After the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of final 12 months’s Yukon Quest Sled Canine Race – for the primary time within the race’s 37-year historical past – some questioned whether or not it was the start of the top for the distinguished annual occasion.
Final 12 months’s race already noticed a smaller roster of mushers than the 12 months earlier than, there was some inside squabble and resignation over the principles of the race, and a few mushers have been proud of the board’s choice to cancel the 2021 race. weren’t.
“There have been some issues previously. Everyone knows that, and it actually regarded like Quest was going to go all the best way down,” mentioned Hans Gat, a veteran musher at Whitehorse who now serves on the Yukon board of administrators. are sitting in.
Now, there was some enterprise on board and the race is again in an entire new type. Some say the pandemic offered a chance to rethink the incident and make some much-needed modifications.
“As a lot as I hate COVID, it gave us the chance to attempt new issues,” Gatt mentioned.
“I feel it is optimistic. There is not any query about it.”
Historically, the race is run on a distant and generally mountainous 1,600-kilometer path between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska, which modifications course every year. It’s typically described as tougher than the extra well-known Iditarod in Alaska.
This 12 months, there is no such thing as a 1,600 km run throughout the worldwide border. As an alternative, there are 4 shorter races – two earlier this month in Alaska (321 km YQ200 and 563 km YQ350) and two in Yukon (160 km YQ100 and 482 km YQ300) that start on Saturday afternoon. white horse.
Bonnie Michaudville, govt director of races in Yukon, mentioned the choice to carry a number of smaller races was based mostly on a survey of mushers performed final 12 months.
“There weren’t sufficient mushers to run the 1,000-mile [1,600-kilometre], That they had a troublesome time with COVID, a few of their companies, and in addition we did not have sufficient qualifiers final 12 months to run us,” Michaudville mentioned.
Crossing the border was additionally a problem. Organizers determined it was prudent to plan separate occasions on both facet of the worldwide divide this 12 months.
“That approach, if there have been COVID restrictions throughout the border, we might be fantastic and nonetheless have the ability to race.”
Musher nonetheless had the choice of coming into races on either side of the border, and a few had — together with Alaskan Brent Sass, who received the Quest in 2019 and 2020. Final week, he received the YQ350 and on Saturday he hit the mark towards eight. Different mushers within the YQ300.
The Yukon race roster is, unsurprisingly, dominated by Canadians. Of the 9 entered within the YQ300, 4 are Yukoners and two are Albertans. Within the YQ100, 5 of the seven mushers are from Yukon. The YQ100 roster can be dominated by younger mushers of their 20s.
It is gratifying for famed whitehorse musher Frank Turner, a former Yukon Quest champion who has raced greater than a dozen occasions. He now sits on the board.
“I have been doing it for a very long time … and over time the variety of Yukoners collaborating within the race has step by step decreased,” Turner mentioned.
“And so this 12 months we have a 100-mile run from Whitehorse to Braeburn, and it is particularly designed to get folks right into a race format that is not fairly able to run a 300-mile race… What an excellent job we now have completed when it comes to specializing in the younger bowlers and offering them alternatives.”
canine care enchancment
Turner is equally enthusiastic about one other change this 12 months that may form the best way all future races are run. Mushers might want to keep longer alongside the best way.
The Yukon Quest – and the Iditarod – have been the goal of criticism from animal rights activists for years. Some have accused mushers of mistreating their canines or working too arduous alongside the best way. These criticisms are additional fueled when canines generally die throughout races.
“My opinion – I’m talking just for myself – is that generally you will discover some mushers on the market who’re so gung-ho as to do their job that they may stroll their canines for too lengthy. And we all know that, Turner mentioned.
“After I used to run, and plenty of different folks, we might run for six hours, relaxation for six hours. And it was actually nice for the canines. They might relaxation. They might digest their meals, they might all may do.”
This 12 months’s shorter race provides an opportunity to check out the brand new guidelines earlier than returning to the standard 1,600-kilometer race subsequent 12 months. Turner mentioned organizers may be sure the principles bought what they needed.
“I feel it addresses a very necessary problem. And I am actually glad that there was completely unanimous settlement on the board, on either side, the Alaska Board and the Yukon Board.”
Nina Hansen of Alaska, who leads the race group of 5 veterinarians, can be happy to see the rising give attention to canine care. She was at Whitehorse the weekend earlier than to do a routine checkup of all of the canines. Animals are additionally checked in at relaxation stops alongside the best way, to ensure they’re hydrated and nonetheless match to run.
“It is the primary time in two years in Yukon, and it is good to be again,” Hansen mentioned.
“I have been doing this for 13 years and canine care has simply improved so much. It is actually thrilling as a vet to look at.”
Turner says he is “actually, actually, actually completely satisfied” to see this 12 months’s race collectively. They really feel that the Yukon Quest is a vital a part of the area’s historical past and tradition.
“We have provide you with one thing actually cool. We have made some actually optimistic modifications,” he mentioned.
Michaudville agrees, and says the response so removed from followers and sponsors has been overwhelming.
“It is so gratifying that you just’re doing the proper factor and that you just’re placing one thing out for the neighborhood, that they need and really want it,” she mentioned.
“We’re so excited and we won’t wait to roll.”