The race to Nome. As of writing, Team 7 is barreling toward Nome on the edge of the Norton Sound at about 70 mph, and will become the first team to the halfway point in the 2020 Iron Dog and just 61 minutes separates the 2nd-8th teams. It couldn't get much closer than that considering Nome is 1286 miles from the starting line.
The biggest development in the front of the pack was Team 39 being forced from the race. Robbie Schachle has been reported to have hit a pressure ridge on some sea ice, landed wrong, and broke his collarbone. His Polaris XCR 600 was undamaged which allowed him and his teammate Cody Barber to ride another 200 miles to Kotzebue to declare a layover. A quote from the team reads: " We just took a very unfortunate hit causing Robbie's collar bone to break in a few places. We rode 200 miles after that happened, but after x Rays, it’ll be in our best interest to not race on due to sharp bone pointing towards lungs and artery ". Team 39 was on a very clean run for over 1,000 miles into this race and it goes to show how fast things can change in the Iron Dog.
Weather continues to play a role on this new section of trail and all the way to Nome. All support planes have been grounded due to visibility and we are hearing confirmation that the support plane for Team 7 did go down. Nobody was injured in the incident but the plane is damaged and will not be flying for the remainder of the race. According to GPS data, Team 6 was stopped at the location of the airplane grounding and had been there for more than 30 minutes. In that time, two other teams had passed by, which indicates that they were likely told to they didn't' need any more assistance.
The trail south from Kotzebue back toward Koyuk must have been horrible. Teams are pulling into Koyuk with broken headlights, broken shocks, broken a-arms, blown out mufflers, burnt up side panels, limping and much more. This section of trail also claimed several more teams and we are down to 16 Pro-Class teams remaining. Team 14, currently in 4th position, replaced the left side A-Arms and shock on one sled and did some other work on the other one of their Polaris XCR 600 sleds before leaving Koyuk this afternoon. They made very quick work of the A-Arm swap and are back on the trail now. Team 14 was working outside at the checkpoint, in the blowing snow in the cold, helmets on, gloves off, getting work done. Team 14's plane is grounded 300 miles away due to weather, which means they are using all the tools they have on-board their sleds as well. We did hear reports that Team 10 allowed them to use parts out of their plane in Koyuk.
It was a tough evening for Team 11 as they ran into what is being unofficially reported as yet another fire spontaneously caused by what could be summed up to a hard day of riding which resulted in potentially the side-panel catching fire.
Here's a quick follow-up post from Team 9, who we mentioned scratched yesterday due to going into a creek:
Here's also a follow-up post from Team 3 who had the first fueling incident which caused the sled to catch on fire. Note how almost nothing remains of the machine after being fully involved in flames.
Tomorrow is often known as 'Wrenching Wednesday' as teams get to assess damage and make repairs in Nome. This will tell how the latter half, and arguably the tougher half, of the race may shape up for teams as they make their way toward the finish line in Big Lake.