Dave Daley leaving the start in Churchill. Nace Hageman photo.
For a second consecutive year the Hudson Bay Quest dog sled race, that runs from Churchill to Gillam every March, has been canceled. The ongoing saga of a washed out train line, known as the Hudson Bay Line, after runoff from two late-season blizzards in 2017 has again wreaked havoc on the region’s lifestyle. Without the train line to transport dogs and supplies for mushers, the expenses would be too steep for those wanting to compete.
“Normally what would happen was we would have our sponsors bring the mushers’ dog teams either to Churchill or from Churchill, depending on which direction the race was going,” said Bill Dingwall, Hudson Bay Quest committee chair.
“But this year, without the train, we couldn’t guarantee that the teams would either be able to get to the start or the finish, or home from the finish.”
The alternative would be returning by land with the dog teams after the race finishes and the cost for most mushers would be prohibitive
“That was quite a daunting task for a lot of the mushers and it would have cost them a lot more money,” said Dingwell.
“Once we put out that you’d be on your own to get to the start and home after the finish, I think it was an easy decision for a lot of the guys.”
Last year the Quest was canceled as well by one of the severe blizzards that buried the open tundra and made the trail too treacherous to run the dog teams.
“We were very disappointed last year because it was such a last minute decision to cancel,” he said. “This year we knew going in not having a rail line was going to be extremely hard to do with logistics of moving mushers, moving handlers, moving even our race marshal, our vets, and everybody … It wasn’t safe to do it, honestly.”
The Hudson Bay Quest is well known among the heartiest mushers as one of the most challenging races in North America. it annually draws mushers from all over the world and some use it as a stepping stone to bigger races such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. On a smaller scale, mushers are self – sufficient out on the land just like those races.
“It’s not as long [as others] but it’s a hard race … It’s so hard that if you finish the race, you get your registration money back. Doesn’t matter when you finish, we have a timeline, but if you finish we give your registration money back just because it’s that much of an accomplishment, we feel.”
In a “normal year”, which in the north such a phrase carries a completely different meaning, the Quest will draw from 12 – 16 mushers and dog teams. This year only four had entered this far and three of those opted to defer their registration fees to next years event with the hope that the train line will be repaired and the region will be back in business. A decision to only proceed this year if a minimum of six racers entered was made early on. With the deadline to enter looming race organizers officially pulled the plug on this one.
The race has been an iconic event for the region for a long time and once the rail line is repaired it will happen again. Churchill, in particular, has suffered extensively from the lack of train service. The polar bear season was a needed boost to the morale and economy of the town but a long-term solution is needed. Town officials expect news soon on the transfer of the port and accompanying rail line and the future of the Hudson Bay Quest. Stay posted to our site for upcoming news on the ongoing drama in the north!
All the gee’s and haw’s have drifted across the tundra upwards to the northern lights have ceased for another year as the 2015 Hudson Bay Quest has finished in Churchill. This year’s champion is Martin Massicotte from Trois Rivieres, Quebec.
2015 Hudson Bay Quest champion Martin Massicotte. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
Martin runs a paving contracting business in Quebec and dreamed of being a dog musher since age eight when he trained the family St. Bernard. In 2003 martin placed 6th in the Yukon Quest, a race that runs 1000 miles from Yukon to Alaska. He has aspired to run the Hudson Bay Quest and the Iditarod in a few years. he can now check off the Quest in a big way…with a first place prize and trophy!
His passion for the sport of dog mushing is summed up succinctly by this quote: “In leisure time, I run dogs, I think about dogs and I talk about dogs!!!”
Congratulations to Martin and all the other hearty mushers that competed in this year’s race. See you all next year!
2015 Hudson Bay Quest winner Martin Massicotte. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
Canadian Rangers from the Lamprey checkpoint won best checkpoint. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
2015 Hudson Bay Quest mushers. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
The Hudson Bay Quest starts in Gillam, MB on March 13, 2015 and finishes in Churchill, MB. As we move closer, the race roster has seen another adjustment. Musher Normand Casavant has needed to withdraw. Keep watching for more updates as we draw closer.
Start of the 2014 Hudson Bay Quest. Joseph Lin photo.
The updated OFFICIAL 2015 HBQ race roster is as follows:
1.) Martin Massicotte 2.) Dan DiMuzio 3.) Dave Daley 4.) Justin Allen 5.) Tom Terry 6.) Peter McClelland 7.) Jesse Terry 8.) Jennifer Freking 9.) Charlie Lundie 10.) Blake Freking 11.) Denis Tremblay 12.) Ryan Anderson 13.) Shawn McCarty 14.) Leonard McPherson 15.) Al Hardman
This official list has been reviewed by the Race Marshall and the racer’s qualifications have been evaluated. This list reflects the order of registration, and will be used for the bib draw. Welcome to the 2015 HBQ!
