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).

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