Thursday, April 20, 2023

No 1000 mile race for the Quest in 2024

 The boards of both the Yukon Quest Alaska and Yukon Quest Canada released a joint statement Wednesday saying they will not come together to host the thousand mile race across the Yukon Territories of Alaska and Canada. After dealing with the borders closing during the Covid-19 Pandemic, and then a major shake up within the organization that saw the two boards split and go their separate ways, fans were not completely shocked at the announcement this week.

Depending on which side you talk to the split is basically blamed on failure to compromise. One side wants to revamp how the race is run, the other wants to share the financial strain. If you listen to the talk by mushers, former members, and longtime fans - it's a little more ego at fault than anything else. Either way, Mom and Dad are still separated and they aren't sharing custody of the kids, it's a Parent Trap situation.

The statement reads:

"The Yukon Quest Alaska and Yukon Quest Canada boards held a joint board meeting on April 18th, 2023. The boards discussed moving forward with separate races for 2024 while also coming together to support the spirit of the race and celebrate the history of the 1,000-mile race.

The boards want to let Quest fans around the world know they can look forward to world class distance races in 2024 in both Canada & Alaska. Even though the 1,000-mile traditional Yukon Quest is still on hold, the boards will continue to explore ways to once again bring it to life for mushers and fans alike.

More details on race distances and trails coming soon."

Fans were excited to see the two entities had, at least, come together to discuss the possibility of returning to the historical 1000 mile race across Alaska and Canada. However, like last year, they concluded to keep with two separate races for next season. No information was given for what those races would like like or what distances would be run. Alaska ran a somewhat larger roster (not by much for their longest distance), did not have the online and media infrastructure of Canada, and had an iffy decision by the race marshal choosing to withdraw a team they felt was no longer competitive (which the board reversed after the race concluded). Canada had much smaller rosters, had the better social media and website, and had no questionable calls by officials. 

Overall both boards ran successful, very exciting races, and it gave many hope for a reconciliation in the future. However, it could also be argued that because both entities were successful they no longer feel the need to work with the other. All of this, of course, is conjecture and speculation. Many commented on the statement on social media last night still very positive for 2025 and beyond, so it's still a wait and see if we will ever see the Yukon Quest in its former glory.

The 1,000 mile race was last run in 2020.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Jessie Holmes wins the 2023 Kobuk 440

Jessie Holmes and team at the restart of Iditarod 51.
March 5, 2023. Willow, Alaska.
Jessie Holmes finished the Kobuk 440 at 8:38am Sunday morning, two hours ahead of the next team making him this year's champion. The musher from Interior Alaska started fast and stayed close to the front throughout the race. The team came into the finish line in Kotzebue in a strong trot with tails wagging as they came to a stop. Weather reports from boots on the ground claimed the team finished with windchill bringing the temps down to -45F! The frosty musher pulled snacks out of his iced up sled bag and quickly fed the dogs before signing off the trail. With very little fanfare the team turned around and ran back down the trail about 100 yards to their host home.

Second place may have been a little more exciting as Richie Diehl and team raced most of Saturday taking down the teams in front of him. Diehl ran down Hugh Neff to gain third place last night, and in the wee hours of the morning overtook Michelle Phillips. The musher from Aniak closes strong in the Kobuk often and is making it a habit to come in second in a highly competitive field. Back home, Richie's young son kept up with the race and his mom shared the most adorable pic of the babe during tummy time following the tracker on facebook

Diehl came in at 11:33 Sunday morning, just over an hour ahead of third place Michelle Phillips. Hugh Neff came in at 12:54pm with rookie Bailey Vitello rounding out the top five. Jeff Deeter has also finished. There are six teams still on the trail, with two currently on their way into the finish. The back of the pack are all in he final checkpoint of Selawik. Windchill is still keeping temps at very cold levels, and the other race happening this weekend (The Arctic Championship Series) had their third and final leg canceled today due to the winds (sprint races need warmer temps). Lots of frosty pictures of race judges all over social media today.

Typically the Kobuk is plagued by storms, so this year's cold temps and wind are a nice reprieve from the ground storms that seemingly come out of nowhere. With the negative temps along the way, the trail set up nicely for a fast race. The final six will continue to run throughout the night and the race should wrap up nicely early Monday - well ahead of the musher banquet Monday night.

Who do you have coming in as the red lantern? Did you pick this year's winner? Comment with your thoughts about the race below! 

