Canadian pride shines at the “Last Great Race on Earth”

News Article / March 16, 2017

By Captain Cynthia Duchene 

It’s known as the “Last Great Race on Earth” and members of the Canadian Armed Forces Detachment Elmendorf, located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, and their families, were on hand to celebrate its ceremonial start on March 4, 2017, and cheer on Canadian racers. 

Canadian flags in hand, the Canadians gathered to celebrate the ceremonial start of the 45th Iditarod Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

The event gave the Canadian community an opportunity to meet the mushers and celebrate their impending 1,000 mile journey across the challenging topography and through the adverse weather conditions of Alaska.   

Amongst the 71 sled dog teams competing in this year's race were two Canadian mushers, Michelle Phillips and Hans Gatt, both hailing from Yukon. The Canadians cheered enthusiastically as Michelle and Hans passed through the city streets with Canadian flags on their sleds.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces Detachment also volunteered as "trail guards", and were responsible for maintaining the integrity of the snow trail, where the sled teams passed, with shovels and rakes.   

The actual race started on Monday, March 6 in Fairbanks, Alaska, affording the teams the opportunity to travel the 350 miles from Anchorage's south-central coastal location to Alaska's interior. This is the third time in Iditarod's history that the race's restart has moved to Fairbanks due to poor conditions of critical trail areas in the Alaskan Range. The first was in 2003 and the second in 2015.

Mitch Seavey of Sterling, Alaska, crossed the Iditarod’s finish line in Nome at 3:40 p.m. local time on March 14, breaking the speed record by nearly eight hours. At 57, he a three-time winner and also the race’s oldest champion.  

The local Canadians had a great time welcoming Michelle and Hans to the 49th state, and wished their fellow compatriots a safe and successful journey to the finish line. Ms Phillips crossed the finish line in 13th place at 2:02 p.m. March 15 and Mr. Gatt took 15th place, arriving an hour and a quarter later.

NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that provides maritime warning, aerospace warning and aerospace control for Canada and the United States. The command has three subordinate regional headquarters: the Alaskan NORAD Region at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; the Canadian NORAD Region at Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Continental NORAD Region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

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