Packing for Antarctica

Packing for Antarctica

A few people have asked me how I prepare and pack for a trip to Antarctica.

Firstly, I have been extremely lucky as I have worked on the frozen continent many times in the past seven years, the forthcoming trip will be my 12th visit. I know, bonkers isn’t it and a real privilege!

I have learnt some tricks of the trade when travelling to such a harsh climate – for extremely cold conditions, layering clothing is the real key to working in comfort. There’s one piece of advice I was told on my first trip: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” I think it’s a phrase those hardy souls in Scandinavia came up with, but it’s just as relevant in Antarctica.

My clothing consist of the following: base layers, mid/insulated layer (lightweight down jacket), full-faced balaclava’s x 2, goggles, gloves x 2 and mittens, arctic boots, a buff and finally an outer or shell layer (the weather proof natural down parka is the best you can get) Also a must are the sun glasses, lip balm and sun cream.

I also pack several zip-up sandwich bags and some foil roll, useful for keeping the batteries warm whilst out filming, also pretty handy for any hot nibbles I might find in the camps mess tent before heading out.

This year my camera equipment will include: the Sony FS5, Sony A7S II, Mavic Air drone, tripod, top light, an assortment of Sony microphones and the Mac laptop – looking at all the gear, I should really have got Sony to sponsor me! All that equipment, clothing and other essentials go into two large waterproof bags along with a wheelie peli case for my hand luggage.

This year there are 55 competitors who will be taking part in the Antarctic Ice Marathon, so I look for interesting characters; there are always people with an intriguing back-story.

But perhaps strangest of all, I also prepare mentally for this trip; the days before heading off I turn the shower to cold for the last minute before stepping out. I know it’s masochistic but it seems to help me adjust, although my son doesn’t half give me funny looks as I leave the bathroom wrapped in a warm bathrobe still with my teeth chattering and my knees knocking!

 

Extreme Ironing – Myth or Reality

Over two decades  HUTC has been covering and celebrating unusual sports, traditions, festivals and competitions. We are frequently asked what is the most peculiar of all.

There are certainly many candidates but just one outright winner and that is Extreme Ironing. This bizarre activity was to take us on a surreal journey over several years and over a decade after it’s emergence, it is something that intrigues people who ponder whether it was fact or fiction.

The ‘sport’ was devised by Phil Shaw and it combines extreme sports like rock climbing, riding bikes with the mundane domestic chore of ironing.

‘Steam’, as he is known, came home one day from his day job to a pile of ironing.  Being a keen rock climber he found the rumpled clothes less than a challenge, so decided to inject a bit of risk into this mundane chore.  

One small step for Phil, one giant leap for ironing. Steam recruited others and the first tentative steps were taken towards the formation of a new sport. In 2002 it had it’s first and as it turned out, the only World Extreme Ironing Championships just outside Munich in Germany. To say there was a media scrum would be an understatement and soon news of the event spread across the globe. It was only fitting that the title was won by Steam and his GB teammates who fortunately we had been following.

As it turned out, this was just the start of our long journey with Extreme Ironing. There are many highlights, not least the US Extreme Ironing Tour which was great fun organised by a team from Iron manufacturer Rowenta.  From a Boston Duck Tour to a Satellite Broadcast into Breakfast shows all across the East Coast of the US, it culminated in Times Square  with an appearance on Good Morning America!

 

 

Largely due to a photographic competition run by Phil’s team ‘The Extreme Ironing Board’ of course on his website (this was pre- social media), the sport quickly gained near cult status.  

Since then, Extreme Ironing has since disappeared but there is a lingering sense of whether it as myth or reality and perhaps this is why it has never completely gone away,  as this recent story from LadBible demonstrates.

  

 

Motoball – when two great sports collide

It is always a challenge finding new sports to cover, so I was excited to discover Motoball. Put simply, Motoball is the game of football on motorbikes.

In the UK there hasn’t been a team for nearly 50 years so UK Motoball hosted this exhibition match at the Dirt Bike show as a way to showcase the sport to drive a resurgence, recruit and build a team for 2019; The  European Motoball Championship, to be hosted in Germany. 

Whilst league, national and international matches are played on a full size football pitch, mostly outside, this exhibition match was played on an indoor pitch some half size, so play was restricted to 3 motorcyclists to each team with a goalkeeper who is on foot protected by a 6-meter D shaped area around his goal, this is off-limits to riders.

