If the buzz around this year’s Percy de Wolfe Memorial Mail Race is any indication, this years’s event may be one to watch.
Just how many teams will run is never known until the night before, at the mushers’ meeting, but society president Anna Claxton says she has heard interest is high. Last year 14 teams started the main race and another 10 ran in the Percy Junior Race, which just goes to Forty Mile and back, about half the distance.
That’s more teams than ran this year’s Yukon Quest and the committee hopes to equal or surpass those numbers.
The Percy, as it is more generally known, will take off in Dawson City on King Street outside the Old Post Office just after 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 27.
Leaving at two minute intervals, the mushers and their dogs will race to the river and most likely run down the frozen trail on the east side on the first leg of their 338 km (210 mile) race to Eagle, Alaska, and back.
With the mandatory six-hour layover in Eagle, most of the mushers make it back to Dawson within 36 hours. The top three teams in 2013 were all under 24 hours of actual running time.
The race began as a commemorative mail run in 1977, to honour the memory of the Iron Man Mail Carrier after whom it is named. Percy De Wolfe carried the mail back and forth between the two towns from 1910 to 1949.
“The feeling is that there’s a lot of interest this year and it should be a really exciting race if everyone who’s talking about coming does come,” says Claxton.
This year the race begins after the school’s spring break, so the start will likely have a much larger crowd than last year.
“It’s so much fun when the kids are there too,” said Claxton, who used to be among the cheering students in her school days.
The biggest changes this year will be to the Percy Junior, which is going to be more serious.
“The mushers have been asking for it to become more like a real race,” says Claxton. “So the layover will be shorter.”
The Percy Junior will leave Dawson from the ice bridge, along the west bank of the river at 3 p.m. (instead of noon) and the mandatory layover will just be eight hours.
“It will give the mushers practice being organized to have a layover that is a certain time and having a feeding schedule that works,” Claxton says.
This year, the awards banquet on Saturday night moves back to the Odd Fellows Hall, after conflicting with other events for a couple of years.
In advance of the race, people can buy special De Wolfe envelopes for $5, have them cancelled at the Dawson Post Office, carried to Eagle by dogsled (on sled #2) and sent wherever they like.
“This is probably the only place in the world where you can still mail a letter that gets delivered by dog team,” Claxton says.
Technology has made the race more than a spectator sport in recent years and that will continue.
“We have the spot tracking again this year, which makes the race more fun to watch online,” Claxton says.
You can follow the Percy de Wolfe Memorial Mail Race at www.ThePercy.com.