Open letter to Frank Turner:
I have been a volunteer with the Yukon Quest almost 20 years, including the past eight or nine years as checkpoint manager at Braeburn. I wish to reply to Frank Turner’s comments contained in Quest Executive Director Will Resign (the News, February 20).
You stated that, when you brought paying tourists from your dog-sled business to Braeburn, they were “kept hundreds of metres away from the mushers and their dogs.” This practice has not changed since the days when you were running the Quest.
When the teams arrive at any checkpoint, the dogs need to be attended to, fed and bedded down as efficiently and quickly as possible to allow maximum rest time. The mushers want to stay focused on their dogs and race strategy. Only volunteers delivering the food, race officials and vets are permitted in this area.
In recent years, one handler per team is also allowed to quietly stand and observe the team while the musher may be in the lodge or sleeping. Did you even notice that the media were also roped off from the dog yard and no flash photos were permitted in that area?
At the peak of activity in the middle of the night, we had approximately 35 teams parked closely, side by side. Then teams started to depart as others arrived. We did not need tourists in there getting run over or, even worse, stepping on a dog.
Your guests have ample time to interact with the mushers prior to the race – at the Meet the Mushers event, the overpriced banquet and prior to the start, up to one hour before departure.
They can also approach mushers as they sit in the lodge eating and giving interviews. There is a great photo opportunity as the teams leave the chute and head over the highway and airstrip back onto the trail.
I distinctly remember your daylight departure from Braeburn a few years ago. Your team would not respond to your commands and started trotting up the highway. In frustration, you turned around and yelled at the spectators, quietly watching behind those barricades, that they were distracting your team.
I’m fairly certain some of those innocent spectators were your paying customers.
I can’t imagine the Kentucky Derby allowing tourists in the stable area just prior to a race. Why should the Quest interfere with the safety and concentration of teams once the race starts?
If you don’t like the view from the “other” side of the barricade, I suggest you zip it up (your parka, of course,) and volunteer at a checkpoint to help the Yukon Quest, instead of profiting from it.
Braeburn checkpoint manager 2009