 

Known as one of the fastest team sports in the World, Motoball is exhilarating to watch and is great for spectators. The riders accelerate up and down the pitch at speed; expert manoeuvrability skills, lightning-fast reflexes and nerves of steel are the keys to outscoring your opponents. The gear changes are controlled from the handlebar, leaving the feet to carry and control the ball. Contact is however an integral part of this sport but excessive force is managed using a traffic light system of cards by the referee, similar to ice hockey with varying degrees of time in a sin bin, or ultimately to be sent off. Camaraderie is a strong element of this sport off the pitch, but during games rivalry is fierce in the pursuit of goals and glory.

 

With Motoball popular in many parts of Europe, it has a bright future. As a result of our news piece which on one platform alone got over 47 million views , UK interest has surged so it won’t be long before the UK once again finds its glory days.  For anyone who is looking for an exciting Sponsorship opportunity NOW is the time to get involved, so please feed back any interest.

 

Punters love a firm bottom

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to cover this quintessential British event – the Punting Championships.

It has to be said that this is one of the most graceful of all river sports. Punting of course has a long history on the river Thames with the earliest record of this Championship dating back to 1846. Aside from interruptions in the war years, and a break in the 1970s, this event marks 133 years of the championships.

It’s is a sport which pits single or double punts against each other in two-boat races along courses of 400 to 600 yards. They are essentially flat bottom boats, so long strong stokes are required to move the punt forward using the long poles, but the skill is keeping a straight course.

Punters need to be aware of conditions both above and below the water; the wind, wake from other river traffic as well as what lies beneath as the poles can hit differing material on the river bed such as soft ground, gravel, stones or even submerged obstacles.

Punting is a skilled sport that requires patience in order to learn how to react to the river and maintain control. It’s a lot of fun, especially for those who like messing about on the river!

 

The greatest show on turf!

They say it gets easier the more times you do it – I am not sure that’s right.

It was the 20th time that I had covered this unique race but I have to say camping in a field with 43 lawn mowers racing around can leave you lacking some sleep. My 13 year old son loved it – what’s not to like…. speed, engines, racing, crazy wonderful people… and yes …..the camping bit!

 

 

Motor sport doesn’t get much stranger than lawn mower racing, but to its hard-core devotees it is so much more than just a weekend pastime.

43 teams lined up for the highlight of the British and World’s Lawn Mower sporting calendar – the annual 12 hour Endurance Race – in the English village of Five Oaks.

This race is the pinnacle of the sports surprisingly busy racing calendar, and this year newbies to the sport and seasoned drivers alike, battled through the night to claim top honours.

At 8 pm Jim Gavin, the founder of lawn mower racing in 1973, lowered the flag to the delight of race goers who came along to see this very British spectacle.

The race commenced with the traditional Le Mans grid formation with the drivers running to their machines for the start. Prior to the start, a water bowser was set to work dampening the circuit to minimise dust, after the hot dry conditions but this made the circuit very slippery for the initial laps before it dried out. As darkness descended the circuit becomes a sea of light and the night is punctuated by mower headlamps streaking past and the distinctive hum of the machines.

12 hours of racing is hard enough, but the majority of the race is completed in darkness to make it technically more of a challenge, with each team fielding three drivers who swap around to combat fatigue, there is also a support team in the pits.

As dusk turned to night, the pit lanes became a hive of activity as mowers came in for refuelling, driver changeover, cleaning and repairs. Many breakdowns ensued but amazingly, most of the mowers were still in the race as the hours marched past.

5 times champions the wonderfully named “Northerners Kick Grass” from West Yorkshire, led from the first lap and built up a 9-lap lead. But there was a twist this year – 20 minutes from the finish they experienced a catastrophic steering problem, which sent them into the pits for repairs and ended their dream of another win.

In the end the victorious team was number 2 – “Les Lux Pussies” a team from Luxembourg who made history as the first overseas team to win this prestigious event.  They completed 430 laps in the allotted 12 hours and as a bonus also achieved the fastest lap time of 1:30:14.

 It may not be Formula 1, but in the world of lawn mower racing it doesn’t get much better than this. But perhaps next year I’ll hire a campervan….might be a tad more comfortable.

Quidditch World Cup – a venture into a surreal sport

It was my fault entirely, I asked Richard Turkowitsch the rules of Quidditch (he’s the PR person for Team Austria and one of the commentators) – I knew I had made a mistake when he hadn’t drawn breath for ten minutes. But his passion and panache for the sport was astounding. 

