At 3:07am this morning at the Takhini Hot Springs finish line Tagish resident Ed Hopkins completed his eighth Yukon Quest, taking fifth place in a time of 9 days, 14 hours, and 1 minute. Hopkins gave full credit for the strong showing to his capable dog team and said he was ecstatic to be the first Canadian (and Yukon) musher across the line.
Tying his best Quest finish from his 2014 run, Torsten Kohnert hit the line early this afternoon to take sixth, in a time of 10 days and 8 minutes. Kohnert said he was amazed by the speed of this year’s lead pack. “I had hoped to crack the top five,” Kohnert said, “but they were a little too fast.” Asked about the performance of his team, Kohnert said that all his dogs are stand-outs and he’s always the weakest link.
Norwegian musher Tom Frode Johansen was next in shortly after 4pm to nab seventh place-- and Rookie of the Year honours-- in a time of 10 days, 3 hours, and 3 minutes. Johansen said that competing in the Quest was a dream come true, lavished praise on his lead dog Rim, who had lead his team all 1,000 miles, and talked about the gratifying challenge of navigating all the jumble ice. The musher said he hope to compete in another Quest, due in large part to how welcoming the volunteers along the trail were. "It felt like you were coming to friends," said Johansen
Fellow rookie Seth Barnes looks set to take eighth, with a 10 mile lead over the next closest musher, Yuka Honda, as they go all out in the last 40 miles to the finish.
Meanwhile the battle for 10th and 11th place is turning out to be a close one. Mike Ellis and Dave Dalton left Braeburn earlier this evening a half-hour apart, and they are currently under 50 miles from the finish line. The last update has Ellis and his team of 12 Siberians with just a slim four mile lead over Dalton’s team of ten huskies.
A little further back, Laura Neese, and the trio of Cody Strathe, Paige Drobny, and Andrew Pace are making their way to Braeburn, where Luc Tweddell and his team of six arrived earlier. Neese is 25 miles out, and the trio sit at 45 miles out. Luc Tweddell’s 8-hour layover ends at 7:37am tomorrow morning.
The remainder of the field is spread out as follows: Rob Cooke and Tore Albrigsten have pulled in for some rest at the Carmacks checkpoint, and Gaetan Pierrard is 24 miles from the McCabe Creek dog drop, where Sébastien Dos Santos Borges has been camped for several hours.