This disagreement marks the end of the legendary 1000-mile (1610 kilometer) race as it has existed since 1984.

The Yukon Quest is organized each year by two non-profit organizations: the Yukon Quest International Associationon the Canadian side, and the Yukon Quest International Ltd, on the American side. Due to the pandemic, several races of different distances have been organized this year on both sides of the border. In 2021, the Yukon Quest had been cancelled.

On Monday, the Alaskan side said in a statement that the two organizations were unable to agree on proposals for major rule changes relating to the race and which will apply from 2023 .

In a statement released Tuesday, the Yukon entity said strongly disagree with the assessment of this situation.

According to the Canadians, the announcement comes as the two organizations were in the midst of negotiations over dog care for future races. These discussions began as soon as this year’s races were over.

Brent Sass poses at the finish line with his two lead dogs.

In 2022, Brent Sass, here with his two lead dogs Slater and Woody, won the Yukon Quest 300 (Yukon) and the Yukon Quest 350 (Alaska).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Vincent Bonnay

The Yukon Quest International Association explains that, in a meeting at the end of April, she agreed to run the 1,000-mile 2023 race using the 2020 rules, as requested by the Alaskans, but requesting that additional data is collected.

These relate to race and rest intervals and tracer reliability, counting veterinary equipment used during the race, as well as consideration for the addition of an additional mandatory veterinary check.

This additional information would be used in the future to make informed, science-based decisions about how best to improve dog health before, during and after racing.

The Yukon board of directors adds that these requests did not constitute conditions for the holding of the races of the Yukon Quest in 2023. It also affirms that the proposed changes would not have changed the nature of the race.

He nevertheless specified that he must continue to examine the rules and regulations, in particular insofar as they have consequences on canine athletes.

Races such as the Yukon Quest have a duty and responsibility to lead by example in the larger dog sledding community, with an emphasis on dog health.

The press release specifies that, despite everything, races of 161 kilometers (100 miles), 402 kilometers (250 miles) and 724 kilometers (450 miles) will be held from February 18, 2023, on the Yukon side of the border.

Opposition of values

Frank Turner, a former dog sled driver who sits on the board of directors on the Canadian side, does not hide his disappointment at the situation which he describes as kind of divorce.

He believes that a different culture on both sides of the border is partly at the source of the disagreement.

Without wanting to be too caricatural, I think that Alaskans have been much more proactive and assertive and less cooperative over the years (…) We rather wanted to discuss and be in a logic of finding solutions. »

A quote from Frank Turner, dog sled representative, Yukon Quest International Association

He says he and his Canadian colleagues wanted to put more emphasis on dog health. A member of the Alaskan board of directors then told them that they were adopting a progressive position too quickly.

We tried to address our concerns and suggest that they mention theirs and their vision for the Quest. All we got back was this response: “We don’t want any change. We want it to stay the way it always has been.”

Frank Turner.

Frank Turner, who sits on the board of directors of the Yukon part of the Yukon Quest, evokes a divorce to summarize the situation between the two organizations which manage the race.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Claudiane Samson

Mark Weber, the vice-president of the Alaskan organization of the race, for his part, affirms that he does not categorically refuse any modification to the rules of the race. He believes the problem is that the Yukon council has not gone through the procedures and rules set out by the organization.

Basically, we were given an ultimatumhe maintains, adding that his organization unanimously refused the changes radicals offered.

At that time, the president of the race told us that we were going to dissolve the organization because there was no chance that he would participate in this project in any way. says Mark Weber.

Mark Weber adds that the mandatory rest for teams requested by the Yukon translates to 120 hours, when a typical racing year requires a total rest of 52 hours.

We felt this was not in line with the spirit of racing and what was designed in 1984 by dog ​​sledding groups. »

A quote from Mark Weber, Vice President of Yukon Quest International

Mark Webec says racing in recent years has focused on the welfare of dogs and teams in general. As far as we are concerned, we rely on the professionalism of the veterinary staff, the race marshals and the drivers themselves to regulate the rest time, the conditions and the concern for the safety of the animals.

Mark Weber also says his board is currently working to organize a Yukon Quest 1000 on the Alaskan side for the winter of 2023.

With information from Claudiane Samson and Paul Tukker

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