Despite their less-powerful machines, two Cree teams placed among the top four in the annual 1,400-km Raid des Braves snowmobile race.
For the first time this year, the race had a stop-over in Mistissini, where most of the community was on-hand to greet the racers. Of course, the Mistissini team was mobbed as it crossed the finish line. The other Cree team was from Waswanipi. The only other native team came from Point Blue.
When the race finished in St-Felicien, the team from Amos was in first place and there was a three-way tie in terms of points for second between Waswanipi, Mistissini and Lebel-sur-Quevillon. Officials ruled that the times for the final stage of race would be the deciding factor for the final standings. Waswanipi was ruled the second-place winner and Mistissini dropped to fourth place, even though they had to make repairs during the race.
The race has grown. The first year it was a one-day race, year two a two-day race, the third year three days, and this year it’s four days long and 400 kilometers more.
Next year’s fifth annual Raid des Braves is expected to be five days long. Personally, I can’t wait for their 20th anniversary.
The only mishap was the breaking of one of the poles holding the finishing line banner due to high winds. The stage before Mistissini was the longest of the race, and the teams showed it.
All racers, mechanics, helicopter pilots, medical staff and other volunteers (“Raiders”) stayed at Mistissini’s culture camp, where they were treated to some of the famous Cree hospitality. They were given traditional foods such as spun goose and beaver. There was caribou stew with bannock. Fresh spruce boughs were laid on the floors of the many styles of tents, teepees and other traditional lodgings used by the Crees where the “Raiders” would be sleeping that night. All participants in the race said Mistissini was the best check-point the “Raiders” had experienced during the race.
Linda Moalli, one of the “Raider” volunteers, told The Nation why she liked to help: “This is fun. You meet people. You know, you live in Montreal and people there don’t talk to people and
there’s no friendship. If you say hello to someone in the metro, they think you’re crazy, but here everyone says hi. It’s marvellous. It’s something you don’t see every day in Montreal. ”
Mistissini team members were Larry MacLeod and brothers Norman and Claude Coonishish. They were sponsored by the Mistissini Band, Meechum’s Store and Round Point, a Chicoutimi car dealer. Norman said the other skidoos had the advantage in speed on roads and ice, but in the bush his team’s experience helped to get them to second place by the time they hit Mistissini.
The Waswanipi team came in fourth at Mistissini. The team members were Don Saganash, Peter Longchapand Norman Voyager. Team Waswanipi was sponsored by their Band and recreation department, the Waswanipi Lion’s Club and Mista Corporation. The team was in last year’s race too, but due to an accident they didn’t finish. This year, Don said the XLT’s were the best on the level stretches as they were the fastest.Team Waswanipi felt that there was too much road and not enough bush on this year’s route. They modified their sled for this year’s race after learning more about the dynamics of a racing sled. At press time, they were planning to enter the Chibougamou Rally if their skidoos survived the Raid des Braves.
Race organizers said the problems encountered on the course are usually with racers’ equipment, not the racers themselves. Only one problem has ever arisen with the racers. It seemed one team went south from Lac St-Jean one year instead of north. They arrived at 10 at night instead of with the other racers.
This year, the race started at Lebel-sur-Quellivion and stopped at Amos for lunch. Next on the list was Matagami to end the first day of this gruelling race. The next day, they swung back to Lebel-sur-Quevillion and on to Chapais for lunch, and then on to Mistissini. The following day was a little lighter; they only had to get to Chibougamau. The last stage was Chibougamau to St-Felicien.
Teams are composed of three racers and one must carry a sled with required equipment. All team members must stay together throughout the race.