As the Yukon Quest gathers to celebrate its athletes on both two and four legs with awards following the conclusion of the 2023 races, they also happily reported that every team that set off completed their planned route and all dogs involved were healthy at trail’s end.
Quest operations manager John Hopkins-Hill reported the good news after the 450-mile teams who trailed winner Michelle Phillips also made it across the finish line in Dawson City. Mille Porsild reached the finish at approximately 1 p.m. Feb. 15, 12 hours behind Phillips but still good for second place.
As Porsild crossed the line, Mayla Hill pulled up the hook and hit the trail just ahead of Aaron Peck for the last leg of the race into Dawson. Peck kept it close but could not overtake Hill, who finished around 8 p.m. on Feb. 15, good for third place.
This left Louve Tweddell and Connor McMahon still on the course. Both rested their teams through the late evening of Feb. 15 before getting going at around 2 a.m. the following morning. Tweddell got into Dawson just after 5 a.m. McMahon persevered despite a challenging last leg to take the red lantern award, which recognizes the last finisher but remains a point of pride, as he crossed the line roughly two hours after Tweddell.
Hopkins-Hill said weather and trail conditions were, for the most part, favourable for the mushers but there was still some “Quest magic” to be encountered with trails blown over by snow as some of the 450-mile teams approached Dawson.
With the 2023 races over and done with, conversation around the Quest inevitably shifts to the future and whether the schism between the Yukon and Alaskan organizers can be mended, bringing back the race’s traditional 1000-mile Whitehorse to Fairbanks route.
Hopkins-Hill said he thinks there is interest on both sides of the border in reopening the conversation, with the opposite side, that broke down last spring amid discussion of changes to mandatory rest period rules for the race. Hopkins-Hill doesn’t think those in opposition to the rest rules had all the fact. He added that this year’s races offered a lot of information that can be used to guide decisions in the future.
He noted that all teams in this year’s Quest took more than the mandatory required rest. In his estimation the rules used this year didn’t force mushers into a race strategy that wasn’t their own or do anything to stop the fastest teams from finishing in the fastest time.
Hopkins-Hill said everyone on the Yukon side wants to host a 1000-mile race and with plenty of time until 2024, he is confident that there is fruitful negotiation ahead with the Alaskan organizers in the coming weeks and months.
The operations manager also thanked sponsors, members, volunteers and others who showed interest in this year’s Quest.
The Quest gathered to present awards to the mushers in Dawson on Feb. 16.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com