The 15th anniversary edition of the Ivakkak sled dog race came to an end Tuesday in Kuujjuaq, Que., with a pair of racers from the community of Tasiujaq crowned this year's winners.
Willie Cain Jr. and his partner Daniel Cain Annahatak finished the race in 30 hours, 55 minutes, and 37 seconds, just under an hour ahead of the second place mushers from Puvirnituq, Peter Ittukallak and Putugu Iqiquq.
The third place finishers were George Kauki and Jiika Cain Snowball, from Kuujjuaq.
The Ivakkak race was established in 2001 as an attempt to revitalize sled dog culture among Nunavik residents. Unlike sled dog races such as the Iditarod, Inuit sled dogs pull a wider sled across tundra terrain, rather than race trails. Two participants make up each team with one or both often running alongside the sled to guide the dogs.
The dogs used in teams for the Ivakkak are Inuit sled dogs, or qimmiq, recognized as one of North America's oldest pure breed domestic canines.
For their victory, the winning duo will split $8,000 in cash, $12,000 in shopping certificates for local Co-ops, airline tickets from First Air, and hotel gift certificates.
"Of course we rely on very generous donations from various groups, and this year we weren't let down," said Andy Moorhouse, vice-president of economic development for Makivik Corporation, which represents Inuit in Quebec and organizes the race.
"All in all, it was more than $40,000 for all mushers to receive prizes.
"So it was, again, another successful Ivakkak dog race."
This year's race, which began March 31 and saw participants race down the Ungava coast from Quaqtaq to Kuujjuaq, was not without difficulties. A second team of Cains from Tasiujaq — racer Billy and his partner Charlie — were unable to finish after going off course during a blizzard.
"During a blizzard he went off course and lost a few of his dogs," said Moorhouse. "And that made him basically drop out of the race."
Community holds feast to end race
The official results were announced Tuesday night at a community feast in Kuujjuaq, where racers danced and participated in events with organizers and residents.
"The community was heavily involved in organizing and preparing the feast, cooking for the feast, as well as a cake design contest," said Moorhouse.
"There was accordion playing, there was dancing, and there were other activities that we did to recognize and to commemorate their hard work in regards to Ivakkak and the tradition of dogsledding.
"It was a very eventful night."