Polar Race 2005

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Polar Race 2005 News

23 April 2022 - Northern Stars finally home

Northern Stars in the checkpoint tent
chatting to fellow racers – © Mike Whiteside

This has not been a good leg for Northern Stars (David Aston, Charlie Newington-Bridges and Alex Williams), our first leg winners. Illness was a big factor, as first Alex Williams went down with the dreaded "lurgy" which caused them to stop for a day followed almost immediately by a bout of illness for Charlie Newington-Bridges. Finally, Alex's sledge found a large rock to go over which did not help its appearance or shape!

They are, however, a highly disciplined, competitive bunch so we expect them to make a strong showing on the third leg.

The only team not yet in is the Ikey Icemen, our steadfast South African team, who at 9pm were 8 miles from the finish of the second leg and still going. They are expecting to arrive at Checkpoint 2 in Cator Harbour at about 3am and are already announcing their intention of going straight into the start of the third leg tomorrow afternoon. Doctor Mike will have the final decision on whether they are up to it, or need a longer rest.

After an exhausting second leg, we received the following (printable) quotes from those few competitors not sound asleep.

"We are now in total agreement with all our friends and family who told us we were going to be putting ourselves through sheer madness."
Neways Polar Team.

"Tougher than getting a table at the Ivy." (a well known and very popular Central London restaurant)
Gentlemen Adventurers.

"After 10 hours on the move Patrick felt strong until he realised he had left his sledge behind (just kidding)."
Pole Position

"Just after burning a hole in the tent, I realised that I seem to be learning everything the hard way."
— Anonymous

22 April 2022 - Race for second place produces tight finish

Just one minute separated second and third place finishers on the second leg of the Polar Race for the Wedgwood Blue Ice Trophy.

Arrival of Pole Position – © Mike Whiteside

Surprise second place finishers at Checkpoint 2, north of Bathurst Island, were the mixed team, Pole Position of Patrick "Rambo" Keatinge, Clare Winnick, Helen Lee from Australia and Kevin Dixon who is a diabetic. Back in 5th place at the end of the first leg and a day behind the first four teams, they gelled this time to beat more fancied teams and to prove that good teamwork really does pay.

One minute! Yes, only one minute after 130 miles and six and a half days racing in the most extreme environment in the world, separated them from their pursuers in 3rd place; the Cable & Wireless Polar Team of Steve Wright and Simon Elmont.

Six hours later, Gentlemen Adventurers, James Laban and Will Morton, finished in 4th place.

Late this evening, Northern Stars, David Aston, Charlie Newington-Bridges and Alex Williams, became the 5th team in to Checkpoint 2.

All teams on the last day had battled on through whiteout conditions, endorsing once again the quality of training and just how far they have come in mastering the conditions.

21 April 2022 - Victory for Neways

Justin Packshaw and Christina Franco of
Neways Polar Team – © Mike Whiteside

The UK/Italian team of Justin Packshaw and Christina Franco showed a clean pair of heels to their opposition in the second leg of Polar Race 2005. They had come 3rd in the first leg, beaten by Northern Stars and Cable & Wireless Polar Team who this leg succumbed to the dreaded Resolute flu bug and the shocking polar bear encounter.

This in no way should take away from the Neways Polar Team as Christina was suffering from flu before the start in Resolute which hindered them in the first leg. They were strong all the way through, employed the right tactics, and thoroughly deserved their win.

Both the Cable & Wireless Polar Team and the real revelation on this leg, the mixed team ofPole Position, are expected in late this evening which means that Neways Polar Team will have built a cushion of over 24 hours.

Still a long way to go though!

20 April 2022 - Pole Position

The surprise package of the second leg is the Pole Position team who are now simply flying along and currently occupy second place in the leg.

(Left to right) Clare Winnick, Kevin Dixon, Helen Lee and
Patrick Keatinge of Pole Position – © Paul Theobald

"First amongst equals" is Clare Winnick. Her size caused quite a headache for our equipment expert Neill Williams as almost every item of clothing had to be specially ordered for her or made to measure. Small she may be, but she is like a pocket battleship packing quite a punch for her size with a steely resolve to match.

Then there is Yorkshire business man, Kevin Dixon, who is a diabetic. Kevin is using a unique insulin pump developed by Roche Diagnostics without which his participation in the race would probably just not be possible. Kevin's performance will give hope to millions and prove that if you have the will, anything is possible.

The third member of the team is Irish Australian Helen Lee, a former stuntwoman who gave up her job in Australia to take part in the Polar Race. Like Clare, she is a woman of iron determination. When she gets to the finish she will be the first Australian woman to walk to a Northern "Pole". I sincerely hope the Australian public and press will properly recognise her achievement when she does.

Last but by no means least is gentle giant Patrick "Rambo" Keatinge; an Oxford graduate and BP employee. Patrick is one of those very caring souls whom you could trust with anybody and someone who I would always want on my team in any expedition!

Late this evening Neways Polar Team made it in to Checkpoint 2, to claim first place in Leg 2 of Polar Race 2005. More on this tomorrow.

19 April 2022 - Neways Polar Team

Justin Packshaw and Christina Franco of
Neways Polar Team – © Paul Theobald

Neways Polar Team currently have a commanding leading in the second leg of the Polar Race, 15 miles ahead of their nearest rivals Pole Position.

The Neways Polar Team is made up of two old friends, Justin Packshaw and Christina Franco.

Born in Malta, Justin is a former soldier and is very much an entrepreneur. He has sailed round the world and was for a time the liaison officer for the Times in the Round the World Clipper Challenge. He is very, very fit, and a honorable, nice, man. The phrase "an officer and a gentleman" is one you would readily apply to Justin!

