Could is springtime. It appears a quite unusual time to be writing a few 1,000-mile sled canine race. Nevertheless, the Yukon Quest — the opposite lengthy canine race that isn’t the Iditarod, is within the information. Albeit, it’s not within the mainstream information. The Quest has been deathly sick for the previous few years. Some would possibly say monetary mismanagement was the trigger, however that’s removed from the reality. Mismanagement has nothing to do with the woes of the Quest, however quite the altering of the musher base that long-distance sled canine racing will need to have.
I used to be the Yukon Quest path coordinator in 2009. The handwriting was being written on the wall that a few years in the past. Because the path coordinator, I requested for guys who may stay and work in circumstances and temperatures to minus 50 … alone. Two guys confirmed up: Bruno Bauris and Mike Rietz. Mike took over the path duties in 2011 and he’s nonetheless at it. The issue is that this: There should not many canine drivers within the sport nowadays who can take care of, or wish to take care of, the acute temperatures and lengthy lonesome runs that the Yukon Quest requires.
The Quest was initially designed for the small kennel. The concept was to carry a race that was an alternative choice to the Iditarod that was very difficult, not costly and emphasised canine care. The Yukon Quest met that standards. The unique Quest had a 12-dog restrict and groups had been solely allowed to drop three canines, complete, over your complete course. Sonny Lindner gained the inaugural with a nine-dog workforce. From the begin to the end. My first Quest workforce had each canine I owned in an eight-dog workforce. We may do this within the Nineteen Eighties and nonetheless compete.
[Alaska organizers say they’re ending Yukon Quest partnership with Canada over mandatory rest proposal]
Occasions have modified. Mushers have modified. There are not groups from Bush Alaska coming to city to race the Quest. Heck — there are few groups left within the villages in any respect. The notion is that one will need to have 50 canines to compete in a long-distance race. The household with a leisure kennel has just a little likelihood of success in opposition to a “skilled” workforce that retains 100 canines and might afford to feed absolute top-notch diet to all of them. And, much like top-echelon horse racing, there are performance-enhancing medication obtainable.
These are a number of the components that trigger small kennels to hesitate operating throughout the coldest, loneliest a part of Alaska through the darkest time of the yr. Chilly and darkish. Lengthy runs between checkpoints with little assist. What number of of us are able to doing that nowadays? There was 40 groups operating the Yukon. This previous Quest noticed three finishers. Ridiculous.
The Yukon Quest has all the time operated underneath two separate boards; one in Alaska and the opposite within the Yukon. For the reason that Yukon Quest’s inception, there has all the time been a little bit of friction between boards. Often, disagreements in administration have led to short-term breaks. That’s the place we’re at this time. Declining entries have triggered a lot dialogue, resulting in completely different options proposed by the parents at the moment in cost.
The Alaska aspect appears dedicated to a protracted race. The Canadians say there may be little curiosity in a 1,000-mile occasion. Their answer is to carry a number of races, the longest being a 450-mile race. The Canadians could possibly be proper, however could also be overlooking a couple of extra apparent components, i.e., the Alaska race had nearly one operating — the Alaska race was solely 300 miles. Additionally, to get into Canada, entrants should be vaccinated in opposition to COVID. Not everyone seems to be prepared to try this; particularly fringe mushers from smaller kennels who could also be a bit extra “Bushy.”
These fringe mushers are the bread and butter of the Yukon Quest, or was. Perhaps, simply possibly, as a substitute of arguing about what sort of race to run, organizers ought to get to collectively and attempt to put one thing collectively that appeals to the small kennels. That labored as soon as and may do the trick once more. Ought to the Canadian authorities insist on vaccination as a requirement, then an all-Alaskan occasion may be a definite chance. The Quest just isn’t the Iditarod. The race mustn’t set as much as be the child brother of that race. Mushers don’t like chilly and darkish nowadays? Maintain the Yukon Quest close to the top of March. Lengthy runs between checkpoints not your factor? Run the Quest down the Yukon, as soon as groups attain Circle, as a substitute of up the river. Begin the Yukon Quest — and finish, in Fairbanks; 90 miles can be the longest run. The villages alongside the Yukon would welcome a race such because the Quest.
Returning the race nearer to the unique format may as soon as once more appeal to the few small kennels which can be left. Twelve canines is loads. The Percy-De-Wolfe, a 200 mile-race out of Dawson, to Eagle and again, used to have a seven-dog restrict and allowed no canines to be dropped. Nevertheless the Yukon Quest is reinvented, the main target wants be on as soon as once more attracting a minimal of 20 canine groups. The Alaska board and the Canadians must be querying kennels as to what would possibly trigger them to contemplate operating.
The Quest finishers membership just isn’t who to ask. Us outdated dudes should not essentially operating these races nowadays. Ask the kennels who may be racing, or simply may be in search of an occasion that’s Alaskan. Let’s placed on an occasion that has an Alaska really feel, the place the checkpoints are run by Alaskans, not volunteers from Texas and Oklahoma. It’s attainable a number of the outdated geezers would possibly hook ‘em up for one final hurrah.