Public Service Activity Report:

2001 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race

 1. Nature of activity:
Special exercise

 2. Brief description of activity:
Yukon Quest International Dog Sled race

 3. Places or areas involved:
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Fairbanks, Alaska

 4. Number of amateurs participating:

 5. Event start date/time:
Feb 11, 2001

 6. Event end date/time:
Feb 25, 2001

 7. Duration of event:

 8. Total man-hours:

 9. Number of repeaters used:

10. Estimated manpower cost (man-hours times $10/hr):

11. Estimated cost of equipment used (hand-helds, repeaters, etc.):

12. Total estimated cost of service (add amounts from lines 10 and 11):

13. Nets and/or frequencies used (including repeater call signs):
KL7KC 146.88 146.79 146.70 146.82 Packet 145.01

14. Number of messages handled:

15. Names of agencies receiving communications support:
Yukon Quest Canada Yukon Quest Alaska Fairbanks Daily News Miner Associated Press International Channel 2 Anchorage KUAC KFAR

16. Please list call signs of amateurs who were major participants:

17. Other comments:
We manned the Communications Center 24/hr/day for the duration of the race. We used a packet link from Dawson,City to Fairbanks for some of the data. We manned 5 checkpoints for 7 days 24/hr. We used VHF, HF, packet, email, and phone. We were responsible for manning the Message Phone to answer questions from the public, families, school children, and various media. We were also responsible for imputing the data on the teams on to the Yukon Quest International Web page. We also assisted in helping vehicles and tourists who were stranded on top of Eagle Summit in a white-out situation. See the complete article attached to the end of this report.

Name of Amateur Radio organization providing service:
Arctic Amateur Radio Club

Location of organization:
Fairbanks Alaska

Your name and callsign:
Linda Mullen, AD4BL

Your address and telephone:
4555 Melan Dr N
Fairbanks, Alaska 99712

ARRL appointment(s), if any:
Alaska Section Traffic Manager, ORS, OES, TS APRS

Your email address:
[email protected]


by Lina Mullen, AD4BL

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race started on Feb 11,2001 in Whitehorse, CA. There were 30 teams at the start line with 419 dogs straining to get on the trail.

The trail stretches from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Fairbanks, AK, 1023 miles over wilderness, rivers, peaks rising to 3650ft, uphill and down, the route alternating its start every year.

The logistics of one of these events is staggering. There are race marshals, veterinarians, checkers, checkpoint managers, air support, pickups for dropped dogs, trail breakers on snow machines, dog handlers, communications, and a multitude of volunteers.

Mushers have to arrange for their supplies both for man and dogs to be shipped to the check points. Straw bails are shipped to checkpoints for the dogs to bed in. Food is sent into the checkpoints to have for the influx of mushers, race officials, vets, family members, team handlers, and media. Add to that the fact that this is an International event which adds additional logistics.

This year the trail was the worst that they had seen in the history of the Yukon Quest, but we had really good weather compared to what we have seen in past years. We didn't have severe cold and only one snow storm. There was wind on top of Eagle Summit but there is always wind on Eagle Summit.

The Yukon Quest is more like old-time mushing. There are fewer checkpoints, longer distances between checkpoints, you have to finish with the sled you started with, and it is a test of endurance and the relationship between man and dog. It is more in the spirit of the North and the way folks traveled 100 years ago. Just to finish the Quest is quite an achievement.

The Arctic Amateur Radio Club in Fairbanks had the primary communications responsibility. Weeks before the race was to begin preparations were being made for equipment and operators. "Benny" Benevento NL7XH set up the equipment and managed the amateur operation. The heart of the communications was a full amateur station set up in the Fairbanks Visitor and Convention Center - the Log Cabin, which sits on the banks of the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. The Quest finish this year was on the Chena River in front of the Log Cabin. The folks at the Visitor's Center gave us full access to the Center 24 hrs a day for 2-3 weeks.

This year we set up a packet link on VHF which used 5 digi's and zigzagged from high point to high point between Fairbanks and Dawson City, Yukon which is a distance of 500 miles. Benny also set up an HF to VHF voice link. The HF was at his home and the VHF was carried via 220 to the dual band VHF in the Log Cabin. We also used HF between some of the check-points near the Canadian Border and we used 2 repeaters on VHF. Since one of the repeaters is the main repeater for Fairbanks, the normal daily use by amateurs was somewhat curtailed.

We received reports from the Canadian checkpoints via fax and phone but once the teams reached Dawson City, we were able to use amateur radio to receive all the reports. There are 6 check points in Canada and 7 in Alaska.

The Yukon Quest was part of a set of 3 races. The Jr Yukon Quest started the day before the Quest began. It is a race for 14 to 18 year old mushers. We had 10 teams. That race ran out of Fairbanks 60 miles and back in the next day. We had full amateur coverage on that race with 15 amateurs stationed at check points and control center. We used 2 repeaters on VHF to log all the check-in times and track the mushers. We also had an amateur on snow-machine on the trail for both days. Our primary concern was safety for the youngsters because of open water and wildlife concerns. The race was won by a 14 year old.

