Richard Beck at the 2019 Canadian Championship Dog Derby in Yellowknife. Fran Hurcomb/Canadian Championship Dog Derby
Richard Beck raced to his 12th Canadian Championship Dog Derby title on Sunday, defeating his son, Brent, in a battle for first place.
The ubiquitous Beck last name appeared four times in the top six as the 10-dog race — held over three days — came to a close on Yellowknife Bay on Sunday afternoon.
Beck said his decision to race in the US earlier this season, where the weather was hotter than the NWT’s frigid February, paid dividends in a derby contested in relatively warm conditions.
“I raced a stage race in Wyoming [in January],” Beck, who retained a title he won last year, told Cabin Radio.
“We ran seven of the eight days straight in temperatures of -5C, -6C, -7C, which gave me an advantage over these guys that had 40-below or 35-below here.”
Temperatures were above freezing on both Saturday and Sunday for the eight mushers contesting the showpiece 10-dog race.
Beck finished the race in a combined time of seven hours, seven minutes, and 35 seconds — defeating his youngest son, Brent, by just under 16 minutes, though Brent’s Sunday stage time was marginally the faster of the two.
“I told him if he beats me, he’s grounded,” joked Beck senior. (Brent, an accomplished musher, is a little old for that threat to become a reality. For context, he was on the podium for dog mushing at the 1998 Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife.)
Cai Reid, also from Yellowknife, took third place, eight minutes behind Beck the younger.
Despite a March heatwave wreaking havoc on other events based on Yellowknife Bay, the dog derby went ahead on the ice as planned.
“It was a good trail,” said champion Beck. “The guys worked really hard on the trail for us to have perfect conditions.
“Some of us were doing 18 miles an hour, which is really good.”
However, the conditions did lead organizers to make an adjustment to the final day’s racing.
Sunday’s 50-mile leg was shortened to 18 miles “in the best interest of the dogs and mushers,” organizers said, giving the race an overall distance of 118 miles (190 km).