Monday, February 15, 2010

Gatt looks towards 4th YQ win

With the SPOT tracking devices showing Yukon Quest leaders Hans Gatt, Lance Mackey, and Hugh Neff all within 10 miles of each other, Whitehorse resident Hans Gatt is looking to capture his 4th title as his teams heads through familiar territory to the Whitehorse finsh line in what will be the fastest Quest ever. If he get there first, he might have a kink in his neck from looking behind him for the one guy who has already won this race 4 times. It looks now like he should cross the finish line shortly after 2PM pacific time. Below is a link to the webcam at the finish line.

Whitehorse Webcam

Back at Braeburn, there is another dogfight developing for 4th place. Both Zack Steer and Ken Anderson arrived at this checkpoint within 1 minute of each other. they will take their mandatory 8 hour layover and depart for the trail again 1 minute apart with Anderson in the lead and 100 miles of trail to the finish. With nobody threatening from behind, it will be interesting to see if they back off the pace or race each other to the very end. Both must consider how their strategy will position themselves for the Iditarod race in 2 weeks time.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yukon Quest now a 3 team race

Carmacks, Yukon Territory, Canada: Lance Mackey, Hugh Neff and Hans Gatt all arrived at this outpost of 426 people within 15 minutes of each other. With 177 miles left in the 1000 mile Yukon Quest dog sled race, each is sizing up the others to determine how best to approach the finish. With other teams at least 7 hours back on the trail. the race winner will come from this group. Here are some links to allow you to catch up on the recent action:

Fairbanks News-Miner

Jon Little blog

Windy Creek Kennel (Ken Anderson) blog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yukon Quest Leaders Reset at Dawson

Hans Gatt and his team of 13 dogs was the first musher to arrive into the Dawson City checkpoint at 6:02 Wednesday evening in his quest to win his 4th Yukon Quest dog sled race. Lance Mackey who has already won 4 Yukon Quest races arrived more then 2 and a half hours later. Hugh Neff, Zack Steer, and Ken Anderson round out the top 5.

Dawson City is considered the halfway point in this race. All teams are required to take a 36 hour layover, and it is the one checkpoint where the mushers can recieve help managing their teams. The first Musher to arrive at this outpost is elgible to take home 4 ounces of Klondike placer gold which is worth $4070 canadian at todays rates, however to take that award home, the musher needs to finish the race. Hans Gatt scratched in last year's quest to better prepare for the Iditarod, so the luster of that placer gold provides him incentive to finish the roughly 500 miles left in this year's event.

For the majority of the race to this point, 4 teams have been jockeying for the lead maintaining close proximity to each other. Those 4 are still the top 4 in the standings - Gatt, Mackey, Neff, and Steer. Between Circle and Dawson that pack began to spread out as Gatt and Mackey started taking longer runs between rests, and Neff and Steer maintained schedules similar to what they had been using from the beginning. Using longer runs tends to decrease the team speed, and the GPS tracking data seems to confirm that has happened with Gatt and Mackey. Teams will be finishing their layovers Friday morning, and it will be interesting to see if what affect the rest will have on the speed teamss are able to maintain into the finish.

Ken Anderson who has 2 teams in this year's Quest, has been steady closing the gap on the leaders. Since the start time differential is made up at the Dawson layover, he will be coming off his layover only 2 minutes after Zack Steer, so he certainly be looking to advance his position. Anderson adjusted his feeding program this year by removing meat and providing 100% dry Redpaw to his team. So far they have had great appetites, so he will look to aggressively feed them during the layover so he can make a strong push to the finish. This will be one team to keep an eye on especially if he gets within range of his neighbor Lance Mackey who will leave Dawson in 3rd place due to his early (11) start position.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yukon Quest enhances use of GPS

As we wait for the arrival of the first teams into the Eagle Alaska checkpoint, we can't help notice that the Yukon Quest dogsled race is following the Iditarod's lead in use of GPS tracking of sleds to enhance the spectators experience in following a dog sled race across vast remote territory. However, the richness of information provided by the Quest by aggregating the GPS data significantly surpasses what is available from the Iditarod. It could be that once fans have a chance to enjoy the benefit the free GPS features the Quest is utilizing this year, the fee based GPS service for the Iditarod will pale in comparison.

Case in point is the Race Replay feature shown below.

It should be noted that when GPS data is not available, the tracking software merely extrapolates position between points where data has been received which may show the allusion that the team being tracked has veered of course. It is entertaining none-the-less. By clicking on the individual teams one can access additional data for that team. Here is a graph of Zack Steer's speed over time which details some interesting run/rest schedule and average speed parameters that are only available when you aggregate the data.

Use of the GPS tracking at the Yukon Quest is voluntary this year, yet only one musher declined to use it. Only time will tell if this become mandatory in future Quest's and if it becomes standard fare at the Iditarod, but this blogger beleives he has seen the future and he likes it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

3 lead Yukon Quest

4 time Yukon Quest winner Lance Mackey was the first musher into the Circle City Checkpoint about 35% into the Yukon Quest dog sled race. Zack Steer arrived 8 minutes later and Hugh Neff arrived 2 minutes after Steer. The Circle City checkpoint is the northern most point on the 100 mile route in an Alaska town with a population of about 100.