Christina is a guide in her native Italy, but in fact spends a lot of her time travelling the world employing her many talents: from photography to writing. Christina has a warm bubbly personality and is a joy to have around. She is writing a book after the race.

They are a formidable combination.

18 April 2022 - North of Bathurst

A truly beautiful Arctic day for the racers — no wind and bright sunshine as high pressure pushed its way into the region.

Support crew at Checkpoint 2
– © Paul Theobald

Today we sent in the Checkpoint 2 support crew, headed by Steve Pinfield to the Checkpoint 2 location, north of Bathurst Island. They have something to live up to after the efforts of the Checkpoint 1 support crew at Polaris. Knowing Steve however, he will set new standards.

Alex Williams – © Alex Williams

Out on the racecourse the flu bug is still doing its rounds, with Alex Williams now suffering. Elsewhere the Cable & Wireless Polar Team is back up and running after their recent ordeal, and Pole Position have pushed into second place, which will delight them.

Tomorrow we feature our current leg leaders, Neways Polar Team.

17 April 2022 - Polar Bear Encounter

Sadly, the Cable & Wireless Polar Team of Steve Wright and Simon Elmont had to shoot a polar bear as it clawed its way into their tent last night.

All contestants are made fully aware that we are the intruders into the bears' environment and given extremely thorough training in the many ways of scaring a bear away. Despite all this, very occasionally the worst happens. The two Channel Islands contestants were put into an impossible situation and had no other choice.

In the unnerving circumstances they reacted coolly and shot the bear despite having to struggle out of their sleeping bags. They informed Polar Race Base Camp immediately and the proper authorities were informed.

They were subsequently advised to move away from the area. This they did, through the night, and have spent the rest of the day recovering from the ordeal and repairing their split tent. As both are still recovering from flu it was an exhausting experience.

Both Steve and Simon are well, and are continuing in the race.

Steve Wright and Simon Elmont of C&W Polar Team
before the start of the race – © Paul Theobald

16 April 2022 - Another Whiteout

After several days of blissful sunshine, the weather turned again today, with whiteout conditions slowing down all our competitors on their way north from Little Cornwallis Island to Polar Bear Pass.

The good news is that there is an area of high pressure building to the west of the competitors which should mean better weather by Monday.

The competitors are still on relatively flat new sea ice but they will shortly move into older sea ice which means more rubble and slower going.

Arctic Sea Ice (when the visibility is good!) – © Simon Elmont / Steve Wright

The re-supply plane returned from Checkpoint 1 today with messages from the racers. The Leg 1 winners, Northern Stars, reported: "We didn't know that four teams were neck and neck with 15 nautical miles to the Polaris checkpoint, but we decided to get up at 3am and make a push. We arrived twenty minutes ahead of the second placed team, despite striving into 40mph headwinds and near zero visibility, not to mention sub -25°C temperatures. David [Aston]'s performance on the last leg was particularly impressive given he was sick that night and travelled on empty. What a man!"

Finally, our quartermaster Simon Marshall flew back home today. He left us with a short story about race organiser Jock Wishart's cooking prowess! Read it here.

15 April 2022 - Checkpoints

Leg 2 of Polar Race 2005 started today at 2pm sharp, from Checkpoint 1, with five of the teams setting off on their way to Checkpoint 2, north of Bathurst Island some 130 miles away — the longest and hardest leg of the race.

The South African Ikey Icemen team decided to take advantage of their permitted rest period of 24 hours rather than start with the other teams, and will resume racing early tomorrow morning. As they have picked up pace recently this could well be a good tactical ploy.

We have been asked by a number of people what we mean by "checkpoints" and how they apply to the Polar Race.

When the Polar Race was originally conceived it was decided that it would be too much to ask contestants who were, in the main, Polar novices to undertake the whole race unsupported and hence they would have to be resupplied. At the same time we needed to put in safety cover for the contestants and to some extent influence the route they would take (to make it as safe as possible and avoid known danger areas) as well as making sure they were properly rested. Hence, the idea of manned checkpoints was born.

In the Polar Race there are three checkpoints between the Start in Resolute Bay and the Finish at the 1996 certified position of the North Magnetic Pole. This was the position of the Magnetic Pole certified and measured by David Hempleman-Adams and Jock Wishart for the Canadian authorities in their Ultimate Challenge expedition of 1996 when the first group of polar novices was taken to a pole.

Polar Race Checkpoints

Each checkpoint is strategically placed and at each the contestants are required to stop for a minimum period to rest and be resupplied.

As the race is about accumulated time between checkpoints, time spent at checkpoints is not included in the race time and where possible the contestants are restarted enmasse at the end of the rest period.

The first, CP1, is near the site of the old Polaris mine. This is about 60 miles from Resolute and is normally on new ice and therefore quite flat and is considered a good introduction to the race.

The second, CP2, is just North of Bathurst island and is the longest leg but easily navigable over the island. It also marks the start of the most difficult leg to navigate, where the contestants are completely out of sight of land.

The third, CP3, is at King Christian Island, the only landmark between Bathurst Island and Ellef Ringnes Island.

In each case the exact location of the checkpoint is where the Twin Otter plane containing the re-supply team can find sea ice flat enough to put down. The contestants are then informed of the exact co-ordinates where they then navigate to.

The plane drops off the Checkpoint Support Crew, re-supply kit and personal messages for the teams before the first racers arrive. Then, after the racers have left the checkpoint, another plane comes in from Polar Race Base Camp to transport the Support Crew and a new set of re-supply kit and messages to the next checkpoint.

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