Started in 1982, the 23rd running of the Clam Gulch Classic will take place this weekend, but despite being the second-oldest dog sled race on the peninsula, it is still just an informal gathering of dog folk according to race organizers.
“This is a musher’s race,” said Mitch Michaud, co-organizers of this year’s event.
Unlike many dog sled races around the state that relish in pomp and circumstance, Michaud said the Classic has for the most part been a grassroots affair.
“It’s historically been known as a Kasilof Hippie Race,” he said, “but that image may be starting to change a little.”
Regardless of how it is perceived, Michaud said the Classic’s image has never stopped it from having a diverse field of veteran mushers and rookies alike.
“It’s a real peninsula race that attracts local people. There will be professionals running it, but you don’t have to have a professional team to run it,” he said.
Michaud explained the race is a 12-dog maximum, run over two days, with only 35 miles of trail being covered each day.
He said this may mean professional mushers will do fewer miles than perhaps they are used to at this time of year, but the moderate mileage allows smaller kennels, beginning mushers or the handlers of professionals, to use the race for fun or preparation to bigger races.
“Since it is the first race of the year on the peninsula, a lot of people may use it as a good run-up to the T-100 or T-200,” Michaud said.
As to the trail conditions for the race, Will Faulkner, who has also organized the event and will be racing in it this year, said everything is looking good.
“The trail should be sweet. It’s put in and all ready to go. All that’s left is to mark it, which a few of us are going up to do (Friday),” he said on Thursday.
Sign-up for the Classic begins on Saturday at the Clam Shell Lodge at 9:30 a.m. with the race start at 11 a.m.
Entry fee for the racing class is $50 while the touring class event that follows the race will cost $10.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@ peninsulaclarion.com.
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