All looked normal when Richie Beattie’s Yukon Quest dog team first became visible on the Yukon River a mile out from Dawson. But, as the team approached, onlookers noticed it wasn’t Beattie on the sled. It was a Dawson resident, who guided the sled dog team into the chute.
Beattie arrived a bit later, after getting picked up by musher Rob Cooke about three miles from the checkpoint.
“There was a guy walking down the trail and it was freaking the dogs out and I was about getting ready to really start shouting at him to get him to move,” said Cooke. “Then, he crossed the trail and turned around and I recognized it was him.
“I said ‘what’s happened?’ And he said his team his dog team had just taken off. I said ‘jump on and just share the runners.’"
Cooke said Beattie told him he had been super tired the whole way and there had been a couple of times when he had lost the trail and he had fallen asleep.
“He figures, when he came to, the dogs were halfway down the trail.”
Cooke said he experienced a similar situation on his journey into Dawson.
“I had similar situations last night, I was really struggling last night coming into Clinton Creek so I understand,” Cooke said. “He didn’t get much sleep in Clinton Creek, I don’t think, so I can understand where he was coming from.”
While traveling with Beattie, Cooke said he was concerned for his team.
“He was super worried, obviously, his dogs had just taken off,” Cooke said. “In a situation like that anything can happen. I thought I could see them and it looked like they were still moving OK.
“Then, we came upon some photographers about two miles out and they said somebody caught the team and somebody was riding the team back in. That was a relief.”
Race Marshal Peter Reuter, upon seeing the team arrive without Beattie, took a snowmachine down the trail and met Cooke. Reuter picked Beattie up and took him safely back to his dogs.
As per race rule 47, Reuter said Beattie can continue the race.
Rule 47 is:
A lost team’s musher will not be disqualified if the musher regains control of the team. The team and musher must complete the entire race trail including checking in at all checkpoints. Anyone may stop and secure a musherless team or loose dog.
The musher may continue the race after their team is recovered, whether it is on foot, with assistance from another musher or motorized vehicle. Motorized assistance must be reported to a race official at the next checkpoint. If motorized help is used and advantage gained, the Race Marshal may impose appropriate sanctions.
Reuter said when a dog team is lost, it is “all hands on deck” and Beattie won’t receive any time penalties.
The motorized assistance he received from Reuter was not considered to be a competitive advantage. Reuter said he actually lost time.
Beattie left the chute on his sled with his wife Emily Rosenblatt, arms wrapped around each other.
His official time in was 1:18 p.m. Yukon time. Cooke's official time in to Dawson was 1:17 p.m. Rookie Pat Noddin checked in at 3:29 p.m.
As of 6 p.m. Alaska time Friday, three mushers — veterans Chase Tingle and Dave Dalton and rookie Olivia Shank-Neff — were still en route to Dawson.
Brent Sass was the first musher to leave, heading down the 210 mile trail to the next checkpoint of Pelly Crossing at 5:43 p.m. Yukon time with 12 dogs.
John Tinan is a writer for the Whitehorse Star.