Cain's Quest proved the ultimate challenge for adventure-seekers in Labrador again this year.
As of press time, 14 of 35 teams had scratched from the race, and the field remaining were spread over 10 hours.
Results are available at www.cainsquest.com.
Two teams were issued 45-minute penalties due to interference with SPOT trackers, the device each team carries to allow race organizers to locate participants via satellite.
A press release issued by the race organizers said the penalties were issued based on evidence the tracking functions were de-activated at key points in the race.
"After reviewing the tracking patterns and discussing questionable interruptions along the route, the Cain’s Quest Race Marshall has issued Teams 22 (Gardner/Milley) and 25 (AuCoin/Girard) a time penalty of 45 minutes each for breaches of rule 4.4 section 15 “Any attempts to disconnect these locators or obstruct the signal will result in a penalty or disqualification”," stated a press release.
Both teams were the first to arrive in Kuujjuaq for the final layover, but the time penalty meant Team 31 (Lessard/Hall) were first to head out on the final leg.
Aiming to finish
Canada’s longest endurance snowmobile race, pushes both participants and their machines to the extremes.
On Mar. 17, participant’s months of preparation finally were put to the test as they sped off from the starting line and began their 2800 km journey.
This year, the route was the largest Cain’s Quest has ever seen. It took racers through seven Labrador communities, through some of the most relentless terrain, with remote checkpoints along the way.
Despite some hefty prizes on the line, including two new Arctic Cat snowmobiles and some $70,000 in prizes to be won, participants still said their primary focus is crossing the finish line, no matter how quickly or what in place.
The night before the race began, The Aurora caught up with some of the participants to discuss how they were feeling in the final hours before embarking on the most challenging race in Cain’s Quest history.
Jason Paul and his wife Coreen, 30, from Labrador City, are blazing some metaphorical trails along with the ones they will be clearing on their sleds this year. The couple, which comprises Team 39 in, is the first couple to compete in the race’s history, with Coreen also being the first women to take on the grueling challenge.
After seeing her husband compete in the race in 2009, and working as support for participating teams two years in a row, Coreen just couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer.
“She always wanted to do the race,” said Jason. “She talked me into it.”
While she understood she would be the only woman to ever take on the quest, Coreen says she never expected the reaction that she has gotten.
“I feel like a movie star,” she said. “I’ve never gotten my picture taken so many times. But it’s great; I’d like to give as much publicity as I can to the ladies because a lady can do it just as much as a man can do it.”
During the interview, a fan approaches Coreen, telling her there’s no room to pack makeup in Cain’s Quest.
“You won’t find me wearing any makeup,” she laughs.
Jason, who competed in Cain’s Quest 2009, says that his experience, combined with his wife’s enthusiasm, makes them tough contenders for the race.
“Every time you are involved in Cain’s Quest you learn something new,” he said. “Everything is always changing; the routes change, the weather changes, the competitors change, so you always learn. I made some mistakes in 2009 that I won’t make again this year, but I’m sure we’ll make a bunch of new ones.”
As for what they hope to accomplish together, the response is unanimous.
“Our goal is the same as everyone else,” he said. “Just to finish. The race is known to take out 50 per cent of the teams; so finishing is a big feat. I feel confident that as long as our machines hold up, we can place well. But again, so many things can happen.”
When asked for any final words, Coreen keeps it simple.
“I love you,” she says to her husband with a smile.
Outsiders taking on the outdoors
Cain’s Quest isn’t just enjoyed by Labradorians. Snowmobile enthusiasts come from across the country and the world to participate in the world-renowned race.
Chad Dow, 27, from Farfield, Maine and his partner Russ Griffin, 44, of Jackman Maine, travelled to Labrador West this year to take part after getting a glimpse of the adrenaline inducing race in 2009.
“I came out for the 2009 race as support for the team that won that year,” he said. “I thought it was a pretty mind-blowing thing. I’ve done snow cross and a bit of cross country racing before, so I just decided to give it a try this year,” Mr. Dow told the Aurora before the start of the race.
With weather being milder in his hometown this year, Mr. Dow says he is looking forward to getting out in the snow.
“This year we haven’t done a whole lot of sledding because we haven’t had a lot of snow back home,” he said. “But we get enough in to get by. This race will definitely be more miles than I’ve ridden all year.”
Mr. Dow and Mr. Griffin ended up scratching at Postville. They weren't alone.
Of 35 teams that left Lab West on Mar. 17, just 21 crossed the finish line five days later. Busted tracks, suspensions and motor blowups throughout the rugged path towards victory caused 14 hopefuls to scratch out of the race.
More photos HERE