Originally from Quebec and now based in Whitehorse, YT, Normand Casavant was a fan favorite on the Yukon Quest in 2009. He feels his mantra of remaining calm and optimistic transfers positive waves between him and his dogs. This transcendence brings him closer to achieving his goals. We wish him the best and hope to see him back in Churchill next year!
11 Teams Prevail in 10th Hudson Bay Quest Dog Sled Race
Written by Tom Terry of Sioux Lookout, Ontario (Team Handler and Father to HBQ race veteran Jesse Terry)
Churchill, Manitoba — Musher Peter McClelland of Ely, Minnesota and his team of ten hardy canines were first crossing the finish line in the 10th Hudson Bay Quest dog sled race, held March 15–18, 2013, with the last of the original 15 mushers and 150 dogs arriving in Churchill, Manitoba after more than two and a half brutally challenging days on the trail from the start at Gillam.
Churchill race organizer and musher Dave Daley. Tony Loewen photo.
Strong north winds (>70 km/h) and cold temperatures (–32° C) accompanying an arctic weather system proved to be the most daunting obstacle for all teams as wind chills exceeded -54° C for almost the entire race on the open tundra. Teams found little if any opportunities for shelter either on the trail or at the various checkpoints along the way, and race veterans stated the conditions this year were the most challenging faced since a three-day blizzard forced a mid-race cancellation several years ago – that year along the route from Churchill to Arviat, NWT.
Churchill musher Charlie Lundie. Tony Loewen photo.
After slipping away from the Lamprey checkpoint, McClelland maintained an average speed of almost 11 km/h over the remaining 120 km to Churchill, including stops. A group of four teams followed two and a half hours later, regularly changing places vying for position as the end neared, but McClelland’s team kept their pace and maintained their lead to the finish.
2013 HBQ champion Peter McClelland.
Four teams made the difficult decision to withdraw at the halfway checkpoint at M’Clintock (a mandatory six hour rest with a second veterinary check of all dogs), and several teams made extended stops there and at other checkpoints. Teams withdrew for a number of reasons, all related to dog and or driver health and well-being. The fact that more than one of the drivers and teams which withdrew were Iditarod and or Yukon Quest veterans attests to the challenges faced by mushers in the Hudson Bay Quest 2013.
2013 HBQ runner-up musher Sean McCarty.
In addition to the cash purse distribution to all finishers, a number of awards were presented to mushers at the HBQ Awards Banquet held on Monday, March18th at the Churchill Town Centre Complex. Troy Groeneveld, of Minnesota, won the Churchill Northern Store Award for the First Team to Halfway Point (M’Clintock Checkpoint). The Veterinarian Award, presented to the musher selected by the Race Veterinarians as having provided the best care for their dogs, was presented to Jesse Terry, of Sioux Lookout, Ontario. The Calm Air Sportsmanship Award, along with the Red Lantern for being the last musher to successfully cross the finish line, was presented to Churchill musher Dan DiMuzio. The Award for the Best Checkpoint, selected by the mushers themselves, went to the Canadian Rangers (Churchill) manning the Lamprey checkpoint.
1st Peter McClelland, White Wilderness, Ely, Minnesota (37 h, 19 m, 47 s)
2nd Shawn McCarty, White Wilderness, Ely, Minnesota (38 h, 57 m 44 s)
3rd Troy Groeneveld, 10 Squared Racing, Two Harbours, Minnesota (39 h, 01 m, 21 s)
4th David Daley, Wapusk Adventures, Churchill, Manitoba (42 h, 09 m, 30 s)
5th Matt Groth, 10 Squared Racing, Two Harbours, Minnesota (42 h, 15 m, 44 s)
6th Jesse Terry, On the Land, Sioux Lookout, Ontario (45 h, 22 m, 25 s)
8th Ed The Sled Obrecht, Cayamant Kennels, Otter Lake, Quebec (49 h, 38 m, 08 s)
9th Jim Oehschleager, Ozone Sled Dogs, Newberry, Michigan (50 h, 35 m, 25 s)
10th Charlie Lundie, Charlie’s Tours, Churchill, Manitoba (54 h, 11 m, 21 s)
Red Lantern/11th Place Dan DiMuzio, Sled Dog Energy, Churchill, Manitoba (62 h, 58 m, 20 s)
Scratched: Ryan Anderson, Stefaan DeMarie, Julie Robitaille, Al Hardman.
The Hudson Bay Quest Race Committee and competitors are very grateful to the many sponsors and contributors, without whom this race would not be possible, including the Platinum sponsors (Calm Air International, the Canadian Rangers, The Churchill Mitigation Trust Fund, VIA Rail Canada), the Gold sponsor (Manitoba Hydro), the Silver sponsors (Aurora Inn, Churchill Chamber of commerce, Exchange Petroleum, Hudson Bay Railway, Churchill Wild, Frontiers North Adventures, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, Town of Churchill, Town of Gillam) and the many friends of the HBQ!