Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Race is On...

Between a relatively busy day on the job and some issues at home, I haven’t had a lot of time to follow the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race today, but what I have observed seems to be consistent with my predictions of this morning.

Hugh Neff stopped to rest his team at about halfway between Dawson and Eagle, and was joined by Allen Moore at roughly the same campsite.  When I’ve been able to check his progress using the live tracker it appears he’s been traveling just slightly faster than 6 mph.  Shortly after 4 o’clock pm AST (5 o’clock on the Yukon Territory side of the border and time-zone), Allen had left his camp and was moving along at 7 MP.  Jake Berkowitz was about 18 miles behind Moore moving right along at 7.2 mph, but hadn’t yet taken a long rest on the trail.  Brent Sass also seems to be gaining ground – now only about 17 miles behind Jake, and also trotting along at just shy of 7.1 mph.  He also hasn’t yet camped.

Each of the following mushers enjoys a bit better trail than the team ahead, and it appears they are able to take good advantage of that.  The weather seems to have cooled off a bit out on the trail, which is also advantageous.  At 4:20 AST the temperature at Eagle was 4 above zero (F), and the short term forecast is for a low of +5 degrees (F), overcast with snow showers.  Tomorrow the mushers will see snow showers and unseasonably warm temperatures in the 18 (F) above range.

Lance Mackey pulled into Dawson with 7 dogs and signed his scratch forms at 8:40 this morning.  At the time he was in 20th place, the last race veteran to pass under the banner.  I admire Lance a great deal, and it’s sad to see him having so much trouble out on the trail but the decision to scratch was, in my opinion, a wise one.  I hope I’ll be able to see him at the Finish and awards banquet on the 16th.  I’ve already reserved my tickets.

The race trail is going to be a much busier stretch of snow in just a few hours.  Scott Smith, who is a very likely candidate for rookie of the year, is scheduled to leave Dawson at 7:25 PST.  Then there is a bit of a gap before Markus Ingebretsen starts a parade that will include Abbie West, Susan Rogan, Normand Casavant, and Dan Kaduce rounding out the top-10 positions.

I just learned some sad news from an official media release from the Quest.  According to the release, at 15:35 PST (well after Jake left Dawson) Race Marshall Doug Grilliot stated that General, a dog on Jake Berkowitz’s team, had expired. The dog was being transported to Whitehorse by a race veterinarian at the time of death. Head Veterinarian Dr. Kathleen McGill said a necropsy will be conducted.  The Yukon Quest will release more information as details are confirmed.

As Jake was on the trail at the time this was released, I have no idea if he even knows about it.  Musher's aren't permitted communication devices while racing.  I sure hope he isn't presented with that the moment he arrives in Eagle.  He is already unhappy with race officials.

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