Mother Nature cooperates for annual Nome-Golovin snogo race
The pattern of bitter cold or super blustery weather that hampered Nome much of the winter let up just in time for this year’s field of 39 snowmachine racers to head out Saturday on the annual 200-mile, Nome-Golovin Snowmachine Race.
The sunshine and near 30˚F temperatures that unfolded throughout the afternoon seemed to follow defending champion James “Trey” West III around for the second year in a row as he safeguarded the title and brought his total Nome-Golovin first-place trophy haul to four (2007, 2009, 2016, 2017).
West, who was entered in the 800cc Open Class C, posted the fastest time of the day at two hours, 20 minutes, 43 seconds on the 100-mile out-and-back course. He reported topping his Skidoo sled out at 115 mph.
“This year was definitely a lot tougher,” said West in comparing his 2017 win to last year’s victory. “The trail conditions were pretty bad, but I had the sun shining on me almost the whole race.”
Visibility down the coast in the direction of Golovin stretched as far as the eye could see as racers assembled at Nome’s East End Park around 11:00 a.m. to have their machines inspected. It was a far cry from the setting a few weeks back when racers made their way onto the Bering Sea ice during the Iron Dog in near zero visibility conditions.
The flat light from an early overcast sky, however, threatened to make the hazardous dips and perilous holes the high-speed racers would encounter that much more challenging to see. Competitors milled about chatting with each other as they made their last minute preparations. Some put the final touches on their duct tape facials while others finished fastening their beefy, protective shoulder pads.
Around 11:30 a.m. Nome snowmachine race veteran Johnny Bahnke Jr. led the parade of sleds down to the sea ice. By the time all the machines had reassembled, the sky had become mottled, with streaks of sun poking through which helped riders discern the variations on the snow’s surface.
Starting at high noon, the racers departed one after another for Golovin. A large sheet of plywood was placed behind each of the rigs to block the snowy backwash plumes whipped up as they zoomed off the start line.
Beginning with Bethany Horton about two hours later, racers began to trickle past the green finish line flag waved by race official Craig Teesateskie. Horton won her division by completing the women’s course to Topkok and back on her Arctic Cat in a time of one hour, 36 minutes, 39 seconds. Only two minutes, 10-seconds prevented a second West trophy from being captured as Trey’s wife Raenelle West finished just off the pace in second place.
“I feel really good about it,” said Horton after the race. “ I led into Topkok and all the way back into town. I couldn’t feel any better about it.”
Horton’s victory did not come without peril. “I crashed at Hastings on the way back,” she said.
“I just hit a log or something sticking out of the ground and it bucked me off to the side. ” She wasn’t so lucky last year in her Nome-Golovin debut when a crash resulted in a dislocated shoulder.
The second fastest time of the day, and the top finisher in the 600 cc Class B, was recorded by Polaris rider Nicholas Reader, whose total elapsed time was 2:28:38.
Open Class C entrant, and Polaris rider, Bob Saccheus of Elim posted the third fastest time at 2:31:33.
Polaris rider Mike Morgan, from the 600cc Class B group, rounded out the top four with a time of 2:32:23.
The best finish in the Fan Cooled Class A, which traveled to White Mountain and back, went to Polaris rider Jason West, who came across in 2:29:26.
“Trey passed me on the way out,” said Saccheus as he told how he and the rest of the field rode hard, but found West to be in a class by himself. Saccheus agreed with popular race consensus that the soft trail conditions were a challenge. “The toughest part of the trail was from here to White Mountain,” he joked.
Veteran snowgo racer Dora Hughes was the lone female to compete in one of the full-length rides. Hughes entered her Polaris in the Class B division and finished 12th out of 14 in that category with a time of 3:04:48.
Hughes had entered the women’s division in eight races in the past and won each time. This year she was looking for a greater challenge. “A couple of years ago I did the men’s class and I did really well,” said Hughes of the first time she ran the race. “I hit 108 today, but I had issues all the way to White Mountain, and finally when I hit Golovin Bay it opened back up,” she said.
The entrant roster for the 2017 Nome-Golovin Snowmachine Race listed 39 riders. Twelve contestants did not finish the race. The race was directed by Kevin Bahnke and the Race Marshal was Chad Olesen.