The Yukon Quest is on its way to having the largest competitive field in eight years. Now all it needs is some more of the promised prize money.
With the start of the 1,600-kilometre sled dog race less than two months away, the Quest is $60,000 short of its $150,000 prize purse.
It has been a tough year for fundraising, said Sue Thomas, the executive director of the race’s Canadian branch.
“The Yukon Quest is a not-for-profit organization so it relies on sponsorships, donations and fundraising in order to generate the purse and the cost of running the race,” said Thomas, who took over the position in August.
“This year there are competing interests in Whitehorse. The Arctic Winter Games is in Whitehorse. There are a lot of fundraising activities in Whitehorse. So the sponsorships, this year, have not been at the same levels as in past years.”
In addition to the Arctic Games, other major fundraising initiatives in Whitehorse include Mt. Sima, which is working to cover the cost of the ski resort’s new chairlift, and the Yukon Hospital Foundation, which is campaigning to raise money for a new MRI.
This year the Quest runs from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, beginning on Feb. 4. It has offered a $150,000 prize purse the last three years.
“The board set the guarantee of $150,000 so that’s the minimum prize,” said Thomas. “If that money is not available, it would have to go back to the board for a decision and they would have to consider what options are available, whether it means we continue to fundraise so we can pay out the guaranteed amount, or the prize money changes.”
Another option is to only give prize money to the top 10 or 12 finishers instead of the top 15, said Thomas, a solution that could occur on its own. Only 13 mushers reached the finish line last year with nine others scratching and three withdrawing.
Of the 32 teams currently registered for the 29th running of the Quest, four are from the Yukon.
They are Maren Bradley, of Carcross;
Brian Wilmshurst, of Dawson City; and Whitehorse mushers Marcelle Fressineau and Yuka Honda. Of the four Honda is the only one who has attempted the Quest before.
Early registration for the Quest ended Friday. Jan. 7 is the final cutoff which carries an additional $500 in registration fees.
The $60,000 shortfall is held by the overall Yukon Quest, including both the Fairbanks and Whitehorse branches.
“We have two months to gain that shortfall and we’re very optimistic that a major sponsor – we do have different sponsorship packages – will come on board,” said Thomas. “We are looking for options to increase our fundraising.”
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