Frontrunners Hit Yukon; Mushers Divided on GPS Issue

Dallas Seavey

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage, Tim Bodony, APRN – Anvik & Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The five leading teams are arriving at the Yukon River, Hugh Neff first, and then John Baker.


As the frontrunners hit the Yukon, we have a real race, with the lead apparently up for grabs.

Martin Buser may have been the first into the halfway checkpoint at the ghost town of Iditarod, but he wasn’t the first one out. Sebastian Schnuelle blew through the Iditarod checkpoint around 6 pm yesterday, having camped out before Iditarod.  He gave up his lead a few hours later when he took a break along the trail.

As Buser continued to rest at Iditarod, Hugh Neff got his team moving again at 6:15 pm.  Buser followed 15 minutes later.  He took more rest there than Neff, who took about three quarters of an hour less time getting there than Buser had. John Baker, and Lance Mackey, with his nine dogs, have also been taking on Buser.

And now there are nine teams within an hour of each other this morning at the front of the pack.  Ray Redington Junior, Sonny Lindner, Schnulle, Ramey Smyth with his fifteen dogs and Dallas Seavey are all on the chase.

As sunny skies and warm temperatures prevail during the day, mushers are choosing to run at night.  The trail usually hardens when the temperature drops at night, making for faster time and better footing for the dogs.   But as APRN trail reporter Tim Bodony reports from Anvik, those conditions apparently did not happen last night for the teams vying for the lead.


2011 is the first year that GPS units are officially being allowed on the race trail.  Officials called it a safety issue.  Opinions are divided on whether this is a good thing or not.  Dallas Seavey says there are some advantages, but not of a kind to give anyone a winning edge.

Lance Mackey says he wants no part of the GPS’s.  He thinks they’re a distraction.

Aily Zirkle takes a more pragmatic approach to the issue. She says it was obvious some people were using them last year, despite their being illegal at the time.

Mushers don’t think it will give someone an advantage in finding shortcuts. Saying they’d be more likely to be disqualified than improve their position.

Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage: (Top) Dallas Seavey heads out of Willow during the restart of the race on March 6, 2011.

Photos by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage: (Left) Sebastian Schnuelle takes a break at the Takotna checkpoint. (Right) Lance Mackey rests his dogs, and himself at Takotna.

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