WHITEFIELD, N.H. (AP) – Carl Brown is at home in Whitefield, but his heart is on the trail in Alaska, where dog teams are pulling three sleds he built for racers in the Iditarod race.

Brown builds a new generation of dog sleds. They are lighter, more flexible and more durable than traditional sleds, and three of them are racing in the legendary 1,100-mile Iditarod mush across Alaska.

Defending champion Lance Mackey is using one of Brown’s sleds. Mackey is the son of Concord native Dick Mackey, who helped found the Iditarod and won it in 1978. Mackey was leading on Monday.

In dog sled circles, Brown is gaining a name for himself. Although he has designed and crafted dog sleds for nearly 20 years, his latest model, the Wolf Moon, is gaining fans.

“They have a softer feel – they’re very comfortable to drive,” said Matt Carstens, a musher who took third place last week in the Can Am Crown, a 250-mile run across northern Maine. “The design of this sled amazes me.”

Brown and his wife run Cherry Mountain Kennel, which provided his first experience with sled dog racing.

“I got the dogs, but I kept breaking sleds,” he said.

So he set about designing a sled that would resist destruction.

“There is no such thing as an unbreakable dog sled,” he said. But, apparently he’s getting close.

“The whole theory behind these sleds is it will bend against an impact and not break,” he said.

Brown uses white ash, which gives his sleds a traditional look. But composite materials, such as Kevlar and carbon fiber, have significantly lightened the sled, from the typical 50 pounds to just over 37 pounds.

Brown met Mackey last fall when Mackey attended a dog sled trade show at the Hopkinton Fairgrounds.

“I heard he was coming east and I just thought to myself that I was going to have to go down and get this guy on one of my sleds,” he said.

The lightness of the sled and the strong, yet flexible composite materials were not lost on Mackey, Brown said.

“Last year in the Iditarod (which Mackey won), he broke a runner and ran 200 miles on just one,” Brown said.

Mackey placed an order for the sled and ran it in the Yukon Quest in February. Mackey won, and Brown’s phone started ringing.

“I got two orders from Alaska in one day,” Brown said. “They had seen Lance’s sled.”

One of those calls came from Mackey’s friend, Hugh Neff.

“He wanted to know if I could build another one of those sleds,” Brown said. It was delivered to Neff two days before the start of the Iditarod.

The third musher in this year’s Iditarod using a Brown-built sled is Rachael Scdoris, who, in 2005, became the first legally blind person to compete in the race.

Brown has had no contact with the mushers since the race began on March 1. He said he is very anxious to talk with Mackey, Neff and Scdoris.

“I want to know if anything fell off or broke,” he said.

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On the Web: www.iditarod.com



Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader, http://www.unionleader.com

AP-ES-03-10-08 1331EDT


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