The Kobuk 440 Sled Dog Race is set to return in 2019 and has already seen its first musher sign up.
Michael Manzo was the first to register for the race, which is scheduled for April 4-7. Originally from Maine, Manzo now mushes out of Kotzebue. Manzo is of Mi’kmaq heritage and drives a team of six malamutes.
According to Kobuk 440 President Hannah Atkinson, that news was exciting for fans:
“After we shared that on Facebook, we realized how much the race fans have nostalgia for malamutes.”
Sign-ups began on October 2 and will be open until the race begins or until the cap of twenty mushers is reached.
The 2019 Kobuk 440 Sled Dog race does conflict with the Archie Ferguson/Willie Goodwin Sr. Snowmachine race, which also runs out of Kotzebue. That race always runs the first weekend of April, while the Kobuk has historically been either the first or second weekend of the month. However, climate has been a concern. Atkinson explained that it was easier to work around another race than possible warming conditions if they were to attempt to hold the Kobuk in the second weekend of April.
“We have a lot of hope that we will be able to work with the snowmachine race to mitigate any risks, and I think that the race route will allow for space between the mushers and the snowmachiners.”
In 2019, mushers will follow the “odd” year race route, departing from Kotzebue, mushing to Noorvik, and following the Kobuk River. They will run back through Ambler to Selawik as they return to Kotzebue. In 2018, the field was diverse, and Atkinson hopes it stays that way:
“More than half the field from last year was female mushers. We’re hoping to see a lot of female mushers, as well as a lot of local mushers and people from all over the state doing Iditarod.”
The 2019 purse has not been announced at this time. Atkinson says they always aim for a purse of at least $50,000, but the ultimate number will depend on sponsorship.
Image at top: file photo: Musher Jeff King traverses the 2015 Kobuk 440 trail between the checkpoints of Shungnak and Kobuk. Photo: Francesca Fenzi, KNOM.