Highlights of the 2001 Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races

In 2001, March came in more like a polar bear than a lion. Firm trails, record cold temperatures (-26 F), and a lot of determination helped Keith Aili set a new course record at the 9th annual Can-Am Crown 250 Sled Dog Race.

On March 3 a record number of teams (26) started the long trek. (Don Hibbs had also registered, but his dogs were sick on the morning of the race, so he did not start).

Can-Am organizers were happy to see three women compete in the CAC250 this year. Rita Lensing became the first woman ever to cross Can-Am's 250-mile finish line, capturing 7th place in the race. She was tortured by a bad back throughout much of the race and was whisked off to the hospital by ambulance when she reached the finish. Karen Land finished 11th and Marcelle Fressineau came in16th. In all, a record number (21) and a high percentage (80%) of the starters finished the race.

Keith Aili came in at 10:22 Sunday night, beating the previous record (Don Hibbs in 1999) by 14 minutes. One hour later, Stan Passananti (Ely, Minnesota) took second place. Third place went to Martin Massicotte. The three Best Kept Team awards were divided evenly between Keith Aili, Matt Weik, and Tom Benson, because their team condition scores were nearly identical. Rita Lensing won the sportsmanship award for helping Karen Land catch up with her lost team, which had surprised the staff at checkpoint #2 by arriving without a driver.

For the first time, all three Can-Am races started and finished in Fort Kent. The 60 and 30-mile races were very successful, with 20 and 28 starters, respectively. In each of the shorter races, all but one team finished.

Boyd Wilson (Marmora, Ontario), Eric LaForce, and Marcel Drouin won first, second, and third in the CAC60. Mark Akester's young dogs quit about 15 miles from the finish. Mark, George Pooler (crossing guard), and Dana Pinette (sweep), took turns walking the dogs out to an access road in a five-hour marathon that lasted late into the night.

In the CAC30, Steve Johnson (Haurlock, Ontario) finished first, edging out the second place winner, Carl Deblois, by only 4 seconds. Becky Johnson (Luther, Michigan) came in third. In a freakish accident, Jane Sutherland slipped near the finish line, fell against her sled and suffered a broken collarbone.

Despite the mishaps, enthusiasm for the race was very high.