Team Racing Bering arriving at the start of the race
Twenty-five teams lining up ready to go!
Joar & Co at the start line with Kjell and Aleks in lead
The team under control: Joar is calm at the start line
Jeremy on his snow machine acts as break for the team at the start line
Katy, Stephen and Maggie made up our great crew of volunteer handlers at the start
It is a dual start with two teams lining up at a time
Teams start in two-minute intervals
Martin Buser and his team minutes before they cross the start line
Brent Sass the Yukon Quest Champion
Staying on the feet were a huge challenge on the glare ice surface of the Kuskokwim River
Hugh Neff and his wheel dog have a moment at the start line before take-off
Lance Mackey coming to the start line
Announcers, cameras, TV and audience surround the racers as they take off at the start
Happy dogs roaring to race!
Inupiaq John Baker of Kotzebue (Alaska) the 2011 Iditarod Champion
Local hero, Yupik Pete Kaiser of Bethel (Alaska) the 2015 Kuskokwim Champion
Kids and adults alike, get as close as they can to the teams taking off
A day of celebration, beautiful traditional clothing is seen at the start
Off and flying down the trail!
With bib number 25 the last team takes off down the icy trail
Hot chocolate and other goodies help people in the crowd stay warm
Smiles and happy faces!
At Headquarters: Noting as team come in and go out of the first checkpoint in Tuluksak
At Headquarters: Noting as team come in and go out of the first checkpoint in Kalskag Outbound
One-third of the race has passed already–can you believe it!?
Joar & Co are resting in Kalskag. The second checkpoint of the race, it is located 102 miles (some 165 km) from the start line in Bethel according to the Tracker Map.
The word from Joar is that all twelve dogs are doing great, and that the trail has been “pretty good, not too much trouble out of the start.”
That is not what Myron Angstman, one of the founders and the first K300 Champion (1979) said! On the contrary: “hands-down the worst start I have ever seen in this race, and I have seen all 37 of them!” Myron declared to the big crowd that was gathered here at Headquarters in Bethel as he finally walked in here hours later than expected.
The combination of heading straight into a strong Northeastern wind and completely glare ice surface on the river the first mile out from the start line, had leads dogs heading in all directions to find better footing on the few snow patches scattered across the wide river..regardless of where the trail markers were. After about a mile the teams were turning up the bank and off the river ice to continue overland on what is a “good trail.” But, trouble was, to get there!
Most teams did have a snow machine attached to them for that first mile to help control the team—what turned out to be a very wise precaution put in place by the race ahead of the start as the wind gusting at 20-30 miles an hour was forecasted. It was up to the individual musher whether or not they wanted this snow machine-set-up. Myron said those that had opted out were just toast out there. Even many of those with a machine had big trouble, but a few with very skilled and head-strong lead dogs were leading small packs across the ice.
Picture (left) — Sled on one truck, dogs on another truck and Jeremy on a snow machine to “be Joar’s power break”; our set-up coming to the start line was perfect.
As for Joar, our host Jeremy took on the task of driving the snow machine attached to the back-end of Joar’s sled. Jeremy reported upon his return to Bethel that Joar a couple of times jumped off his sled to run up to Aleks and Kjell in lead and run with them, guiding them on the trail.
Joar actually talked about this scenario earlier today…How it sure would be nice to have Britt and Sivo around to be able to steer even into strong winds across glare ice if that turned out to be the case… Britt and Sivo both back at the kennel in Willow, Joar put his trust in Aleks and Kjell. Didn’t sound like it went perfect, but no doubt it was a huge learning experience for them!
Picture (right) — Joar has a face mask made out of foam for really windy conditions. Friday morning, hearing about the winds about to kick in, Joar thought he should prepare his dogs for the “scary sight of him”…Aleks was not to concerned about the mask.. Maybe a bigger concern should be how any human will react!
This whole race is one massive learning experience in being “tough as can be.” Lance Mackey stated to the press that the Mackey joke is that the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races are great preparation for the Kuskokwim race. The reason being, to be competitive, the musher as well as dogs must be able to run far distances, insanely fast on very very little rest. That Iditarod is three times the distance but competitive teams rests maybe 10 times as much as in Kuskokwim illustrates the point. Last years top teams in Iditarod rested around 90 hours over about 1000 miles. In Kuskokwim over about 300 miles, the competitive teams will rest just 10 hours!
Ten hours is the mandatory rest — what a team MUST stop in check points according to the rules. The time is calculated in whole hours, which add to the difficulty. Stopping 1 hour 1 minute = 2 hours on the book; stopping 59 minutes = 1 hour on the book. Of the 10 hours, 6 hours must be in Kalskag (outbound or inbound) or Aniak checkpoints. The last 4 hours are mandatory to be taken in the last checkpoint of the race: Tuluksak.
According to plan, Joar will stop 4 hours in Kalskag. How long a musher decides to stop — well, there is no “wrong or right,” its all strategy and what the musher thinks he is seeing in his team. Lance Mackey and Rohn Buser have been leading the race to Kalskag followed closely by Martin Buser, Brent Sass, Pato Geron, Pete Kaiser and Joar. Who is followed very closely by a whole bunch of great teams. As this is being written, the Dad / Son Busers on the trail, are already moving on to Aniak after just an hour stop in Kalskag…
This race is shaping up to be a bit of a colorful explosion of speed and strategies — much like the incredible fire works that wrapped up the start back in Bethel last night!
About 7000 people live in Bethel and people, snow machines, ATV four-wheelers, trucks and cars were lined up everywhere – on the river ice and along the banks – to watch the beautiful fireworks after the teams were off.