ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - 6:45 p.m. Update:
Joar Ulsom is leading the charge out of Koyuk but he is being closely followed by Nicolas Petit who left just 20 minutes behind him.
Ulsom rested in Koyuk for nearly five hours before leaving at 5:52 p.m. with 12 dogs in harness. Petit rested for just over four hours and left with 11 dogs in harness 21 minutes later.
According to the Iditarod's GPS tracker, Petit is just three miles behind Ulsom.
The two leading teams will now head toward Elim and Golovin before arriving at White Mountain. Race rules dictate that mushers must rest in White Mountain for eight hours before making the final push to Nome.
4:15 p.m. Update:
The dynamic nature of mushing on the Bering Sea coast was on display Monday morning as Nicolas Petit traveled off-course and was leapfrogged by Joar Ulsom.
Mitch Seavey pulled into Koyuk almost three hours behind Ulsom and two hours behind Petit.
A day earlier in Unalakleet, Petit spoke to a Channel 2 crew about the strength of his team. "I already know we have a fast dog team, we don't get passed too much."
At the time, Petit said he had only been passed by Mitch Seavey and Linwood Fiedler who had a "really good looking team."
It's often a practice that mushers fly a lighter sled to the coastal checkpoint for the final stretch to Nome but interestingly Petit did not have another sled to swap out in Unalakleet.
When asked whether he would make an adjustment heading up the coast, Petit reiterated his commitment to not planning ahead. "I am an adjustment, I never do the same thing." "I read the weather, I read the dogs and hope for the best."
Petit told Channel 2 in Unalakleet that snow had improved the trail from Kaltag. A day later, Petit told an Iditarod insider crew that the trail had lots of snow and you need to be "careful what you wish for."
When asked about his confidence heading to Nome, Petit pointedly said that "extra confidence is arrogance" and the teams were still "a long way from Nome."
2:30 p.m. Update:
Nicolas Petit has pulled into Koyuk over an hour behind race leader Joar Ulsom.
Petit appears to have taken the wrong trail on the Bering Sea coast, costing him valuable time as he needed to backtrack. Ulsom was able to overtake Petit and pull into Koyuk at 1:01 p.m.
Petit arrived into Koyuk at 2:10 p.m. with 11 dogs on the line. The trip from Shaktoolik took 13 hours and 1 minute for Petit compared to 8 hours and 13 minutes for Ulsom.
Meanwhile, defending champion Mitch Seavey is 12 miles outside of the Koyuk checkpoint, according to Iditarod's GPS tracker.
1:15 p.m. Update:
Norwegian Joar Ulsom is the first musher to arrive at the Koyuk checkpoint after leapfrogging Nicolas Petit.
Ulsom arrived with 13 dogs in harness at 1:01 p.m. According to the Iditarod's GPS tracker, Nicolas Petit is just over 10 miles behind Ulsom with 12 dogs on the line. Defending champion Mitch Seavey is a further 10 miles back with 10 dogs in harness.
Ulsom leapfrogged Petit for the race lead after it appears that the French musher took a wrong turn on the sea ice around 8:00 a.m. Petit was forced to backtrack, allowing Ulsom to catch up and overtake him coming into Koyuk.
Mark Nordman, the Idtiarod's race director, explained that becoming disoriented on the coast is a common occurrence for mushers as storms can create whiteout conditions that make it impossible to see a team's leaders, let alone the trail ahead.
11 a.m. Update:
After apparently veering off the path headed towards the Koyuk checkpoint, French musher Nic Petit has lost the lead in the 2018 Iditarod race, and is now racing to catch up with Norway's Joar Ulsom.
At some point around the midway distance between Shaktoolik and Koyuk, Petit seemed to steer his course towards land rather than the sea ice, according to the Iditarod's GPS locations. He then had to backtrack over the distance he had run, and correct his course towards the checkpoint.
During this period, musher Mitch Seavey, also among those realistically vying for the championship, was resting where Petit had previously rested his dogs.
Now, Petit is rushing to catch Ulsom, with neither musher having reached the Koyuk checkpoint yet.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
The leading three mushers have left the Shaktoolik checkpoint and are headed to Koyuk early Monday morning.
According to the Iditarod's official check in time, Nicolas Petit, Bib 46, left at 1 a.m. Mar. 12. Behind him were mushers Mitch Seavey and Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who left Shaktoolik at 3:43 a.m. and 4:48 a.m., respectively.
According to the Iditarod's GPS tracking system, Seavey and Petit are tied almost exactly for first place.
Two mushers checked in to Shaktoolik just as Seavey and Ulsom were leaving. According to the Iditarod official times, Ray Redington Jr. checked in at 4:30 this morning, and Pete Kaiser checked in one minute later, at 4:31 a.m.
Behind these five, the mushing pack has definitely thinned compared to previous days, with many mushers only grouped up near one or two others, with the pack evenly spread out between most checkpoints.