Marching Toward the Finish Line
The widow's lamp continues to burn in Nome as the last mushers in this years race work their way toward the burled arch. Scott White and Ross Adams are out of safety, and the race for the red lantern is being run by Jane Faulkner and Celeste Davis, both out of Safety. Faulkner and Davis are on a pace to establish history's fastest red-lantern finish. With only 7 dogs remaining in his team at White Mountain, Scots musher John Stewart scratched at White Mountain.
If I'm the world's biggest long-distance sled dog racing fan, my friend Dave Lukosik is probably the second biggest. Yesterday he posted a comment reminding me that Hank DeBruin, a highly respected Siberian husky musher from Ontario, was given the "scratch or be withdrawn" speech by race marshal Mark Nordman, citing the so-called competitiveness rule. Rule #36 states "
"A team may be withdrawn that is out of the competition and is not in position to make a valid effort to compete. If a team has not reached McGrath in 72 hours of the leader, Galena within 96 hours of the leader or, Unalakleet within 120 hours of the leader, it may be presumed that a team is not competitive. A musher whose conduct constitutes an unreasonable risk of harm to his/her dogs or other persons may also be withdrawn."
This is the second year in a row in which the rule has been imposed to eliminate the probably red-lantern team from the I'rod. Rob Loveman, who was withdrawn last year under the year, has filed suit against the Iditarod Trail Committee to challenge the imposition of the rule. That case currently is making it's way through the system.
The situation regarding Hank DeBruin is explained very well in an Alaskan Dispatch article by Craig Medred - "DeBruin Told He's Not Going Fast Enough and Must Quit" In his article Medred speculates that costs may be the driving force behind strict enforcement of the rule. "There appears little doubt now that the financially strapped race is trying to wrap things up as quickly as possible. It is costly to maintain checkpoints for late mushers, and even more costly to launch searches for overdue travelers, if that becomes necessary. (The federal permit under which the Iditarod is operating this year requires such searches, and the race has big financial troubles.)"
Supporting the ITC's position, some top mushers have pointed out that the Iditarod is a race, not a camping trip. That noted, it's no secret that many of the back-of-the-pack teams are not seriously competing. They are training teams for future races, are out solely for the experience of the event and in some cases are indeed out for a well supported camping trip across Alaska. How, or even whether the ITC should support such non-competitive endeavors is the heart of the controversy.