Veteran musher Ken Anderson was the first of three to cross the finish line of the 2014 Yukon Quest Wednesday.
Anderson arrived at Takhini Hot Springs at 11:56 am in fourth place, with eight dogs at the helm. After a 70-mile journey from Braeburn, Anderson was eager to feed his team and get them settled as soon as he checked-in.
He later spoke about the ups and downs of this year’s race.
“It was kind of an ill-prepared, discombobulated mess. I felt like a rookie out there. I made all kinds of silly mistakes.”
“I tried a different sled that I only had a couple of runs on. Because the one I had that I liked actually got destroyed. So that didn’t work at all. Then I had some new harnesses that I was excited about, that I’d designed and used in some shorter races and a bit in training, and they had worked great. But it turns out they were too wide in the chest.”
Anderson said his vision was that he would run short and fast, with long runs. But he said the race just felt awkward because the team never really got into a rhythm.
“Part of it was that I wasn’t in race mode at all, and the dogs key off of that. When you’re in race mode and focused, the dogs feel that energy and they mimic that, and so they perform better. “
Still, fourth place has to feel pretty good – especially in a year where trail conditions took a toll on a lot of teams.
“I came into the race wanting this to be just sort of a camping trip, you know. I have a bunch of young dogs, so just taking them through the motions of a 1,000-mile race. And that’s what we did, so it was a success.”
Two-time former champion John Schandelmeier arrived about an hour after Anderson in fifth place, wearing bib #17 and running in his 17th Yukon Quest.
Schandelmeier came in with three lead dogs on the line – Rainy, Spicy and Fender. He gave all nine of his dogs some well-deserved kudos at the finish, telling the crowd that he “wouldn’t rule out” a return next year.
“I just came back to take a look at it. I watch racing and I just like to see how racing changes, and you can see it from the outside but you really don’t know until you get out there and see what everybody’s actually doing and how they’re doing it.”
So how was his experience, after a seven-year absence from the race?
“Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it ain’t,” he said with a frosty smile. “The trail was real good on the Canadian side and the Alaska side wasn’t very good. That’s one thing with the Quest that will never change.
“You can change all the technology you want. You can give us trackers and anything else you want, you can make fancy sleds and fancy cookers…you’re not going to change the Yukon race.”
Sweden’s Torsten Kohnert is the sixth musher to complete this year’s race. Kohnert, who is running some of Anderson’s dogs as well as some of his own, pulled into the finish chute at 6:52 pm.
Asked what he thought about running 1,000 miles in the North American wilderness, Kohnert replied, “It was a trip of a lifetime!”
Next to arrive at Takhini Hot Springs will be New Zealand native Curt Perano. Perano, who now resides in Willow, Alaska, made his way into Braeburn at 2:52 Wednesday afternoon for his mandatory eight-hour layover.
At 11:08 pm, Perano headed out on the final leg of his mushing adventure with nine dogs. He’s expected to arrive just before lunchtime Thursday.
DeBruin Heads Up Back Four
Taking the lead among what we’ll now call the “fab four” at the back is Ontario’s Hank DeBruin. DeBruin, who was in the Red Lantern position when he left Dawson City, finds himself with a two-hour lead on the final three mushers after some strong runs on the second half of the race.
He and his team of 11 Siberians left Carmacks at 7:20 pm Wednesday en route to Braeburn, the final checkpoint. At the start of the race DeBruin, who won the Red Lantern in 2011 but skipped the Yukon Quest in 2012 and 2013, was asked why he decided to return this year.
“The trail called,” he stated. “It was time.”
He said his team was as ready as they were ever going to be, even though it had been a tough training season.
“Nothing but snow, snow, snow…it never stopped. The dogs were always breaking trail.”
His team has been garnering plenty of attention along the trail this year, as well as from fans online.
“They’re a beautiful dog, they really are,” he said proudly. “They’re a different dog to run than the Alaskans. The Sibe will never give you 100 percent on the spot, but they will give you 100 percent over the race.“
They certainly seem to be giving 100 percent right now, with the finish line – and eighth place – well within their sights.
“For me, the goal is to finish and finish good, with a healthy team.”
Brian Wilmshurst is the lone Yukoner left in this year’s race. He’s down to seven dogs after dropping one in Carmacks Wednesday night.
Wilmshurst began the trail to Braeburn at 9:27 pm, followed closely by Mandy Nauman at 9:30 pm. Nauman, who is running some dogs from Wild and Free Mushing on her team, also dropped a dog in Carmacks so she’s travelling with eight.
Jerry Joinson is currently in the Red Lantern position, after another tough day. Joinson, who already has a two-hour penalty to serve once he arrives in Braeburn, damaged his sled on the trail from McCabe Creek to Carmacks.
After turning around to have it repaired, he ended up taking a replacement sled, which comes with an eight-hour time penalty. The eight-hour penalty will be added at the finish line to his final running time.
As of 11:30 pm, Joinson was still resting at the Carmacks checkpoint.