LOWELL, Mass. — The Human Dog Sled Competition at Lowell’s annual “WinterFest” is sort of like regular dog sled races. Except instead of dogs, four people strap on harnesses to pull sleds carrying two more people. It’s a drag race for two teams at a time down a straight track of snow piled up in the middle of Arcand Drive in front of City Hall.
“It’s for the young and not faint of heart,” says Arthur Sutcliffe, who serves on the event’s finance committee as well as being the Human Dog Sled Competition’s finish line judge.
You might think the key to human dog sled racing is being, say, strong. “It doesn’t matter. You fall halfway down the track and you’re out,” Sutcliffe says. “It’s teamwork. You all got to be on the same page together. If you’re not, you’re all over the place.”
The 13th annual “WinterFest” had been scheduled for two weekends earlier, but got postponed to this weekend because the blizzard inconveniently got in the way of the winter activities. The Human Dog Sled Competition is the highlight. Basically any team that gets together the entry fee and paperwork can race. This year, some 24 teams signed up. Some sled competitors came costumed during Friday night’s race — Dalmatians, Little Red Riding Hood — but teams just came to run on “Championship Saturday” yesterday. Hundreds stood along the hay bales lining the track to watch.
The competition is double elimination, meaning you’re not out until you lose twice. In the finals, it came down to two undefeated teams representing Uppercut Landscaping and Wentworth Institute of Technology. In this matchup, Uppercut won. But with one loss, Wentworth remained in the competition and beat representatives of the Lowell Nor’Easter semi-pro football team, eliminating them. So Wentworth and Uppercut faced off in a rematch. This time Wentworth won, giving Uppercut their first loss in two years. But they’d have to do it twice in a row. In the final sprint, Uppercut’s sled crossed the orange finish line first, winning the competition.
Uppercut is named for the landscaping company run by team members Jack Wallace and Jack Maloney. The rest of the crew includes Allan Fagundes, Andrew Marasa, Matt Donlan and Conor Donovan.
Uppercut’s secret? “No preparation,” Fagundes says. “No sleep the night before,” adds Wallace. And Fagundes says, “Being from Lowell.”