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Monday, April 3, 2023

2023 Kobuk 440 musher roster & race preview

Did you think the mushing season was over because Ryan Redington won the Iditarod (and then my blog unplanned just "went dark")? Well, you were wrong. The Iditarod kept Iditarod-ing, and now we have the final "big race" of the season with the Kobuk 440 taking place this weekend on the Northwest Coast of Alaska! As the snow is quickly melting in South-Central Alaska, they still have plenty further North, and we'll no doubt see another fantastic race.

While the cap for the race was 20 teams, they didn't quite make that number. Twelve solid teams will be leaving in the mass start on Thursday, so let's get right to it and meet the teams. As always I've compiled the list via the race's official list on their website. The list will be in alphabetical order until the Bib Draw is announced Wednesday (hopefully). So let's meet the mushers! I have their kennel names listed as well as links for their websites/socials.

Musher Roster

1 Jessi Downey (Aimaagvik Kennel) Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
2 Richie Diehl (Real Diehl Racing) - Facebook
3 Michelle Phillips (Tagish Lake Kennel) - Website / Facebook / Instagram
4 Bailey Vitello (Team Baily) - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 
5 Hugh Neff (Northern Whites Kennel) - Facebook / Instagram 
6 Jeff Deeter (Black Spruce Kennel) - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
7 Jessie Holmes (Team Can't Stop) - Website / Facebook / Instagram
8 Jim Bourquin (Orion Kennel) - Facebook / Instagram
9 Kevin Hansen (Hansen Kennel) - Facebook / Instagram
10 Lauro Eklund (Skookum Expeditions) - Website / Facebook / Facebook 2 / Instagram / Instagram 2
11 Martin Early (Husky Homestead Kennel) - FacebookKennel Facebook / Instagram
12 Dempsey Woods (Miss Haley Kennels) - Facebook 

This is a great field of competitive teams and up and comers. It will be interesting to see how Holmes, Diehl, Phillips, Deeter, and Neff do. Neff, of course, is the reigning champ with a chip on his shoulder as more races decline his entry so look for him to push hard the whole way. Deeter's wife took the A-team to Nome and said that they would have placed much higher than 16th if Jeff had been driving. That may have been Katti not giving herself enough credit, but unless Jeff's bringing a puppy team to the Kobuk he should be right in the mix. Of course Michelle Phillips is the reigning Yukon Quest 450 champion and she sat out Iditarod so her team should be more than ready to go. Richie Diehl came third in Iditarod and barely lost the Kobuk last year, he should be a force here.

Weather conditions for the start (Thursday afternoon) will be in the negative temps (what else is new, right?) that will continue to drop as the race progresses throughout the weekend. The Kobuk is known for its storms that pop out seemingly out of nowhere. Forecasts are calling for cold and a typical wind, but so far no big storms are on the horizon.

The race starts in a mass start, no two minute intervals, which means there's no time differential to make up. There is a mandatory 20 hours of rest each team must take, and they can break that up however they see fit in the different checkpoints. 

How to Watch

Unlike what we just had with Iditarod (if you paid for Insider), the Kobuk like most of the mid-distance races relies more on social media posts and radio updates than they do video. Depending on weather and internet connection there may be live video of the start and finish, but with temps hitting below zero plus wind chill bringing temps even lower we could see a frozen feed (pun not truly intended). Still, there are ways to keep up with the race happenings, so let's make sure we have all of the links you need.

Official Website - You can find the rules, links to all ways of following the race, and the history of the Kobuk 440 here. Musher bios are also available. The official website may have links to live feeds, so also keep a look out for that. Click here for the link.

GPS Tracker - We're all attached to this bit of technology. If you wonder where the term "tracky boi" came from, you can thank the Kobuk 440. Their social media team were the first to coin the phrase... the phrase that sets some fans' teeth on edge, but it's becoming more endearing each year. Once again, you can follow the race thanks to TrackLeaders (link is not yet live). Beep-boop-beep.

Radio Broadcast - Race updates throughout the weekend will be broadcast over on KOTZ-AM. They have a livestream. They may broadcast the start, but it's unclear. Click here to listen in.

Social Media - This is where it's at. The most entertaining race has to be the Kobuk 440 for their amazing social media team. The volunteers know how to get and keep your attention. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter where they are most active as well as Instagram. KOTZ-AM also has a Facebook page that should share some race info throughout the weekend.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, April 5
10:00am - Radio interviews
6:30pm - Musher Meeting/Bib Draw

Thursday, April 6
12:30pm - Race Start

Monday, April 11
5pm - Musher Meeting
6pm - Awards Ceremony

Got any predictions? Who are you cheering for? Comment below!

*Edited April 6, 2023 to include links and bib number.

As always, if you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).