FAIRBANKS -- Tyler Huntington gained a unique distinction Sunday, becoming the first person to win two events deemed the toughest in the world in their respective sports.
The 26-year-old captain of Miss Riverboat Discovery and his crew guided their vessel to the title Sunday afternoon in the Yukon 800 Marathon, considered the world's toughest riverboat race.
It was at Pike's, in February 2011, where Huntington and Chris Olds crossed the finish line to win the Iron Dog Classic, considered the world's toughest snowmachine race.
After he stepped on shore Sunday at Pike's, Huntington beamed about being the only person to win the Yukon 800 and the Iron Dog.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it,'' Huntington said. "It's something I've been wanting my whole life and I finally got it. It's feel good."
Huntington's crew of navigator Patrick Captain and engineer Richard Sommer generated a two-day total time of 12 hours, 14 minutes and 24 seconds in the out-and-back race from Fairbanks to Galena along the Chena, Yukon and Tanana rivers.
Huntington, after stepping off the Miss Riverboat Discovery, immediately greeted his sons, Trevan, 5, and Hayden, 3. He later gave a hug to his 97-year-old grandfather, Sidney Huntington, who had just arrived from Galena, stopping over during a trip to Anchorage.
In February 2011, Huntington and Olds compiled a total time of 37 hours, 38 minutes and 9 seconds in the 2,000-mile snowmachine event from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks.
Huntington, who grew up in Galena and now lives in Fairbanks, had entered the Yukon 800 eight times but before Sunday, his best outcome was second in 2009.
That runner-up effort proved to be a confidence booster that culminated in a victory celebration three years later on a sunny, 80-degree afternoon.
"I just knew I could do it and I knew I had a chance at it,'' said Huntington, who works as a motor man for Doyon Drilling on the North Slope.
"I just kept believing that it would some time come. I just didn't think it would take this long,'' he said with a laugh.
Bill Page, a 42-time entry and five-time winner, took second place Sunday with a total time of 14:19:30, just more than two minutes ahead of Joey Zuray (14:21:59).
The all-rookie crew of Yukon Gwichin Warrior -- captain Tony Peter, navigator Prestley Peter and engineer Earl Mahler -- placed fourth in 14:26:51.
The race started Saturday with seven boats, but two withdrew and one was disqualified.
Miss Nay Nay Rose, captained by Tom Kriska, and My Pleasure, driven by 10-time winner Harold Attla, withdrew Saturday because of mechanical problems while each boat was on the Tanana River.
Albert Attla, Harold's cousin, and the crew of Hank Moon were disqualified Sunday in Galena for using a substitute in a non-emergency situation.
The crew of Miss Riverboat Discovery had a mostly smooth two days of racing, benefitting from high water on the Tanana and Yukon.
"The water was smooth and we were seeing a consistent 69-70 mph,'' Huntington said.
Miss Riverboat Discovery's only misfortune was it had to stop twice Saturday at the Chena Pump Campground because of a pinched fuel line. Huntington discovered he had been leaning against the line while driving the boat.
"It was just a simple fix,'' Huntington said.
Miss Riverboat Discovery was first into Galena Saturday night with a opening-day total of 5 hours, 48 minutes.
"The crew was a huge part of this success,'' Huntington said. "They were right on the ball in every turn, every corner. If they saw a log or something coming, they would lean and turn us out of the way."
Page and Slo Mo crewmates of Sterling DeWilde (navigator) and Candace Kruger (engineer) overcame mishaps that included an ignition coil problem at the mass start Sunday morning in Galena, a blown-out propeller shaft later on the Tanana River near Manley Hot Springs and running out of gas after passing the Chena Pump Campground on the way to Pike's Landing,
"Lots of fun today. We've got to make it exciting," the 76-year-old said with a laugh.
Zuray was jovial Sunday after his previous two experiences in the Yukon 800. He withdrew in 2010 because of a motor problem and his boat crashed 12 miles from the starting line in 2008.
"I just wanted to do this forever, just to finish,'' said the 21-year-old from Tanana, who was joined by navigator Robert Wright and engineer Shawn Erhart.
"The third time is a charm,'' Zuray said.