Saturday, February 2, 2013

They're off and running....

Apparently the start of the 30th running of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race went off without a hitch, as did the start of the YQ300.  Looking at the live tracker, it appears that Hugh Neff is setting a face pace in first place, followed by Lance Mackey.  Brent Sass is currently in 3rd followed closely by Allen Moore. 

View of "Live Tracking" as I write
Of course, this early in the race placement in the line up means very little.  The mushers aren't worried about position so much as they are thinking ahead - well ahead.  1,000 miles is a long way to mush a team of dogs.  Most of the mushers seem to be holding their dogs down to a relatively sedate pace this early in the race.

The trail between the starting line in Whitehorse and the checkpoint in Braeburn is 100 miles, and it looks like quite a few of these mushers plan to do that in a single run.  The rules require the mushers to take a 4-hour mandatory layover in either Braeburn or Carmacks (musher's choice), and I imagine those who do this first stretch in one run will probably declare their layover in Braeburn.  The time adjustment to make up for the start differential will occur at their first layover, so once the teams are beyond Carmacks all will be on "real time" in terms of their positions within the field. 

One could hardly wish for better weather conditions throughout the race course.  Temperatures are moderate for early February, and though windy in places (all of the usual places) it doesn't look like the mushers are likely to have to endure the potentially lethal temperatures for which the race is famous.  On the other hand, weather forecasters have been wrong before, so that is something we'll have to keep an eye on.

For now, the mushers and their teams are trying to establish their rhythms and routines.  We will see lots of adjustments in their positions of the first couple of days.  Then the pack will start to spread out more and we'll have a much better idea of who is running strong, who is running long, and who is likely to get into trouble.

Breaking News:
Today Yukon Quest Race Marshal Doug Grilliot announced that the race will be re-routed between Dawson City and Eagle, AK. The mushers will not be travelling over American Summit.

The decision was made based on reports from trailbreakers that the trail over American Summit is impassable in several locations. The trail will instead proceed directly down the Yukon River from Dawson to Eagle.

The estimated reduction of distance is 50 miles.
The Yukon Quest organization will release any further details as they become available.

Based on the live tracking data (which isn't always reliable), it appears that both Hugh Neff and Lance Mackey are camped out on the trail, roughly 20 or 30 miles from Braeburn.  If so, they will likely run through to Carmacks before taking their mandatory 4 hour layovers.

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