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Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove race drawing near

Racers take their positions to launch off the line for the 2023 Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove race in Rankin Inlet this past year. Photo courtesy Neco Towtongie ᓇᒃᑭᐅᖅᑏᑦ ᐋᖅᕿᒃᑐᑦ ᐃᓂᖏᓐᓄᑦ ᐊᐅᓪᓚᕐᓂᐊᕐᓗᑎᒃ 2023 ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᕐᒥᑦ ᑎᑭᕋᕐᔪᐊᕐᒧᑦ ᓇᒃᑭᐅᑏᑦ ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᕐᒥᑦ ᐊᕐᕌᓂᐅᓚᐅᖅᑐᖅ.

A large number of racers will be lining up for the second annual Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove snowmobile race tentatively set for April 1 (weather permitting) in Rankin Inlet.

A total of 13 competitors took part in the 2023 event, while upwards of 40 racers are expected go for the flag at this year’s edition.

Neco Towtongie said he was talked into joining the race executive during repeated visits from his uncle, Noel Kaludjak, who was determined to bring the race back between the two communities last year.

The event was a popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

The race is about 170 kilometres round-trip.

Towtongie said it was incredible how quickly they were able to put a small committee together last year.

He said this year they’re making the race a little longer, with racers going another 75 kilometres past Whale Cove before turning around and heading back to Rankin.

“We’re going to make this year’s race about 150 miles (241 km) because last year it only took the guys just over an hour to go there and back, so it was such a short race that we really wanted to stretch it out a bit this year,” said Towtongie.

“Last year was the first race of this kind in about 40 years and it went over really, really well with everyone.

“We were really surprised it went over so well because we had to hold it on the Wednesday between the Rankin Inlet Circuit Race and the Chesterfield Inlet Circuit Race. We had to move quick because the weather was deteriorating really fast.

“The trail was really smooth last year, but this year is going to be a different story because we’re getting a lot of blizzards this year, so I’m assuming the trail will be quite a bit rougher this year with all that snow down.”

Jarvis Towtongie captured the 2023 championship flag, narrowly finishing ahead of second-place finisher Nanauq Tanuyaq.

As with all major races, safety is a top priority.

Neco said the race is using an American company that’s going to have tracking devices on all the racers, which will send a signal every three minutes to show where every racer is and whether they’ve stopped.

He said the organizers are also trying to secure a helicopter through Arviat pilot Kelly Owlijoot’s company for aerial surveillance, but nothing has been finalized to date.

“I’m hoping we’re going to have helpers all along the trail, so I’m going to say 15 minutes to reach anyone who has an accident, but there’s a lot of ground to cover.

“The big thing for us is keeping everyone safe and making sure the guys are experienced drivers who are all racing appropriate snowmobiles and wearing appropriate safety gear.

“The fundraising has been going awesome so far. We’re getting a lot of support from our fan base, and our raffle and chase the ace events have been going really well. If all goes well, the race will start at noon near the dock in Johnstone’s Cove in Rankin Inlet on April 1.

“We have an awesome assortment of prizes for this year’s race and I’m sure the excitement will continue to mount at race day draws closer.”