After a three-year hiatus, Labrador’s 3,500-kilometre Cain’s Quest snowmobile race is back, and this year’s competitors are ready to hit the snow.
Ahead of the race, which kicks off Saturday at 10 a.m. in Labrador City, event organizers held a Cain’s Quest Fan Night, where enthusiasts could meet this year’s competitors and check out the snowmobiles they’ll be racing in.
“I describe this race as the most challenging thing that anybody will ever put themselves up in front of,” said Cain’s Quest 2023 chairperson Chris Lacey, who also competed in the event in 2016.
Lacey said Thursday’s Fan Night drums up excitement for Cain’s Quest, which had been put on pause for the past few years due to COVID-19. He says the organization lost a considerable number of volunteers and staff members during the pandemic but that hasn’t put a damper on this year’s race.
Cain’s Quest takes snowmobilers on a 3,500-kilometre trek across Labrador’s tundra. He says there are 29 teams, with about 40 racers in total. Aside from bragging rights, the first place team gets $50,000, while there is a $30,000 prize for finishing second and $20,000 for third.
Lacey says the track takes around five to seven days to complete — if competitors can even make it that far.
Dustin Boyd and Sheldon Brown have participated in the past. When Brown raced in 2020, he said, he didn’t finish the track. It was a learning experience, he said, one that he hopes will help him excel this year.
“It’s hard, we didn’t get too far … and we weren’t prepared,” he said.
“It’s pretty hard,” added Boyd.
Racing for loved ones
John and Mark Nui of Natuashish are on team Miste Tshini. John says he’s competed in the race a handful of times already, and he and Mark are racing this year in honour of their late brother Jim.
“Big part of our team,” said John. “For both me and my brother Mark, I think it’s only fair that we continue to do it, even though he is gone.”
Mark says that although the race is hard, he enjoys meeting different people on the trek around Labrador, and racing in this year’s event for Jim makes the event all the more worthwhile.
“I said many times that I would stop racing, but I keep coming back because it’s a lot of fun,” said Mark. “If you finish the race, that’s a big achievement.”
While a lot of competitors are from Labrador, Lacey says some racers are from Alberta, and that this year has teams from British Columbia and Finland.
Markku Rytinki, who’s on Finland’s team Wild Nordic Finland, says he’s racing for his friend Sammy, who died a year ago. He says Sammy loved Cain’s Quest and was supposed to race this year.
Christopher Davis is originally from Labrador’s south coast but has lived in British Columbia for nearly two decades. He and his friend Kelsey Belben of L’Anse-au-Loup are racing in honour of Davis’s cousin Zachary, who died in a dirtbike accident last year.
“We’re gonna put a good, solid attempt on coming to a finish,” said Davis.
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