While being introduced to the world of dogsledding by our friends from Australia and the US Leon Gubin and Terry Hinesly, and parralel with sled dog sport starting to come back to Russians after the total lost of the priceless Chukcha’s heritage, a small North Hope team with Mother Paraskeva in the lead, Terry Hinesly, Leon Gubin and a Russian musher and a good friend of North Hope Mihkail Bragin came up with an idea of putting on an international sled dog race here in Russia. The conditions of our region as a place to host a sled dog event were highly estimated by our foreign mentors and they often compared them with those of Interior Alaska.
But by the year 2007 the idea has come to fruition though not to the full force and effect yet.
In March of 2007 in cooperation with Russian Canine Federation we had the first 4 day sled dog run with the overall distance of 135km running through the Russian wilderness. The main objective of the race held was to find out and analyze the potential of putting on a race in our region and working out the best format of the event and finding a way to attract Russian and foreign sportsmen and expose the race and the little heroes behind it to the outside world.
Our boys were deeply involved in the preparation process - they went backpacking along the thread of the would-be race route, analyzing the terrain, testing equipment (radio stations, cameras, gps navigators, maps, etc.), doing the preliminary trail marking… and of course having fun!
The North Hope Race 2007 got 5 entrants, including a boy from our orphanage, Misha Sypko, running our first Siberian team he had been raising and training himself since they were little pups and they all did very well.
The race went excellent and the plans for the future started to shape up.
At the North Hope Race 2008 we had an Australian musher Diane Baker among the participants, running our Alaskan team, raised and trained by little Sasha Buzin who was very excited about his pups running their first race, he took to Diane at first sight and didn’t hesitate to trust his team into her hands. And she didn’t let him down.
By the time of the Race 2009 the idea of International teams was introduced to the mushers. It presupposed Russian and American mushers sharing Russian teams and running the stages alternately, the overall time result was summed up.
The idea turned out to be a success and resulted in 5 skijorers and 15 team entrants, 8 of which were experienced mushers from the USA, including the 22-Iditarods veteran Terry Adkins, an Iditarod veteran and the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race Director Frank Teasley, one of the authors of the Be The Lead Dog Book and the Live Through Dogs Program Barbara Schaefer, Leslie Fields – Neversummer kennel founder and equipment maker, etc. Three of our boys ran the race – one of them, Misha Sypko, in the Individual class and two of them – Dmitry Zapletin and Alexey Kotov – were given a chance to share their teams with two Junior Mushers from the US – Megan Garbarino and Cameron Byers - and it was a real adventure for them. For the first time in their lives they happened to be in a situation that they should have solved breaking the language barrier and they coped with it! And it was certainly another big victory in their lives. Both sides of the international teams seemed to have fun.
Here are some of the boys’ impression from the race:
Dmitry Zapletin:“I’m impressed with how our race went. I wish that next year our new American friends could bring their dogs with them. I was lucky to share my team with a beautiful girl from the US. It was easy and interesting to work with her. She loves dogs and she was very careful with my dogs”.
Misha Sypko: ”I’ve been in sled dogs since I was 12. I’ve decided to become a professional dog trainer. My first sled dog mentor was Terry Hinesly and I will do my best so he can be proud of me. I do want our race to have future”.
Alexey Kotov: .“I have made good friends with a guy from America named Cameron and he loves dogs too. We are sharing a dog team at the race. We are a real team – we feed the dogs together, care about them, train them, and I hope to perform well at the race. Language barriers do not hinder understanding each other. I’m looking forward to seeing him again”.
Anton Kirpichev: “I never thought that sled dogs would attract such wonderful people from the USA. With all their heart, they are sharing everything with us. From peanut butter to stories about Terry Adkins’ twenty-two Iditarod finishes.
That year was a certain breakthrough when some invisible doors got opened: a door into the Russian sled dogs and a door to let the whole world enter the kids hearts. We were introduced to many wonderful people that became true friends of North Hope once and for all like Caroline Griffitts that was our Chief Vet for two consecutive years and hopefully we’ll be with us forever; Leslie Fields, that donated lots of equipment to North Hope, gave priceless seminars at the races and whose daughter Megan Garbarino was brave enough to have come and stayed in Russia to work at North Hope; Frank and Stacey Teasley who gave a chance to the two of our boys to witness the amazing event they organize in Wyoming – IPSSSDR, not to mention Terry and Cari Hinesly that had been with us since the very start when no one believed in North Hope potential. They are all part of the family now.
In 2010 due to extremely cold weather conditions and heavy snow fall the number of entrants was a little bit less – 1 skijorer, 2 entrants in the purebred malamute class and 10 team entrants for the main race, including 4 mushers from the US and 2 mushers from Canada, 5 our boys, mushers from Moscow, Kostroma, Irkutsk, etc. We had a separate day for the seminars and conferences on Vet issues, Equipment, Clothing, Canine Therapy, etc.
The goal for the year 2011 is to attract Europeans for the race, though it’s quite challenging to bring a team over, but hopefully we can work on that and spread a word about North Hope further into the world and expand the scale of international cooperation in sled dogs.
Our races are gaining popularity among the sled dog people and attract many spectators at the race start, the crowds we have never imagined to host at our remote place. The races receive wide coverage by the Mass Media in Russia and abroad (Check out the links for the coverages).
The main objectives of our race are as follows: popularization and development of sled dog sport in Russia; strengthening of the world relations in sled dog sport all over the world; development of the sport canine organizations’ cooperation on the territory of Russian Federation and all over the world; sharing experience; bringing up a new generation of mushers and merely young people whose life principles are based on love, care and fairness.
North Hope Race makes people from different continents, of different ages and life stories to come together and unite in one belief and change the world a little bit to the better.. And all this amidst the wild nature and side by side with our four-legged friends.
Our boys are deeply involved with the race and it’s always a long-awaited event for them. Those who don’t run it, help as handlers, trail checkers, make some shows for the official ceremonies, etc. Some of them try themselves as race officials – race 2011 will be the third race for Anton Kirpichev as a Race Marshal Assistant. Hopefully next year, our graduate Dima, who’s learning to be a vet will be included in the race Vet team.
Unfortunately, we do not have any sponsors and every year we have to put on the race at the expense of the North Hope Sled Dog Center and scarce contributions of individuals which is becoming more and more difficult and less and less fair towards the kids we are doing all this for. So, any help or good advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you and See you at our races!