Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race gets underway
As the sun began to crest over the mountains and bathe the Top of the World Highway in its warm glow, 10 mushers and their dog teams were readying themselves for a 110-mile (180-kilometre) race to Forty Mile and back to Dawson City.
The 45th Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race started on time at 10 a.m. on March 6, with the first musher – Nathaniel Hamlyn – leaving at 10:02 a.m. to “follow Percy” with the mail packed safely in his sled.
Hamlyn has raced the Percy four times – and the Percy Junior twice – but has never drawn bib #2 and carried the mail.
“It’s an honour,” Hamlyn said. “I read up on the history of Percy (DeWolfe) and what he was able to do with his dog team was incredible, things that we can only dream about now. I mean, the (Yukon Quest) comes close – the things you do – but what he was doing up and down this river is pretty incredible.”
DeWolfe carried mail between Dawson City and Eagle, Alaska, from 1910 to 1949 using dog teams, horses and boats.
Although the race start was outside of town and closed to the general public, a number of DeWolfe’s descendents were able to be present.
This year’s race looks like a toned-down version of the usual race at first glance – it’s only 110 miles and is on roads for a good portion of the first half – but looks are often deceiving.
The pre-race trail report outlined the usual hazards and challenges to be expected, namely blown-in trail on the Top of the World Highway and on the Yukon River, and jumble ice on the Yukon River.
Luckily for teams, three snowmobiles will be going over the trail approximately one to two hours ahead of the first teams.
It’s also worth pointing out that the trail gains 700 metres of elevation over the first 10 km, reaching a high point of 1,220 m, and then losing it all before reaching the checkpoint.
Hamlyn said the trail is part and parcel of the whole experience.
“I like going out on a hill – (to) keep reserve in the tank for later – so normally I’m on the drag mat anyways,” Hamlyn said. “I don’t mind climbing out. I’m more a little worried about the jumble ice. Every year is different, but on the other hand, it’s technical and it’s fun – it’ll keep you awake.”
Ed Hopkins had also been listed to race but ultimately did not.
The prize pool for the race was confirmed to be $8,000 to be split between the first seven mushers per the race’s rules. The race includes one mandatory six-hour layover in Forty Mile.
The race’s live tracking can be viewed here on the official website.
As of 5 p.m. on March 6, the first group of teams have reached the checkpoint at Forty Mile.
Nathaniel Hamlyn, Connor McMahon, Aiyana O’Shaughnessy, Jason Biasseti, Jonathan Lucas, and Marcelle Fressineau all appear to be at the checkpoint.
The race’s site lists arrival times for the first four mushers.
McMahon arrived at 4:22 p.m., Hamlyn arrived at 4:23 p.m., O’Shaughnessy arrived at 4:26 p.m., and Biasetti arrived at 4:28 p.m.
Paul Hamlyn and Jess Sears are both less than five km from the checkpoint, with Krys March and Kyla Boivin both having made the turn onto Clinton Creek Road.