LACONIA — Veteran Quebec musher Rejean Therrien, third place finisher in last year's Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby, jumped out to a 24 second lead on the opening day of the 86th annual event on Friday.
Times for races on Saturday and Sunday will be added to the musher's first-day totals to determine the overall champion.
Therrien, who has been racing sled dogs for 38 years, posted a time of 47 minutes and 11 seconds on the 15 mile course, a 19 mile per hour pace. He raced a team of 16 dogs, Alaskan Husky and German Pointer crosses. Last year was his first Laconia race and he finished only 56 seconds behind the winner after losing precious time on last year's opening day when his team became tangled.
In second place is Guy Girard of St. Thomas de Joliette, Quebec, with a time of 47:35. He also races a Husky-Pointer mix team,.
“Today's speeds are unbelievable,'' says Girard, a musher for over 30 years who is also a marathon runner who has taken part in 10 of the grueling 26.2 mile races in recent years.
''I put my dogs through the same training regimen I use,'' said Girard. His team has been clocked at 25 miles an hour and two years ago averaged 20.5 miles an hour in a 14 miles race in Quebec.
Another Quebec musher, Jack Trottier, who was last year's runner-up, was in third place with a time of 48:38, only three seconds ahead of last year's winner and three-time champion winner Claude Bellerive of Charette, Quebec, who posted a time of 48:41.
Jim Blair is in fifth place with a time of 49:06 with Diane Marquis is sixth with a time of 49:19. Doug Butler of Vermont is seventh with a time of 49:37, followed by Steve Long with a time of 49:40.
In ninth place is Keith Bryar Jr. of Moultonborough with a time of 52:16, followed by Chris Carter at 53:19, Samuel laForce 53:23, Rob Worden 53:46, Randy Dekuiper, 58:46 and Hermel Bergeron 62:38.
The derby resumes today with six-dog teams getting underway at 10 a.m., the three-dog junior class at noon and the open class at !;30 p.m.
The same schedule holds for Sunday and there will be an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. at Laconia Country Club.
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