The Kuskowkim 300 Sled Dog race is now a 12-dog event. The race committee decided this fall to lower the dog limit from 14 to 12.
Zach Fansler, the K300 Race Manager says a driving idea behind the change was to encourage more local mushing teams to run the full 300.
“Some of our teams with mid-size kennels, that have maybe participated in the K300 in the past, or have looked to do those kinds of things, don’t always have 14 dogs ready to go. Or they might have 11 so, and might feel discouraged and not participate in the 300,” said Fansler.
Many large teams, however, use the K300 to test out dogs in a race scenario prior to the Iditarod in March.
“It does kind of give them two less dogs to look at, and that was something I think weighed very heavily on the minds of the board as they were making that decision. And I think the push behind it is that it came up at last year’s musher’s meeting,” said Fansler.
The YK Delta’s muddy trails may not be race ready now, but with a higher purse and no entry fees, Fansler says he’s seeing a lot of interest from big time mushers like DeeDee Jonrowe, the Busers, and Joar Ulsom.
“We’ve heard from Brent Sass and Hugh Neff, we’ve heard from Lance Mackey. And right now we feel like we could have a field larger than we’ve had since the early ‘90s, late ‘80s,” said Fansler.
Fansler expects local mushers to be at the starting line, but says he doesn’t have the official word yet from 9-time champion Jeff King. The race keeps the rest of the rules from 2014, which allow for 6 hours of flexible rest time. Kwethluk will be the first official checkpoint, although mushers are not required to sign in or out.
The YK racing season kicks off December 20th with the Holiday Classic, a 40-mile race out of Bethel. The season continues with the 100 Mile Challenge a week later. The 2015 Kuskokwim 300 is scheduled for January 16th.