Bad visibility, racers off course, and sunken sleds are just part of the norm for Iron Dog racers and Day 2 found teams tasting a little bit of each as the front-runners made their way up the Western coast of Alaska and then making a right hand turn toward Kotzebue instead of taking a left toward Nome. This new section of trail which will eventually loop them back toward Nome can be seen on the race map below.
As of this writing, 22 racing teams are left in the running for the top prize while 7 teams have been forced from the race for a litany of reasons. Among those scratched was Team 9 who had left Kaltag on the Yukon River headed toward Unalakleet and found one of their sleds sunk in a creek. The free racer returned to Kaltag where a few race fans went back to the sunk sled to aid in recovery of the sled and also give the racer a ride back. Once a racer receives outside help, they are officially scratched from the race.
According to a post on the official Iron Dog Facebook page: “Teams continue to make their way through Unalakleet, most recently teams 37, 19, 22, 4 and 24. According to checker John Wilson, they are traveling together out of Unalakleet for safety’s sake. The storm has intensified and the flakes are larger, creating blinding conditions.”
The below video shows what much of this portion of Alaska looked like today as Team 63 of the Trail Class pulls in to Nome.
While teams took that unfamiliar turn Northward toward the checkpoint of Buckland, a mix of flat light and the remnants of a storm off the coast took many of the teams temporarily off course, including the front runners. Both teams 21 and 8 ran a significant ways to the East of where the Iron Dog trail was.
Realizing their mistake, race fans watched their GPS signals as they turned back to find the main trail. It was estimated that they added a maximum of 20 miles to their trip toward Buckland but with the trail hard-packed not much fresh snow, fuel consumption was not an issue. Racers are on unfamiliar terrain, in poor lighting/visibility conditions and it seems that many teams were driving by braille between Koyuk and Buckland.
Team 5 also ran into trouble leaving Kaltag and had to turn back due to damage on the right a-arms on one of their Polaris machines.
Currently while Team 7 of Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad are cozy and getting some rest in Kotzebue, the two teams hot on their heels, Team 6 and 39 are seemingly way off course, running more up the Eastern side of the coast when they needed to be heading West toward Kotzebue. There seems to be a lot of questions floating around Facebook and not a lot of answers as to whats going on. GPS malfunction? Off course? Lost? If the GPS data is correct, both teams are continuing onward in the wrong direction between 30 and 40mph.
Keep following The Alaska Life for more 2020 Iron Dog race coverage.