When Richie Beattie’s dog team reached the Dawson checkpoint during the 2020 Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race in the early afternoon of Feb. 7, the man on the sled was not Beattie.
The man on the sled was a Dawson City resident named Jason who did not want to give his last name to the News.
He said he had gone cross-country skiing and saw the team running without a musher.
“I just was skiing now to open water near the Moosehide and I was going to take a photo,” said Jason. “I see the dog team coming from a distance around the bend and there was no musher.”
He said he wasn’t sure what to do, but after some quick thinking decided getting the team to town was the best course of action.
“I figure the best (thing) is to come back to town and get someone to get him,” said Jason. “I was on the trail and they kind of stopped and looked at me straight on. They came right towards me because I was at a crossroads there.”
Shortly after Beattie’s team arrived, Beattie himself rode into the checkpoint on the back of a snowmobile. He ran from the machine, stumbling in the snow before he reached his wife who was waiting on the back of the sled.
Just a minute or two after that exchange, Yukoner Rob Cooke and his team reached the checkpoint.
Cooke said he had picked up Beattie from the trail a few miles before the checkpoint.
“There was a guy walking down the trail and he was freaking the dogs out and I was getting ready to shout at him because he wouldn’t move,” said Cooke. “Then he crossed the trail and he turned around and I recognized him.”
Cooke asked Beattie what happened and said Beattie told him he thought he’d fallen asleep.
“He said that he’d been super tired the whole way and there had been a couple of times he’d lost the trail and fallen asleep,” said Cooke. “He said he came to and his dogs were halfway down the trail.”
Beattie was most concerned about his dogs, Cooke said.
“He was super worried, obviously,” said Cooke. “His dogs had just taken off and in a situation like that, anything can happen. I thought I could see them and it looked like they were still moving OK.”
Cooke said they then came upon some photographers, who relayed that someone had caught the team and was taking them back to Dawson.
“The dogs were fine,” said Cooke. “So that was a relief.”
Beattie then caught a ride on a snowmobile the rest of the way.
Cooke said he himself had issues with staying awake the night before.
“I was really struggling last night coming into Clinton Creek to stay awake, so I understand,” said Cooke. “And he didn’t get much sleep in Clinton Creek, I don’t think, so I can understand where he was coming from.”
Race officials clarified to media that Beattie will not be penalized for the incident. Beattie was not made available for questions after arriving in Dawson.
A lost team’s musher will not be disqualified if the musher regains control of the team. The team and musher must complete the entire race trail including checking in at all checkpoints. Anyone may stop and secure a musherless team or loose dog. The musher may continue the race after their team is recovered, whether it is on foot, with assistance from another musher or motorized vehicle. Motorized assistance must be reported to a race official at the next checkpoint. If motorized help is used and advantage gained, the Race Mashal may impose appropriate sanctions.
Per the official Yukon Quest website, Cooke’s arrival time was 1:17 p.m. and Beattie’s was 1:18 p.m.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org