Five boats in the Yukon River Quest race got into trouble early on in Lake Laberge, where paddlers faced high waves and white caps. 

Paddler Gary Seed said he and a couple of other racers helped rescue another competitor.

"We were circulating around in those high waves, trying to get him out of there," he said. "It was just really challenging with all the high waves."

He says it was cold, the paddler wasn't wearing much clothing and was bouncing around in the waves.

"Everything went according to plan though," he said. "Like, there were guys there with emergency fire starters, we got a fire going, we had an emergency bivy on him, hot soup, dry clothes," he said.

Racer Pam Boyd says she talked to another paddler who had capsized three times.

"He's still racing," she said. "He lost all his food so he would paddle up to a boat and say 'Hey, can you spare a cookie or something?'"

The rough conditions are likely behind the paddlers. Now comes exhaustion, as they push on towards the finish line in Dawson City, 700 kilometres down river from the starting line in Whitehorse.

Hallucinations common near the end

The majority of racers in the Yukon River Quest are arriving this morning at Kirkman Creek for a mandatory three-hour layover before pressing on another 160 kilometres to Dawson City.

“It's a safety stop we put in a few years ago to make sure people are ready to go and we get a chance to monitor them, make sure they are all right,” says River Quest president Harry Kern.

He says rough waters in the early part of the race were an adventure.

“Everybody agrees that the lake was a real character builder.”

But even in the calm waters, on the third day of the race, fatigue is setting in and sleep deprivation is starting to wear on the racers — even causing hallucinations.

“Nobody is sleeping much and you just get fatigue, and you're just staring and staring and you just start seeing things. That's very common.”