As you might have gathered if you follow our facebook page, I have been a bit obsessed with the Yukon Quest this week. Firstly the anticipation, as the polar vortex played climate-change-hell with the snow across Canada and Alaska. Secondly, the excitement of seeing Mike Ellis of Tsuga Siberians take out his Sibes in a race that is dominated by Alaskan huskies. Oh, and then the reveal that there was, not one, not two, but three Sibe teams in the race, with Hank deBruin and Tony Angelo also running Siberians. Squeee!
But most of all, I have loved the excellent online cover by the Yukon Quest folks. They are running a good website with some great articles. They have satellite tracking so you can see where the mushers are and watch them leap frog each other across the map. These are great options for people who get to spend their days at a computer, who can leave the map updating on a tab or a secondary screen. For someone like me, who spends a lot of time rushing around, the best bit of the Yukon Quest coverage has been the Facebook page. Everytime I get a quiet second to check my phone, I get some beautiful pictures of amazing landscapes and great people, as well as regular updates and quick videos. The professional level of the photography can not be discounted, just so good that it becomes a draw card in and of itself.
Oh, yeah and there's a twitter feed as well!
The other day when the Yukon Quest FB team posted a status about the weather at one of the checkpoints, with the phrase "whereever you are". The comments included appreciation from across Europe, with traditional sled dog countries like Norway and some unexpected ones like Holland and England. "Love your snow, we're running dry-land races here" from so many places around the world. The Yukon Quest might be an international race, in that it crosses the Canadian-Alaskan border, but its also an international race in its following.
In fact, its a mark of our modern times that there is even an audience for this race. These mushers are trekking across wilderness, in extreme temperatures. Sometimes their checkpoints are unmanned, with just a hut and some water/firewood available. Sometimes they travel more than 322 km (200 miles) between checkpoints. The total distance of the race is over 1600km (1000 miles) and they cross 4 mountain ranges along the way. This isn't the Tour de France, with crowds lining the roads, trips through major cities and support crews following the peloton. Me sitting in Melbourne on a 36 degree summer's day, with my huskies snoozing in the air con, and watching this race, is something that the race organisers couldn't have dreamed of, back in the late 70's, early 80's.
But it helps keep sled racing alive, attracting sponsorship, money for veterinary research and support teams to ensure that the mushers and their dogs are safe in this incredible journey. And, its so much fun while we wait for winter!