‘Rough, tough’ Whale Cove Race was a winner, organizer says

Number of riders nearly tripled this year for 136-km snowmobile sprint over 136 kilometres

Racers line up at the start of the 136-kilometre race from Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove and back on April 7. (Photo courtesy of Whale Cove Race Committee)

By David Lochead

One snowmobile caught fire, there were a couple of crashes and lots of high adrenaline. And amid the chaos, a fun and successful Whale Cove Race was held for the second straight year.

“[It was] nothing but positive,” race organizer Noel Kaludjak said of the response to this year’s event on April 7, which saw snowmobilers race from Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove and back — a distance of 136 kilometres.

Last year’s race was a bit of a trial run, Kaludjak said, since it was the first time it had been run since 1978.

But this year, the race took a jump in popularity and the number of competitors jumped too, up to 34 compared to 13 last year.

Racers flew in from different Nunavut communities to participate. One person born and raised in Nunavut but now living in Toronto made it to Rankin Inlet to take part.

The race was over ice-covered sea and land, with rocky areas that created obstacles for racers.

“It’s a rough race, it’s a tough race,” Kaludjak said.

Volunteers organizing the race were prepared for any challenges and their work improved the safety of the race, he said.

That need for safety was tested.

At the halfway pit stop in Whale Cove, one racer’s snowmobile caught fire. Fortunately, there were fire extinguishers nearby.

“It was put out in an instant,” Kaludjak said, and the driver was able to run the second half and finish the race.

There were a couple of crashes during the race but nothing serious, he added. One racer had to go to hospital but was released after a couple of hours.

Five checkpoints were set up, with a Starlink dish connected at one of the checkpoints to keep organizers connected with the racers who each carried an inReach device for satellite communication and SOS calls.

As well, a helicopter monitoring the race from the air carried an Inuk pilot, a medic and Kaludjak himself, who was filming the race live to stream on Facebook.

He said making it a safe race made it “a lot more fun for the fans.”

“Everybody knew exactly where [each racer] was and how they were doing,” he said.

Just like last year, the race included a staggered start beginning at 1 p.m. Two snowmobiles at a time took off, with a 30-second interval between pairs.

The winner was determined by best time.

Nanauq Tanuyak, from Rankin Inlet, won the race with a time of one hour, 21 minutes and one second, and claimed the $15,000 first prize. Arsene Karlik finished second in one hour, 23 minutes and 28 seconds, and collected $12,000, while Tristen Dias came third with a time of one hour, 25 minutes and 48 seconds, earning $10,000.

“It was a nailbiter, everyone was on the edge of their seats,” Kaludjak said.

The race was originally run between 1975 to 1978 but was put on hold for more than 40 years due to issues like funding, lack of volunteers and safety concerns.

Those issues were all addressed and Kaludjak said the plan is to have an even bigger race next year.


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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Mass Formation on

    Zoom-zoom cheers to the racers, helpers and years’ worth of hours put in by the organizers of the grizzly Rankin-Whale-Rankin snowmobile race.

    Happy was in Rankin to experience the high torque rev.

    Helicopter. Starlink. Race position online mapping.

    Almost expected Elon Musk to appear with two thumbs up in salute to racers and organizers. Be great to hear some racers adrenaline rush stories driving their race.

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