2005/06 Events

Balloch Wood, Keith, Aberdeenshire
25 – 26 March 2006
 
The first of these events to be held under the auspices of the NSDSC, co-organised by David Patterson, Helen Fielden and John and Kari Coyne.
Event Write Up               Balloch Wood, Keith  25 & 26 March 2006
Racing in the United Kingdom has become less challenging over the years.
For that reason, a handful of people have been thinking about exploring ways of pushing the envelope and developing new racing formats that are more demanding for sled dog teams. To this end, Helen Fielden, David Patterson, Kari and I decided to put on a slightly different kind of event. Bucking the prevailing trend in the past, the four of us had held ten mile dirt races which were relatively successful. This time, we decided to use a similar distance but require a minimum load of twenty pounds for each dog in the team. This meant that the weight of the rig alone had to be a minimum of twenty pounds times the number of dogs in the team. We quickly became aware that there ere not many people with heavy rigs, so we decided to waive the weight requirement and use a time handicap for rigs which did not meet the minimum. Arbitrarily we selected a figure of two seconds per pound under the required minimum.
As it turned out, over this distance, this was probably not enough to level the playing field. We found a suitable trail. It was relatively hilly with a number of long climbs and undulating descents. At 9.3 miles the distance was slightly short of our desired figure, but considering the temperature on the day, it was adequate. We also included a mandatory one minute water stop as a precautionary measure. March can be a relatively cold month in Scotland. In fact, we had our most snow – one to one and a half feet, during the first two weeks of March. Unfortunately, by the time the event date approached, we lost our arctic high and southerly winds started bringing in warmer weather from the Atlantic Conveyor. On the first day we had temperatures around 5 degrees C and rain. This made the trail slower, but was good for the dogs. The second day, we missed the rain but the temperature rose several degrees.
We were especially interested in getting UK Seppalas to the event, but we made it an open race to get some of the fastest teams in the country to participate. Unfortunately of the twelve entries, only four had Seppala Siberian Sleddogs in their teams. Also, only the three participating seven to ten dog teams met the weight requirement, but one of the drivers, Ewan Robetson, took it so seriously that he ran a seven dog team on a passenger rig – with a passenger ! – putting him thirty pounds over the required weight.
As this was considered a working trial rather than a race, we were more concerned that people challenged themselves and their teams. For this reason it has been difficult to interpret the results. Aside from the fact that all but three of the teams used lightweight rigs, we allowed people changed their teams and distances on the second day.
The fastest team on the trail was an outstanding ten dog team of German Shorthaired Pointers which had just come from winning the 8 dog class in the Dryland World Championships in Belgium and finishing an impressive fifth in the Pirena Stage Race.
Graeme Scott’s GSP’s completed the distance in just over 31 minutes on both days. The slowest team was a three dog Siberian Husky team that covered the 9.3. miles in just over an hour and 17 minutes. By contrast, Steven Studley’s three dog team ( including one Seppala and one part Seppala) completed the course in less than an hour, an impressive time for a team that has never run this distance before. Fresh from training in Europe, Michael McRae’s outstanding four dog Siberian Husky team set the standard for the lightweight rig teams, covering the long trail in just over 42 minutes, showing the level of excellence of some of the purebred teams in the UK.
On the first day all teams, including a two dog team, did the full distance. The second day, due mainly to the higher temperature, a number of the smaller teams took the shorter 6.5 mile trail.
What many of our North American friends would have found interesting was the wide variety of rigs in use. At the top end of the range was an Austrian made Brewe rig, a picture of Teutonic engineering magnificence.
Weighing over two hundred pounds, with full braking on each of its four wheels and a special spike brake that rammed into the hard –packed surface of the trail this was truly “vorsprung durch technik” At the other end of the spectrum, was a super light weight aluminium and carbon fibre three wheeled trike of British design and manufacture. I actually had a try of the latter rig, with Helen and Dave’s young Seppala, McKinley and a cross Seppala called Lenin. What an experience !! It was such an interesting event that I was enticed into getting on a rig again after a ten year hiatus. I went up to one of the sheds and pulled out my 25 year old heavy (165 lbs) training rig, put away a few years after it was replaced with a quad. It was rusty but when I pushed it downhill it moved and the brakes worked after a fashion, so I entered a geriatric – actually, I prefer the term “veteran” – team of eight Seppalas with a combined age of 70. Riding around on that trail on what handled like a concrete lawn roller, did not convince me that rig racing is wonderful, but watching that team with those twelve year old leaders convinced me
that what we are trying to achieve with the Seppala is certainly worth it.
While we were somewhat disappointed by the small number of larger teams and the absence of many of Seppalas in the country, we were greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of those who showed up. We learned a bit from this and are planning future events for next season, possible including a longer stage race with minimum weight requirements.
JOHN COYNE
The Results – Day oneall teams
ran 9.3 miles
Teams
that met the rig weight requirement of 20 pounds per dog (not
including driver’s weight)
Class
Driver
Team Size
Time
Open
Greame Scott
10 dogs
31:14
Seppala Siberian Sleddogs
/ part Seppala
John Coyne
8 dogs
58:13

-“-

Ewan Robertson (&
passenger)
7 dogs
1:11:50

-“-

Peter Duncan
10 dogs
DNS
Teams not meeting the rig weight      
Seppala Siberian Sleddogs
/ part Seppala
Steven Studley
3 dogs
59:02

-“-

Suzanne Alexander
3 dogs
1:02:03
Siberian Huskies
Michael McRae
4 dogs
42:12

-“-

Kirsty Halliday
3 dogs
1:01:06

-“-

Brian Duncan
6 dogs
1:02:58

-“-

Cameron Pack
2 dogs
1:03:33

-“-

Jay Whitley
4 dogs
1:09:10

-“-

Matthew Cutter
3 dogs
1:15:03
The Results – Day two
Distance
Driver
Team Size
Time
9.3
miles
Greame Scott
10 dogs
31:54
-“-
Michael McRae
4 dogs
52:10
-“-
Jay Whitley
4 dogs
1:00:54
-“-
Brian Duncan
6 dogs
1:09:13
-“-
Matthew Cutter
3 dogs
1:17:27
6.5 Miles
Cameron Pack
2 dogs
41:07
-“-
Suzanne Alexander
3 dogs
42:44
-“-
Ewan Robertson (1st Team)
5 dogs
47:18
-“-
Ewan Robertson (2nd Team)
4 dogs
47:33
-“-
Kirsty Halliday
4 dogs
48:32
-“-
David Halliday
3 dogs
59:11
       
Thanks to Stuart Alexander and
Andrew Jordan for all their help, much appreciated
Write up by Helen Fielden
Since the import of the “pure” Seppala strain of Siberian Husky by John and Kari Coyne in 1986, the last few years has slowly brought the population of this exceptional bloodline to a current healthy gene-pool of about 45, and I believe a few more possibly on their way into the U.K.
Dave and Linda Funnell’s import, Rimrock’s Bea arrived in the U.K. in whelp, subsequently rearing 10 pups. Some of us were fortunate enough to become the proud owners of her offspring and a renewed enthusiasm for the Seppala strain appears to be gaining strength, a good basis from which it will be viable to maintain the origins of the Siberian Husky here in the U.K. Although “Seppala” is a highly regarded as an excellent working line, two of Bea’s pups qualified for Crufts 2006. Wyakin and Athena were respectively placed 1st & VHC in the same class by Breed Specialist Freddie Palmer. At the end of May, Peter Duncan has arranged a meeting to finalize the format for a series of “Distance” trails during the 2006/07 working season.
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