The Yukon Brewing Twister Race Series has a new name, new rules and new trails.
The race series, organized by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon, was formally known as the Copper Haul Twister.
This season it has eased dog restrictions, split race categories and is trying to make the races accessible to more Yukoners.
It’s early yet, but the changes appear to be producing results.
The biggest change is that the series has gone mobile, shifting locations for each of the monthly races. After holding the season opener at its usual location on Fish Lake Road in Whitehorse, the second installment took place at William Kleedehn’s Limp-a-Long Kennel (a.k.a. Kleedehn City) near Carcross last Sunday.
The Oscar’s Electric event was the first ever held at the Yukon Quest veteran’s kennel. It saw five more teams compete in the main races than in the Nov. 27 season opener.
“Different trails and different people too,” said race organizer Fabian Schmitz. “There are new faces here today. Probably people who live near by and who haven’t been at the other side of town so far. It gives more people in the Yukon opportunity to come and run these races.”
Dog mushers and skijorers are no longer pitted against each other. Though running the same trails at the same time, sled and skijor teams are now timed separately and are in detached divisions. Since skijor teams tend to be smaller than sled teams, the separation of the divisions has led to expansion of team sizes, now allowing sled teams with as many as eight dogs to compete.
“In previous years we had the skijorers and sleds running together, and I found it was pretty hard to have these teams competing against each other,” said Schmitz. “This year we separated them. They are still running at the same time. They are starting at the same time, meeting on the trail, which is awesome for training, but we are going to time them separately.
“That allows us to run more dogs in the sled class because they are not competing with the skijorers anymore.”
Some mushers aren’t interested in running smaller teams, said Schmitz.
“It’s a great training opportunity to come to these races, but they don’t come to run four dogs. But they’ll come for eight dogs. For people with bigger teams, it’s awesome for them and they’ll travel to come to the race.
“It seems to work. More people are showing up.”
Tagish’s Dave Johnson couldn’t agree more. Running an eight-dog team, Johnson won Sunday’s 10-mile sled class race. He also won the division in Twister’s season opener.
“The reason we like coming here is it’s awesome training for the young dogs,” said Johnson. “They learn to pass and they see other teams and stuff, so you couldn’t ask for better training than that. If they have it in different places every month, then it would be even better. They get something different every month.”
Although the races might attract more advanced mushers with eight-dog teams, there’s still room for smaller, less-serious teams as well.
Formally the “Pet Dog” class, the recreation division has seen a couple changes as well. Now allowing two dogs instead of just one, the division has also been opened to husky dogs.
“People who have an old retired sled dog couldn’t come to the race before,” said Schmitz. “People who want to train their husky puppies for skijoring can run this race as well now.
“And they can run two dogs as well so run an inexperienced puppy with an experienced leader.”
The Twister race series now offers a new kids’ division for mushers under 16, allowing up to four dogs. Katharina Wirth, who is training to represent the Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games this March, was the only musher in Sunday’s race.
“But we’re happy to have her,” said Schmitz.
“It was great trails; it was awesome,” said Johnson. “There were a lot of teams this time too. There wasn’t as many last time.
“The trails were great. Went out four miles, around a lake, and then back home on the same trail. It was just perfect.”
More information on the Twister series can be found at http://dpsay.wordpress.com.
Sled category (up to 8 dogs)
1st Dave Johnson – 32:50
2nd Armin Johnson – 40:25
3rd Alexandra Rochat – 40:31
4th Gaetan Pierrard – 43:27
5th Bali Symenuk – 45:32
6th Deb Knight – 45:55
7th Fabian Schmitz – 49:27
8th Marine Gastard – 50:10
9th Martin Haefele – 50:43
10th Janet Keller – 1:08:51
Skijoring (1-4 dogs)
1st Jonathan Lucas – 36:58
2nd Darryl Sheepway – 40:09
3rd Stefan Wackerhagen – 41:49
4th Kyla Johnson – 44:51
5th Barb Anderson – 46:18
6th Crispin Studer – 46:33
7th Amelie Janin – 51:08
8th Claudia Wickert – 51:38
Recreational class (up to 2 dogs)
1st Jonathan Lucas – 7:38
2nd Amelie Janin – 8:51
3rd Rica n/a – 14:09
4th Kyla Johnson – 17:29
Kids (up to 4 dogs)
1st Katharina Wirth – 7:05
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org