The 36th annual Yukon Quest 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometre) dog sled race is in full swing after starting at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse on Feb. 2 with 30 mushers taking to the trail three minutes apart.
Hans Gatt, the four-time winner who started second in this year’s race, was the first to reach the Braeburn checkpoint. Gatt and nine dogs covered the 160 kilometres from Whitehorse in just over nine hours, reaching the checkpoint at 8:14 p.m.
Temperatures were in the -30 C to -35 C range in Whitehorse for the start, but were -40 C in Braeburn when Gatt reached the checkpoint.
“It was pretty cold out there, that’s for sure,” said Gatt. “But it’s the same for everybody.”
Gatt said the trail was “pretty good” and that his team was doing well.
“They did great. They did what they did all winter long,” said Gatt. “That’s what we had to do.”
Next into Braeburn was 2018 winner Allen Moore a little over two hours behind Gatt. Moore was the 26th musher to start the race and wasted no time in starting his climb up the leaderboard.
Tagish’s Michelle Phillips was the first Canadian to reach Braeburn, arriving at 10:40 p.m in fifth place. Quebecer Denis Tremblay was not far behind in seventh and Mount Lorne’s Nathaniel Hamlyn was 11th.
Other Yukon mushers were Jason Biasetti arriving 17th, Brian Wilmshurst arriving 20th and Rob Cooke arriving 27th.
Due to changes to this year’s trail, teams are all trucking from Braeburn to Carmacks and are eligible to continue racing from Carmacks 12 hours after they arrived in Braeburn plus a time differential to account for the staggered starts.
As of 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 3, All 30 mushers have reached Braeburn and Gatt is the only musher currently on the trail between the Carmacks checkpoint and the McCabe Creek dog drop. The next checkpoint after Carmacks is in Pelly Crossing.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill @ firstname.lastname@example.org