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Bringing back a classic

Race to Whale Cove takes place for first time in three decades
Racers take off two at a time to Whale Cove. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Noel Kaludjak remembers racing in the Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove race 30 years ago, back when it was an annual event.

“It’s always exciting,” he said with a smile, just after 13 competitors took off from Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove and back on their snowmachines Thursday, May 4.

“I know what it’s like. For the young guys, it’s amazing. We’re all pumped up. Watching them take off like that, it’s just amazing.”

Conditions weren’t perfect – Kaludjak was hoping for a sunny day, but it was a little bit white out. Still, it was good enough to race, and the challenges of the elements and the route is what makes the long-distance race so compelling.

“Back in the early 1980s, all the races stopped around here because people were afraid, I guess — machines were too fast, all that, the safety equipment wasn’t there,” said Kaludjak about why the community-to-community race stopped for so long.

“But now we’re getting it back. We’re getting the safety equipment, following all the rules regulations, all that stuff now. It’s safer for the racers to race now, and it’s accepted again. The racing is finally coming back.”

The distance between the communities is just under 70 km. Jarvis Towtongie came in first place, completing the full loop in one hour, 18 minutes, 35 seconds. Four racers broke down and did not finish.

“First of all, your snowmobile has to be in good running order and fast,” said Kaludjak about keys to the race.

The next is managing the difficult terrain.

“The rocks and ice ridges are challenging,” said Kaludjak, adding that the trail was actually pretty clear this year, though that is not always the case.

But the speed competitors move at also adds an element of danger and difficulty to keep up.

“These guys are so fast,” said Kaludjak.

This year’s event was a trial run, he added, with hopes to make it even bigger next year if people support it.

“The main thing is the young people like to go fast and (it gives them) something to do,” said Kaludjak about why he and the committee brought the race back.

“Gives them something exciting to do. ‘I’m going to race tomorrow, I’m going to race next year, I’m going to get my snowmobile ready.’ Something for them to do besides other stuff. It’ll keep them away from trouble and all that. My dad always said, young people like to speed, give them the speed. Chase wolf, snowmobile race, go hunting, do it. Just do it.”

He added that he was thankful for the committee’s time and efforts to make the race a success. The race was sponsored by Combustion Performance, Sigluaq Shop and Arctic Heating.

Gabe Choquette waves the flag as racers take off to Whale Cove from Rankin Inlet Thursday, May 4. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
Members of the Whale Cove Race Committee gather. From left to right are Silu Autut, Noel Kaludjak, Taina Kubluitok, Moses Aupilardjuk, Gabe Choquette and Neco Towtongie. Photo courtesy of Taina Kubluitok
Jarvis Towtongie is hoisted up after finishing first in the race with a time of 1:18:35. Photo courtesy of the Whale Cove Race Committee