2021 Yukon Journey begins

The Yukon Journey got underway today in Pelly Crossing, and the start was not without drama and excitement.

The race itself began on the road in front of the community hall, and just 50 metres from the start teams had to go straight through a four-way intersection – something that proved easier said than done.

Despite vehicles and barricades blocking the road, a number of teams tried to take a hard right and head towards the Klondike Highway.

Susie Rogan was the second musher to start the race and the first with a team that went right. Her quick thinking to duck and avoid the trail tape between two barricades allowed her to stay on her sled and stop her team a little ways down the road. With some assistance the team got turned around and was back on track in a matter of a couple minutes.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for Marcelle Fressineau, who was the musher immediately behind Rogan.

When her team reached the corner, her sled hit a bump and she was knocked off the back. Holding on with her legs dragging behind the sled, Fressineau and the sled swung left and she was forced to let go or be pulled directly into a wooden barrier.

Her team continued without her, making a right near the Klondike Highway and starting a chase that luckily ended both quickly and safely.

Race officials hopped on a snowmobile and took off after the rogue team, returning approximately 15 minutes later with all the dogs on the line and healthy.

A quick once over by the vets, and Fressineau was back on the trail about 10 minutes behind Ed Hopkins, the last musher to start the race.

After those initial two quick rights by two teams, the barricades and vehicles were relocated and the remaining teams were able to follow the trail with considerably less difficulty.

The teams are now all on their way to McCabe, the first time station, and information on race standings will come in bursts as teams are not using trackers for this race.

Weather for the first stretch of the race is perhaps a bit on the warm side – temperatures of -20 C near the start time warmed to closer to -15 C by later in the afternoon – but overcast skies and calm air should be appreciated by mushers and dogs alike.

Family affair

Before the race, Yukon Sports Report caught up with Nathaniel Hamlyn whose father, Paul Hamlyn, is also competing in the race.

Asked who was going to finish first, Nathaniel didn’t pull any punches.

“We already know because we live on the same property,” Nathaniel said with a chuckle. “He likes to look at the scenery. He’ll admit he’s a bit slower, but he doesn’t mind.”

While his confidence gives the impression he’s the more experienced hand, it’s not quite that simple.

“When he finishes (this will be) the longest race he’s ever done,” Nathaniel, a Yukon Quest veteran, said about his father. “I got my start from him. I kind of diverted and went on the racing side, but he is just starting now – it’s pretty cool.”

Sights from the start