Bare bones Percy to run as always

DAWSON CITY The Percy is going back to its roots after nearly going bankrupt last year. Thursday a slimmed-down version of the 30th annual Percy…

DAWSON CITY

The Percy is going back to its roots after nearly going bankrupt last year.

Thursday a slimmed-down version of the 30th annual Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race will be held in Dawson City.

“If you are on the trail, I don’t think you’ll notice any particular difference,” said race organizer Sebastian Jones. “What we’ve had to do is eliminate as many costs as possible.”

It is not known how many mushers will enter the return race to Eagle because no teams have registered yet, said Jones.

But that’s not unusual because mushers tend to register after they arrive in Dawson.

The race limit is set at 30 teams.

The registration fee is $100, unless teams want to pay an extra $150 and compete for a purse.

The committee is expecting four racers to pony up the cash, and this will be divided between them.

“We will make it possible for racers to throw $150 into a hat,” he said. “We will hold and divide $40-$30-$20-$10 to each racer.”

The top seven racers will also receive discounts off next year’s entry fee.

The first musher to run the 338-kilometre race will get a free ride in the 2007 competition.

The second- and third-place finishers can enter for half price and the fourth- to seventh-place mushers will each get a 25 per cent reduction.

The scaled-down prizes are a result of a $22,000 loss from hosting last year’s International Federation of Sled Dog Sports World Championships.

This loss was topped with more than $12,000 that remains unaccounted for from a fundraising lottery the Percy committee held.

The missing money is still under RCMP investigation, said Jones.

The entry fees will be used to pay off debts around town.

“That money is going to straight back into the community as opposed to being given out in purse money to dog mushers,” he said.

“Our goal is that the race this year won’t cost us anything on top the entry fees and that we will be able to settle up the vast majority of the local people we owe money to.”

Approximately half the debt has already been wiped out, said Percy treasurer Alex Brook. 

Jones expects the entire debt to disappear by the end of the year.

“It’s pretty amazing. The full extent of our financial situation wasn’t clear until June last summer, when we realized we were going to have to claw ourselves out.

“Through a little bit of luck, and mostly hard work, it looks like it’s going to work out.

“Jones credits town businesses for being patient and understanding to ensure the tradition could continue.

“We’ve had some really useful understanding and help from some of the people we owed money to.

“People have been really been really good about not charging us interest on bills, about being flexible about how we would pay them — whether not necessarily in cash but some other in kind things.

“So, we want to make sure people understand we are grateful.”

About $4,000 was raised at the Yukon Quest concession at the Dawson checkpoint — more than double what was expected — because the race finished in Dawson, allowing the concession to remain open several more days than expected.

Another $1,000 was raised at the Furball New Year’s party.

The volunteer committee never considered cancelling the race, Jones said, even though they were accountable for the debt.

“Percy DeWolfe never blew a shift in all the years he was doing it, so if we are going to have a commemorative event in his name, it would be pretty churlish to blow a shift when the going got tough — the very thing he was famous for not doing.”

Trophies will be awarded to the fastest teams and a banquet is scheduled for March 20th.

The first musher usually arrives 26 to 28 hours after leaving Dawson, including a six-hour mandatory rest in Eagle.

But this year’s race could be a little slower, he said, because the prize money is lower than normal.

“Without a guaranteed purse this year, I don’t know how competitive the mushers are going to be, how hard they are going to be racing,” he said.

“Being mushers they might be going as hard as they always do, whether the prize is $300 or $3,000.”

The race starts at 10 a.m. Thursday.

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