Mitch Seavey is first Iditarod musher to reach Ruby

AP News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2015 11:22 PM
Mitch Seavey is first Iditarod musher to reach Ruby

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The two-time Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey was the first musher to reach the checkpoint in Ruby, and an up-and-coming musher has been disqualified.

Seavey covered the grueling, 119-mile stretch from Tanana in 18 hours, 35 minutes, arriving in the Ruby checkpoint at 6:13 p.m. Wednesday.

For being first to Ruby, he received a "spirit mask" created by Bristol Bay artist Orville Lind and a $500 credit on PenAir.

He was followed in by his son, defending champion Dallas Seavey, two minutes later. Dallas Seavey, also a two-time champion, covered the route from Tanana in 18 hours, 51 minutes.

A host of mushers were en route on the Yukon to the village.

Brent Sass, who last month won the thousand-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, was disqualified Tuesday because the Iditarod race marshal said he had a two-way communications device with him. Mushers are not allowed to have contact with anyone during the race.

Marshal Mark Nordman removed Sass after finding the iPod Touch, which is Wi-Fi capable and could have been used to communicate at checkpoints.

"He went, 'Oh my God, what a mistake.' You know, an emotional time for him," Nordman told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner after Sass was disqualified. "Just a mistake. Do I believe Brent was trying to gain a competitive advantage in the race? Absolutely not. That's my personal opinion."

Sass took full responsibility.

"It's a complete screw-up on my part," he said in a video interview posted on the Iditarod website.

Sass said he brought the device, similar to an iPhone without a phone function, to listen to music and watch movies while he was on the trail. It didn't register that the device could be hooked into a wireless network at a checkpoint to communicate to the outside world, he said.

"I had no intention of using the Wi-Fi," he said.

"I have to accept the consequences," an emotional Sass said. "I want to apologize to my fellow mushers, my fans, my supporters, my family, my friends, my dogs, especially."

A field of 78 mushers began the trek Monday from Fairbanks to the old gold-rush town of Nome. Seventy-seven teams remain in the race.

The race usually kicks off in Willow, but a lack of snow led organizers to move the start farther north to Fairbanks on Monday.