What You Need to Know About the 2013 Yukon Quest
Photo by Jeff Richardson/News-Miner. 2013 Yukon Quest start preparations: Yukon Quest volunteer Werner Rhein works to assemble the starting chute for the race on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Whitehorse, as children sled down a hill in the background. The Whitehorse-to-Fairbanks sled dog race will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.
WHITEHORSE, Yukon — The 30th running of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race begins Saturday. Here are some things to know as the mushers make their way toward the finish line in Fairbanks:
• The heavyweights from the 2012 race are back for a rematch.
Last year’s champ, Hugh Neff, is returning to defend his title. He’s joined by Two Rivers musher Allen Moore, who Neff edged by just 26 seconds last year. Other top contenders from 2012 include four-time Quest champ Lance Mackey (third), top rookie Jake Berkowitz (fourth), Brent Sass (fifth), Abbie West (eighth) and Dave Dalton (10th).
Dalton, of Healy, is starting his 23rd Quest, tying Frank Turner for the most Yukon Quest entries.
• Mushers will depart Whitehorse in three-minute increments, starting at 10 a.m. Alaska time. Because of that, the first racer, Brian Wilmshurst, will have a 1 hour, 18 minute head-start on the last musher, Crispin Studer.
That gap will disappear, however, at one of the first two checkpoints, either Braeburn or Carmacks. All racers must take a mandatory four-hour rest in one of those spots, and their layover time will be adjusted so no team leaves the checkpoint with an advantage based on their starting position.
For fans tracking teams on the Internet, that means the standings after the Carmacks checkpoint will provide an accurate picture of who is leading the race.
• Weather should be beautiful for spectators alongside the Yukon River in Whitehorse but maybe a little warmer than the dogs would prefer in the early days of the race.
Start time temperatures of more than 20 degrees are forecast in Whitehorse, with only slightly cooler weather expected as the race continues north. The Dawson City forecast for Tuesday, when the first teams could begin to arrive, is 10 degrees.
• The purse for the 2013 Quest is down to $100,000, which is $50,000 less than last year’s take.
Marti Steury, the Alaska executive director for the race, said last month that the race has struggled to raise funds and attract major sponsorships this year amid a tepid economy.
As a result, the winner of this year’s Quest will claim less than $20,000, less than both the first- and second-place finishers in 2012. Neff earned $28,395 for the victory last year.
• The first quarter of the Quest is the flattest part of the race, before it hits a more mountainous section starting after Pelly Crossing. Mushers should be in Pelly by early Monday if the trail is in typically good condition.
“There are some ares with tight turns, switchbacks, but it’s usually pretty smooth sailing,” Race Marshal Doug Grilliot said.