Eye on the Prize

Christina Macdonald is a woman on a mission. During her time in the Yukon she has seen the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous axe-throwing competition dominated by a small cohort of tough and strong Yukon women.

This year she is aiming to join them and – if she has her way – come out with the top prize.

When Macdonald first came north in 2009 she was drawn to the fun and character of Rendezvous, especially some of the more colourful events that make up the Mad(am) Trapper competitions – the axe throw, chainsaw chuck, swede saw, log toss, and flour packing.

This year Macdonald will take the leap from spectator to competitor as she lines up to throw an axe, hoping to sink it into the butt end of a log 15 feet away (male competitors line up 21 feet from the target).

“I feel like Rendezvous becomes much more meaningful to the people who participate,” she explains. “Plus I feel like a woman who can successfully throw an axe is really impressive.”

Macdonald is taking her quest very seriously. In the fall she ordered her own Gränsfors throwing axe from Lee Valley Tools.

The double-bit axe, manufactured in a small factory in Sweden, has two six-inch faces and a 29-inch handle, and weighs three pounds.

“It makes me look a bit like a Viking when I practise,” laughs Macdonald.

Unfortunately her axe will have to stay on the sidelines during the actual competition, as all competitors are required to make use of the axes provided by Rendezvous to keep things fair for all entrants.

Macdonald has been calling in favours from some friends to make sure she has the perfect place to hone her skills in the lead-up to the main event.

“A friend of mine has a big property out of town where he lives in a yurt,” she explains. “He was willing to set up a target for me in the woods where I couldn’t create a lot of collateral damage if something went wrong, and lets me come out whenever I want to get some practice in.”

She’s been braving the winter temperatures to do just that, spending several hours a session working out the mechanics of throwing an axe – perfecting her two-handed, overhead windup and follow through.

She’s also been bringing a cohort of women along with her to the practice range.

“We’ve been heading out to practise about every second week for the last while,” she says.

Then she adds, with a chuckle, “I figure after we dominate this year’s competition at Rendezvous we’ll have to come up with a team name and costumes for our move to the big leagues.”

At the moment she seems to be favouring bejewelled denim outfits.

If Macdonald sounds confident, that’s because she is.

“When I originally looked up the official rules on the Rendezvous website it said that you had to throw the axe 40 feet. That really worried me – 40 feet is a long way and I really didn’t think I could throw that far,” she says.

“But I didn’t want to throw in the towel so I kept working at it and I can now throw the axe relatively accurately from 20-25 feet.”

So when she found out the information wasn’t accurate and in fact she only needed to throw the axe 15 feet, she felt that all her hard work would give her an edge over her fellow competitors.

“Fifteen feet is a breeze,” she laughs. “I’m breathing a sigh of relief.”

The competition takes place this year on Sunday, February 26 at 1 p.m. on the snow pad at the main festival grounds in Shipyards Park.

The spectators will be kept well back on the bleachers just in case an axe gets away from someone and becomes an unguided missile.

Winners who sink their axes closest to the centre of the targets will walk away with a gold nugget for their trouble.

Macdonald hopes to be one of the people who walk away with a bit of sparkle in their pockets, but if it doesn’t go her way she’s thrilled to just have had the opportunity to take part.

“It’s all about fun in the end and I can’t wait to get out there and see what I can do.”

Detailed information about this year’s Rendezvous can be found on pages 15-18 of our print edition this week.

Amber Church is a sports enthusiast who regularly writes the sport and recreation column, From Archery to Zumba. You can contact her at [email protected]

Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].

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