After the main Yukon Quest got started, they started the Yukon Quest 250 out of Whitehorse. It is a qualifying race to participate in the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. Our duties on this one were to log all the reports and fax them to Quest Canada, Quest Alaska, and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

The Yukon Quest Communications Center was manned from the beginning of the Jr Quest Feb 10 to the end of the Quest on Feb 26, 24 hours a day. The operators were responsible for manning the packet, HF, 2 VHF radios, UHF simplex link to the River, Fax, 2 phone lines, and the web site. We always had 2 operators on site but when things got busy it was hard to manage all the duties. Canada has the web-site, but we were tasked with entering all the data as it came in. This web-site was used by folks all over the world. It was important that we only entered data that was "official", so sometimes we would hear things about the race but couldn't add the data so there were times when the data entering was delayed.

One of the tasks we had in the Communication Center was to answer the Message Phone. We received calls from folks all over. The fun calls were from the school children. They had classroom projects on the Quest and the children were assigned a musher to follow. They would call the Center to ask about "their" mushers location and how they were doing. Some would call and want to know where a team was and we would answer that the team was out of the checkpoint and on the way to the next, and then we were asked where they were right now. We have become an instant society used to our quick media coverage and what they didn't realize was that the team was out in the wilderness and there was no way we could know exactly where it was. As the race went on we received anxious calls from families in Canada and the lower 48 trying to get information on their family member on the trail.

The ARRC manned 8 check-point locations. Seven of the locations required the team to be on location for a week. Some of them stayed in the check-point facilities which usually meant a sleeping bag on the floor, but for two of the check-points we had mobile homes that were towed to the location. The check-point operators suffered from the cold and lack of sleep and had their own adventures getting to and from the check-point locations.

We had a total of 35 amateurs working the Yukon Quest this year including Doug Burke, WA4LKX, who comes up from Richmond, VA every year to help. One night towards the end of the race, there was a call from the check-point at mile 101 saying that there were a tour bus, a truck, and an 18 wheeler stuck on top of Eagle summit. It is at 3650ft and the winds there had created white-out blizzard conditions. Some of the passengers in the bus were brought down from the summit to the check-point by a truck that had been heading up to the summit. Our communications was able to arrange assistance through DOT and the Alaska Troupers for the folks who were stranded. We had an amateur team coming in from a closed check-point over Eagle summit and they made it by watching for the concrete posts along the edge of the road even though it was white out conditions. We still had dog teams who had to cross the summit.

This was a hard race. One musher coming into a checkpoint reached for what he thought was water and swallowed methyl alcohol instead. It is used as a fuel to fire the stove that cooks the dog food. He had to be airlifted to Whitehorse and then Fairbanks but eventually made a full recovery. One of the mushers came down with pneumonia and had to scratch. Another musher suffered a severe eye infection and the Quest officials brought medicine to the check-point for him. When you have people and dogs who are used to their own areas come into contact with each other, disease spreads rapidly both among the mushers and dogs.

One musher had a dog, which was riding in the sled basket, and when he stopped to do something with the team, the dog jumped out and took off. He had to retrieve the dog before he could go on the next check-point. He did find it. We eventually had 11 teams scratch and one team was disqualified. There were 19 teams that crossed the finish line.

The last team in had some problems, he endured -40 temps, froze his feet and hands, and had problems with his sled runners. He received the traditional Red Lantern award for the last team in.

Our amateur teams worked hard and provided assistance beyond normal communications duties. This is a major event for the club and they did an outstanding job.

#1 (TURNER.JPG) Frank Turner hugs his dogs just after he crossed the finish line. He also received the Vets's Coice Award for the care he gave to his dogs on the race.

#2 (TURNER2.JPG) Frank Turner's team at the finish line while the officials check the sled equipment.

#3 (FINISH.JPG) Finish line on the Chena River in Fairbanks and the Channel 2 truck that traveled the whole race.

#4 (VISIT2.JPG) Convention and Visitor's Center in Fairbanks Alaska

#5 (KENT1.JPG) Kent Petty KL5T, Section Manager of Alaska confers with Jim Movius KL7JM about the packet that would be used out of Dawson City

#6 (KENT2.JPG) Net control operators, Bill Mullen KE4ITP, Greg Eshright KL0QS, Billy Connor AL7FQ, Jim Movius KL7JM, Kent Petty KL5T Section Manager Alaska.

#7 (NC.JPG) Net Control operators Bill Mullen KE4ITP, Bob Clark KL7EBF, and Bob Kreiser WL7GK

#8 (EQUIPMET.JPG) Some of the equipment that was used at Net Control

#9 (WEBCHCK.JPG) Webcheck Bill Mullen KE4ITP, Cliff Cullings AL7P, Greg Eshright KL0QS

Last modified: Wed Apr 4 16:46:06 AKDT 2001