Yukon Quest starts in Whitehorse

The Yukon Quest 300 and Yukon Quest 100 races both got underway at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse the afternoon of Feb. 19, 2022.

Teams left the starting chute in three minute intervals beginning at 3 p.m., with YQ300 mushers leaving first and YQ100 mushers starting immediately after.

Mushers in the YQ100 have roughly 50 miles (80 kilometres) to time station one, which marks the halfway point in the 100-mile (160-km) race, where they must serve four hours of mandatory rest before tackling the second half of the race into the finish at Braeburn.

Braeburn doubles as the first and only checkpoint in the YQ300, where mushers must serve six hours of mandatory rest either on the in-leg or out-leg of the race. From Braeburn, YQ300 teams are racing another 50 miles to the Mandanna Lake time station before turning around and racing back to Whitehorse for the finish via Braeburn. YQ300 mushers are required to take a total of 28 hours of rest, with 22 of those hours available for trail rest – a new addition to the race – giving mushers flexibility to rest when and where it makes the most sense for each team.

Brent Sass, winner of the Yukon Quest 350 earlier this month, weighed in before the start on how the extensive rest could impact the race.

“Really this race is all about how fast you go between your rests because … everyone is taking so much rest, that you can’t really lollygag at all. You’ve basically got to be pedal to the metal from the second they say go,” Sass said. “So the strategy is move at the dogs’ pace and either way it’s still 300 miles. It’s not like you can just let them go flatout from the get go, so it’s about managing the team well and doing good dog care in your rest and choosing the right place to stop.”

Deke Naaktgeboren, one of nine mushers – including Sass – racing in the YQ300, summed it up more succinctly.

“It’s pretty much a straightforward race. There will be six runs of about 50 miles with a lot of rest in between,” Naaktgeboren said. “So we’re just going to go and then have a good sleep and then go again, times six.”

And at least one musher didn’t overthink it.

“Honestly, I haven’t been thinking much about (rest strategy) until these last 10 minutes here, how it’s all going to play out,” Connor McMahon said, adding the snow will help his team stay on track. “(The snow) is going to make it easy to follow (the leaders) … (since I’m) bib number four.”

Weather on the day of the start was slightly cooler than earlier in the week, with flurries throughout the morning.

Quest and Iditarod veteran Michelle Phillips said the snow will have some positives for teams.

“It’s going to be good,” Phillips said. “A little bit of snow to soften up the ice, which is nice, and maybe slow the race down a bit at the beginning so they don’t take off too fast – that’s really good.”

Paul Hamlyn also felt the snow might slow things down, at least initially.

“I think it’ll be a really, really slow run. Of course with the trail having more snow on it, it’ll be slower,” Hamlyn said before pausing a beat. “But that’s fine – we’re not a fast team anyways.”

Hamlyn’s son, Quest veteran Nathaniel Hamlyn, is running the YQ100 and pointed out the snow will have pros and cons on the trail.

“I think the snow is going to suck on the river, but it’s going to be good in the woods,” Nathaniel said. “It’s going to soften out those bumps.”

Dog yard photos

YQ300 and YQ100 start photos