UPDATE: This year’s race will be delayed due to winter weather conditions. The race is now scheduled for March 14th at noon.
ORIGINAL: After being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,the 2021 Nome-Golovin 200 is back on this year. The annual snowmachine race is scheduled to depart from Nome’s East Beach tomorrow and have racers do the 190-mile loop out to Golovin and back.
Forty-four racers, mostly from Western Alaska but with some from the road system, are set to hop on their sleds this weekend. Race Marshall Kevin Bahnke says recent storms and south winds have created deep drifts and difficult trail conditions.
“We did get a little bit of snow but this year that trail is very rough. It’s going to be very brutal. There’s going to be a lot of wrecks and a lot of crashes, so it’s going to be interesting to see who actually finishes this year.”– Race Marshall Kevin Bahnke
Dozens of racers from around Western Alaska gathered Thursday evening in Nome’s Board of Trade Saloon to register and draw their bib number.
People huddled close and few wore masks inside the bar.
Norton Sound Health Corporation reported that as of Monday, nearly two thirds of Norton Sound adults have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Friday, there were just a handful of active cases with the most recent reported the previous evening.
But race officials say they’re making efforts to protect local communities from exposure to the coronavirus. Racers will not have local volunteer pit-crews or help with re-fueling.
“We went back to the old style where racers supplied their own gas and their own pit-crews and we are away from the other checkpoints and the other villages to stop the spread if they’re worried about COVID.”
As an extra incentive the Bering Sea Lions Club, who hosts the Nome-Golovin Race, held a raffle for vaccinated racers. Racers who could show proof of vaccination were entered to win a drum of fuel.
This year the purse is $3,000 in both the open and 600 cc engine classes. The fan-cooled and women’s class will compete for a $2,000 purse. All winners will take half of the entry fees in their class.
Bahnke was nervous that turn-out would be low this year. He was delighted to be wrong.
“All together we have 14 rookies, which is amazing! We never have that many rookies in one year.”
Global pandemics aren’t the only threat to the race. It’s still possible the race start could be delayed or canceled.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch out for the Southern Seward Peninsula Coast. Forecasters say the region could see blizzard conditions with 50 mph winds and as much as 4 inches of snow.
Bahnke says they plan to wait until tomorrow to decide if the race will be postponed.