Homer musher first to Circle City

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2000

CIRCLE CITY (AP) -- Jack Berry of Homer arrived first Monday in Circle City in the third day of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, followed closely by Peter Butteri of Tok.

By late afternoon, 12 teams had reached Circle City, 312 miles into the 1,000-mile race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon. Twenty-nine mushers remain in the race, which began Saturday.

Berry arrived in Circle at 8:45 a.m. to complete the 75-mile run. He was followed 11 minutes later by Butteri. Dave Dalton of Wasilla arrived at 11:27 a.m. with former Quest winner Frank Turner of Whitehorse not far behind. Alily Zirkle of Two Rivers was fifth.

Turner told KTUU-TV that it was unusual to have so little separation among the front runners this far into the race.

''I think it is unusually close this year with respect to the number of teams that are still pretty close to one another,'' he said.

Marie O'Neil, who was monitoring race messages over a ham radio, said the race, which is sponsored by Sorel, had been problem-free.

O'Neil said none of the teams had left the Circle checkpoint for the 158-mile run up the Yukon River to reach Eagle, the last checkpoint in Alaska. A long rest period at Circle is not unusual, she said.

''Sometimes the Yukon is extremely tough,'' she said.

Temperatures along the trail were described as relatively warm with readings in the single digits and low teens above zero and light fog. Some overflow was reported along stretches of the trail, but race officials said teams were setting a fast pace.

From Eagle, the teams will climb 3,420-foot American Summit before dropping down onto the Fortymile River and then going back onto the Yukon River to reach the midway point of the race at Dawson City, Yukon. Mushers are required to take a 36-hour break in Dawson.

Leaving Dawson, the mushers travel the longest distance between checkpoints -- 203 miles to Pelly Crossing. Along that leg, they must climb over 3,800-foot King Solomon's Dome.

From Pelly Crossing, it's 75 miles to Carmacks and then another 79 miles to Braeburn Lodge, the last checkpoint before Whitehorse. Teams must take a mandatory 8-hour rest at Braeburn before making the final 100-mile run to the finish.

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