Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Yukon Board responds to Alaskan Board's 2023 Quest Press Release

Yesterday a press release was issued that caused a stir in the long-distance mushing community when the Alaskan Board of Directors for the Yukon Quest announced that the race as we have come to know it is no more. As with most splits, the reasons are all he said she said, but the reason given last night was that the Yukon Board "would not budge" on their proposed rule changes. Now that board is coming out saying that's simply not the case. You can read the Anchorage Daily News article shared last night here. Below is the statement posted on Facebook today by Yukon Board President Susan Rogan:

The Yukon board became aware of this Alaskan board press release this morning when our ED received a phone call from the Fairbanks News Miner. They were gracious enough to send us a copy so we could discuss the contents of it for their news article. The press release was created and sent out unilaterally by the Alaskan Board and ED with zero knowledge of it or involvement on behalf of the Yukon board. 
There is a false statement that needs to be dealt. That being that the Yukon Board refuses to have a race without significant changes. In fact, the Yukon Board agreed to support a 1000 mile Yukon Quest International Race in 2023, with exactly the same rules as in 2020. And this was what the Alaskan board wanted. 
We agreed to put the trail in to the border as usual, to organize the start banquet, start line, and checkpoints as per usual. We agreed to share the facebook page, website, etc. all as per usual. 
There were two items the Alaskans did not like. One was that the Yukon board stated that we would raise the purse for the shorter races, while the Alaskans would be responsible for the purse for the 1000 mile race. The other was that we wanted to run the shorter races according to our format with mandatory rest. It was the Yukon's turn to host the 300. Both boards had agreed with the idea of having 2 or 3 shorter races in order to involve more mushers and develop their skills with an eye to them being feeder races for the Yukon Quest. 
The Alaskan board however, decided that the Yukon would host a 300 mile race, according to the 2020 rules. 
The Alaskan board also announced in the meeting last Friday that they had held a meeting with the Rules Committee that day, without inviting the Yukon Board or letting us know about it. They said the Rules Committee had already passed a decree that there would be NO RULE CHANGES, for the 2023 race. (Even though we had discussed previously that both sides had a few housekeeping issues they'd like addressed.) FYI, the 'Rules Committee' has no Yukon members, and one of the RC members sits on the Alaskan board, in fact is one of the two board members on the negotiating team. Anyway, the Alaskan team said the Rules Committee had already ruled that they would not change any rules, so no changes would happen. And we as the board asking for changes, need 3 votes of four on the negotiating team to change anything, which we won't have, so no changes would happen through this route either. That my friends is how it went down. 
The Alaskan board concluded their negotiation by adding, 'the Yukon side pays for half of everything', (refering to the purse I presume), and the final insult, 'the Yukon Quest is an Alaskan race, originally organized by Alaskans, and will continue in Alaska...'
The Yukon delegation stated that the existing Yukon board would not agree to this proclamation by the Alaska board, and that it was a surprise to us but we were prepared for it. I said this was not a negotiation. It was 100% what the Alaskan Board wanted, not one inch was given toward the ideas of the Yukon Board. We added that this was not done in good faith. (secret meeting with the rules committee included.) The negotiations were concluded, there was nothing more to discuss. 
The Yukon delegation said we would have a special meeting on the Yukon side to ask our membership if they would like to work with Alaska in putting on the 2023 race according to their sole wishes. If our membership voted 'yes', then we would ask them to step forward to form a board and do the work. If they voted 'no' and therefore to have separate races, then we would have to talk about where to from here. (Just for this year? Permanently? Have a race at all? Dissolve the organization? Who gets what? name, logos etc.)
This morning, before becoming aware of the Alaskan 'press release', we sent an email to the Alaskan board asking them to confirm 'what we heard' - and we itemized the contents of the meeting. We asked them to correct anything we got wrong. We went on to say we should work together in a spirit if dignity, honesty and respect, to honour the Yukon Quest and all of our stakeholders past and present. Having a public feud serves no one. And yet, here we are. 
To be clear: The Yukon Board agreed to support the 2023, 1000 mile race according to the 2020 / existing rules. We AGREED to the rules and structure that the Alaskan board wanted. We never pulled an ultimatum. We said the existing board members would resign. We said we did not have the power to make a decision not to have a 1000 mile race, we would have to put it to our membership in a special meeting. 
The only point of disagreement was the Alaskan board insisted that we would run the shorter races that we alone were hosting, the way the Alaskan board wanted it run. And they probably still had the feeling that we should pay half the purse for the 1000 as is normal, though that did not specifically come up. 
These are the facts. I have the 'sent messages' to the Alaskan board to prove it if necessary.
The Yukon board has still not had a single phone call or email from the Alaskan board, not even a copy of the press release. It was given out to everyone BUT the Yukon board.
The Yukon Board objects to the way this 'press release' was handled. The reputation of the Yukon Quest and our stakeholders, deserved better. We do however feel that at this point, it is important to be clear about what the Yukon board said. 
Susie Rogan, President of the YQIA (Yukon Board) 
Bonnie Michaudville
Executive Director

It remains to be seen just what this will mean come February for "the other" premiere long distance race in Alaska, but by the looks of it, the Yukon Quest as we know it is gone for good. 

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