NEWS: Nunavik April 18, 2017 - 8:30 am

Tight finish marks end of 2017 Ivakkak dog sled race

First and second-place teams finish within three minutes of each other


You could call it a wild ride; this year’s Ivakkak dog sled race was plagued with high winds and white-out conditions, not to mention an illness that affected a number of sled dogs.

Scheduled to take off March 27 but postponed a day due to bad weather, 13 Ivakkak teams left Umiujaq March 28 to begin the 800-kilometre trek up the Hudson coast.

Mushers spent about half the race camping out, waiting for the weather to clear.

But 20 days later, mushers crossed the race’s finish line in Ivujivik with sun and spectators to greet them.

In the end, 10 teams reached the finish line April 15, the first among them Puvirnituq musher Aisa Surusilak.

The veteran musher, who’s made the podium before at Ivakkak, was racing with a new partner and newcomer to the race, 17-year-old Aiplie Qumaluk.

Surusilak and Qumaluk completed the race in 60 hours and 19 minutes, arriving to a throng of supporters in Ivujivik who hoisted the mushers and their qamutik in the air—an Ivakkak tradition.

This year’s finish was among the race’s closest: Ivakkak’s second-place musher, Puvirnituq’s Peter Boy Ittukallak and Putugu Iqiquq finished with just a three-minute difference, at 60 hours and 22 minutes.

In third place, Ivakkak’s 2016 champion Willie Cain Jr. and his partner Putulik Saunders cross the finish line in 62 hours and 11 minutes.

Puvirnituq, one of Nunavik’s largest communities and one with a strong dog-sledding tradition, fared well in this year’s race; the community’s four racing teams all placed in the top six.

But three teams did not complete the race. Kuujjuaq mushers Allen Gordon and Johnny Kooktook and Tasiujaq mushers Billy Cain and Charlie Cain both pulled out of the race when some of their sled dogs developed a gastro-intestinal illness that was causing severe diarrhea and vomiting.

The race veterinarian sent samples to a Montreal-area lab to determine what caused the illness, though mushers have yet to receive those results.

A third mushing pair, Junior Tukkiapik and Adamie Michaud of Quaqtaq later scratched from the race.

Ivujivik hosted a winners’ ceremony and celebration April 15 in their community hall, where prizes were handed out to participants.

2017 marked the 16th annual edition of the race. Makivik Corp. launched the event in 2001 to encourage Nunavimmiut to maintain the Inuit dog sledding tradition.

You can see the full race results here.