Rookie musher Curt Perano was the lone musher to cross the finish line Thursday, grabbing seventh place as he arrived at 12:14 pm.
It was somewhat fitting, considering Perano spent much of the second half of the race in solitude, with a large gap both in front of him and behind him. He told the crowd that he actually prefers to run alone.
“I sometimes go out of my way to be on my own."
He was far from alone once he hit the finish chute though, as he received a warm welcome from fans and family members gathered at Takhini Hot Springs. Among those waiting for Perano were his wife Fleur and son Wyatt. Both were regulars at checkpoints throughout this year’s race, and baby Wyatt routinely stole the show.
This time, the show belonged solely to his dad, who came flying across the finish line with lead dog Run at the helm. All nine dogs were yipping and ready to continue, even as Perano drove them toward the dog truck.
Asked how his race was, the New Zealand native replied, “This one took a bit of everything and crammed it into one race! It was really a good experience and good exposure for the dogs. It’s a challenge!”
He said his dogs were pretty flat in the first half of the race, so one of the highs for him was seeing them kick back into gear near Stepping Stone.
“The low was standing in two feet of water for an hour at 4 o’clock in the morning, somewhere on the Alaska side.”
Perano and his family now reside in Alaska part time, commuting back and forth to their homeland. When he began racing in New Zealand, Perano ran Malamute Huskies. Now, he’s running Alaskans.
“I started running Alaskan Huskies because I got sick of doing more running than the dogs,” he joked, adding he’s been running Alaskan huskies for six to eight years, both at home and in Alaska.
It’s a switch that seems to have worked very well for him, as evidenced by his performance in this year’s Yukon Quest.
Race Rolls Through Braeburn
The final four mushers all reached Braeburn Thursday, with Hank DeBruin maintaining his lead on eighth place.
DeBruin pulled into Braeburn at 11:57 am, with an approximate six-hour lead on the next three. Mandy Nauman arrived at the final checkpoint in ninth place, at 6:08 pm, while Jerry Joinson followed at 6:19 pm and Brian Wilmshurst rounded out the pack at 6:44 pm.
"I guess one more checkpoint until I can enjoy some beer!” Wilmshurst said as he completed check-in.
After serving his eight-hour mandatory layover, DeBruin set out for Whitehorse at 8:15 pm, with 11 dogs. As he was getting the team ready, the sportsmanship and camaraderie of the mushers was on full display.
Nauman, tending to her own dogs in the yard, shouted across, “I thought we were switching teams, Hank!”
Then as he and the Siberians hit the trail, she added, “I hope you win the Vets Choice Award, buddy!”
Nauman, Joinson and Wilmshurst continued to rest at Braeburn late Thursday night. Nauman is eligible to leave next at 2:08 am Friday, while Wilmshurst will be able to get started at 2:44 am.
Joinson will serve a two-hour time penalty in Braeburn, assigned earlier in the race for not providing adequate food for a dropped dog. That means he can leave at 4:19 am.
The final three mushers are expected to finish Friday afternoon, while DeBruin will likely wrap his race up around 8 am Friday.