INTRODUCTION: In the state of New Hampshire, the winter this year has been as snow-bound as anywhere else on the eastern seaboard of the United States, but for sports enthusiasts this has been a blessing rather than a hazard.
INTRODUCTION: In the state of New Hampshire, the winter this year has been as snow-bound as anywhere else on the eastern seaboard of the United States, but for sports enthusiasts this has been a blessing rather than a hazard. Dog sledding in particular has benefitted from the conditions -- and on Sunday (13 February) the last day's racing for the 1977 World Championship Dog Sled Derby was held at the town of Laconia.
SYNOPSIS: The event was organised by the Lakes Region Dog Sled Club, with competitors and spectators assembling from all over North America. Dog sled drivers are known as "mushers" and most of them also breed their won animals and spend many years training them up to competitive pitch.
Most dog sled r acing teams come from the husky breed -- either Alaskan, Siberian or Eskimo -- but other breeds like Irish setters and various types of hounds are also used.
They're off -- and here's one of the starts of the dog sled racing scene -- Debbi Molburg of Centre Harbour, New Hampshire, who finished second in the Championships in 1976. And she did well again this year, to take third place in Sunday's race. The Laconia course is 54 miles (89 kilometres) long, runs between lakes Winnisquam and Opechee and includes forests, hills and an ice-crossing.
Hard work for the animals -- training for big international events is a rigorous business and involves numerous practice runs and very careful nutrition. As the dogs reach their peak performances in the winter months owners have to allow them both rest and a steady practice programme.
Fast dogs in slow motion. Huskies were originally bred as the sole power source for transportation in the Eskimo lands of northern Canada. But today they have achieved a much wider popularity and their stamina and determination is admired throughout the world.
Canadian competitor Eddie Sylvain out on the trail. He's followed by Ivan Bellivean of Coffstown, New Hampshire -- who was one of the inevitable few who found him self in trouble during the race.
The total purse for the 1977 World Championship Dog Sled Derby was 7,500 U.S. dollars (about GBP5,400 sterling) and festivities surrounding the event include the election of the 'Musher' beauty queen.
Debbie Molburg coming in to a fine finish -- her time to take third place on Sunday and fourth overall -- 78.03 minutes.
But the winner was Harris Dunlap -- with a time of 76.72 minutes.
"I've been trying to do this for nine years. I've had a lot of practice, I'm slow learner I guess.