance. Photo Courtesy Alain Gauthier

Forty-eight ice canoeing teams braved the extreme weather conditions and tackled the icy waters of the Saint-Laurent river this Sunday.

In the sixth edition of le Défi de canot à glace at the Quai à l’Horloge, teams maneuver their 10-meter-long canoe for several kilometers to cross the finish line in under two and a half hours. The endurance required for this race is challenging, so the five team members take turns paddling to be able to have stamina for the duration of the race.

‘’I think the challenging side [is] the fact that canoe participants can play with the surrounding natural elements, which motivates them to finish the race,’’ said Stephanie Ebacher Anderson, spokesperson for the Défi canot à glace. ‘’This is a unique rare sport and gives participants a sense of temerity.’’

The Circuit Québécois de canot à glace has four racing categories, but the most popular are: Elite hommes and Elite femmes. Elite femme must complete a 13 kilometer circuit and Elite hommes, a 17 kilometer circuit.

There are races for both categories that start every in 15 minute, so teams of both Elite Homme and Elite Femme will be on the circuit at the same time. To tell them apart, they wear red and yellow bibs, respectively.

Joannie Saint-Pierre the captain of the Cedrex – Passion Krafts – The North Face has been racing since the event was established in Montreal in 2013. Saint-Pierre was pregnant last year and was unable to race, but is now ready to lead her team to victory.

‘’Montreal is a great endurance race. The ice patches aren’t difficult to navigate and the current is not bad,’’ said Saint-Pierre. ‘’We have a woman from the Canadian rafting team aboard and I also have a lot of canoeing experience.’’

The race is part of a province-wide circuit. Photo Courtesy Alain Gauthier

L’Association des Coureurs en Canot à Glace du Québec has been catering to the teams’ needs and promoting the event since 1984. Le Circuit Québécois de Canot à Glace organizes seven races across Québec: Banquise at Portneuf, RikiFest à Rimouski, Sorel-Tracy, the Grand Challenge at Victor, Québec Carnival, Montreal, and l’Isle-aux-Coudres.

‘’The biggest race is the one at the [Quebec City] Carnival. Montreal hasn’t been in the race for that long, but it definitely wins in terms of popularity,’’ said Anderson.

The first ice boat race was held in 1894 in Quebec City. It was the only way to cross the river between Québec City and Lévis. In 2013, Maritime Heritage Canada revived the ice canoe challenge in Montreal after 20 years. Le Défi canot à glace Montréal and the Quebec Ice Canoe Tour accredited four more races: The Grande Traversée Casino de Charlevoix, The Carnival Canoe Race, The Portneuf Sea Ice Race, and the Grand Défi des ice.

This public event is free and viewers are welcome to come cheer on their favourite teams. Part of the proceeds of this event will benefit the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Society of Québec.

‘’I watched this race last year for the first time, the one for the 375th anniversary. It was an extremely publicized event and the crowd was amazing,’’ said Mireille Cyr, an enthusiastic spectator.

‘’I will definitely be following this event every winter when it comes to Montreal.’’

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