Ten mushers already entered for 100th All Alaska Sweepstakes

Now that winter’s weather is on the way, momentum is starting to build for the 100th anniversary running of the All Alaska Sweepstakes sled dog race scheduled for next March in Nome.Ten mushers have signed up so far for the oldest sled dog race in Alaska, which offers a $100,000 winner-take-all purse for the 408-mile adventure from Nome to Candle and back.”Everything is going great,” said Howard Farley of Nome and the vice president of the Nome Kennel Club that organizes the race. “People are interested, the funds are starting to come in and we’re ready to hit the bricks.”In that vein, the Nome Kennel Club is throwing a Sweepstakes kickoff party on Friday night at St. Joseph Church in the gold rush town on Norton Sound.Among those entered in the 2008 Sweepstakes are four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King of Denali Park and three-time Yukon Quest champion Lance Mackey of Fairbanks, who became the first musher to win the Iditarod and Quest in the same season in February and March of 2007.Others entered are Mike Santos of Cantwell, Sebastian Schnuelle of Whitehorse, Yukon, Aaron Burmeister of Nenana, John Lanier of Chugiak, Jeff Hermann of Chickaloon, Ed Iten of Kotzebue, Hugh Neff of Skagway and Shane Goosen of Wasilla.The entry fee is a sum of money plus one ounce of gold. The sum of money is $1,750 through the end of November and then increases to $2,000 on Dec. 1 and $4,000 on Feb. 1.Farley said that gold collected from the 75th anniversary race in 1983, the last time the event was held, is being raffled to help raise funds for the event.The Sweepstakes uses the same rules that were in place in 1917. Instead of adding to the rules, a supplement on how the rules will be interpreted by race officials will be given to each team that enters.The race is unique in the way that it stresses dog care, according to head judge Al Crane.Teams are limited to 12 dogs and a musher must finish with all of the dogs he or she started with. If a dog is injured or isn’t fit to run in the team, it must be carried in the musher’s sled all the way to the finish line.”The one exception is that if the race veterinarian, with the consent of race officials, believes a dog’s welfare is at stake, then the race official will demand that the dog be dropped,” Crane said. “If a dog is dropped, there will be a time penalty to the musher.”Five-time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson and 1984 Yukon Quest champion Sonny Lindner combined their Iditarod teams to win the 75th anniversary Sweepstakes in 1983.”It’s a historic event and on a scale from 1 to 10 it’s probably an 11,” Swenson said in a statement given to Al Crane. “It’s an 11 on historical significance, it’s an 11 in difficulty to finish and it takes an 11 in dog care to win.”Swenson and Lindner have indicated that they will use the same strategy of combining their teams next March, but Lindner is expected to be the driver this time around.Crane, who is an Iditarod veteran and eight-time Alpirod race marshal, said that while some critics don’t like the no dropped dogs rule, it actually promotes better dog care.”It’s not the responsibility of the race to have humane treatment of the dogs, but the responsibility of the musher,” Crane said. “If the musher runs the race the right way, there won’t be a problem.”The original sweepstakes was run in 1908 and won by John Hegnes. The race was an annual affair through 1917 and then took a hiatus until organizers resurrected the event in 1983 on the 75th anniversary.Leonhard Seppala (1915, 1916 and 1917) and Scott Allen (1909, 1911 and 1912) were three-time winners. John “Iron Man” Johnson set the race record in 1910 with a winning time of 74 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds. Johnson also won the race in 1914.Fay Delzene posted the second-fastest time of 75:42:27 in 1913.When Swenson won the race, and $25,000 in 1983, he recorded a time of 84:42:04, or about 3 1/2 days. Twenty-three mushers entered that year.Race officials are hoping to find relatives of all the early winners so that they can be present in Nome for the race, Crane said.Crane also said that since dog mushing is Alaska’s state sport, he wants the 100th anniversary running of the Sweepstakes to be a statewide event and hopes to attract race officials and veterinarians from the other major long distance and mid-distance races in Alaska such as the Iditarod, Yukon Quest, Kuskokwim 300, Copper Basin 300, and Kobuk 440.Anyone who wishes to become involved in the event or knows of relatives of some of the early mushers can contact race organizers at www.allalaskasweepstakes.org.


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