I had had a nightmare of a journey getting to Florence, flying Vueling (avoid them if you can) were really awful – I won’t go into details as it’s it would take far too long, but suffice to say I got to the stunning Italian city a day late.

I didn’t know much about the sport of Quidditch. I knew it was adapted from the Harry Potter novels around twelve years ago but I was impressed how many countries were taking part in this World Cup – 29-teams from as far away as Iceland, Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Vietnam to name few. The first World Cup was held in Oxford in England back in 2012, when the United States took top honours, they won again in 2014 but the Aussies caught them  off guard to snatch victory two years ago in Frankfurt. 

This year’s tournament  was the biggest in the sports short history with over 800 players registered to compete.  

For those who don’t know – it’s like a cross between rugby and dodgeball and before you ask…..they don’t fly! The broom-sticks are replaced with a plastic tube which is shoved between their legs when they are in play.  I know, I know….…it does looks odd but it is fast paced and full contact.  Two teams of seven players compete, using four balls: three ‘bludgers’ used to momentarily knock opponents out of the contest and a ‘quaffle’ which a player can put through one of six ring-shaped goals to score.

Matches, well they last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. They are finished when the golden snitch – a tennis ball stuffed in a stocking worn by an independent player – is caught by a ‘seeker’. 

The snitch comes on after 18-minutes of play.  Each goal is awarded ten points and for the team that grabs the snitch, 30 points are awarded.  There are tons of other rules which I won’t bore you with – I can always send you in the direction of Richard Turkowitsch if you want to find out more! 

Each side must satisfy the gender rule where only a maximum of four players from either sex is allowed on the field at any one time.  

In the early rounds it was favourites USA and Australia who set the early pace, in the groups stages. The games were played in sweltering temperatures of between 33-35 degrees; each game which took its toll on the players and fans alike.

The in first semi-finals, “USA” beat “Team UK” to book their passage to their fourth (4th) final in a row. Underdogs Belgium, out played Turkey to gain a place in their first ever World Cup final.

The final between the USA and Belgium produced some quality Quidditch for the crowd of over 1000 people who mostly wanted Belgium to win – everyone loves the underdog don’t they!

Team USA scored some early goals and never really looked like losing the final.  It was left to their ‘seeker’ Harry Greenhouse to claim victory by grabbing the ‘snitch’ within minutes of it coming on. The final score was 120 for the USA against 70 for Belgium.

 In a sports world full of corporate sponsorship, diving football players etc it’s rather refreshing to see a bunch of adults running around with sticks between their legs having so much fun. Who needs fantasy football? 

  Still photos courtesy of Ajantha Abey

Speedgolf – “It’s golf Jim – But not as we know it….”

The British Speedgolf season has just kicked into life.  It’s a great sport to cover for many reasons. I normally book a couple of cameraman who chase the Speedgolfers during their round in golf buggies.  We were one of the first to use a drone at the British Open a few years back, which caused quite a stir, especially when British Speedgolf put out this shot on its social media!

Safety is paramount now for Drone operators (our drone guys are CAA register pilots before you ask) but this gives us some of the most unusual golf shots you will encounter.  Speedgolf provides a fast pace tournament with competitors set off at intervals playing 18 holes,  all over before lunch…what’s not to like!

The sport appeals to people who love their golf but can’t find the time to play with work and family commitments – plus those who enjoy running and having fun, there is a really nice sporting spirit at the events.

 Speedgolf offers a faster, more athletic version of the game, where a player can complete a full 18 holes in under 60 minutes, or 9 holes in under 25 minutes, by jogging between shots. The challenge for players is to balance their running pace with their ability to quickly and accurately play shots to get their lowest score possible as golf shots and time are combined for a Speedgolf score. 

With our increasingly sedate lifestyles, Speedgolf has health and fitness benefits as well. Playing nine holes at running pace can be fitted in to 25 – 40 minutes; players will jog two to three miles depending on their golf accuracy, take over 5000 steps and burn over 850 calories.

This year is an exciting year for this sport; a new international alliance has formed to include the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. In the UK a brand new Pairs Championship will be hosted at West Kent Golf Club  on 22  July, followed by the British Open Speedgolf Championships on 9  September at the prestigious Piltdown Golf Club in East Sussex – voted one of the top 50 golf clubs in England. With just 40 tees available at the latter, it is short odds to become a British Champion!

The sport is capturing the imagination of players across the globe and this October, the US will not only host their US Open Championship, but the World Championships will also a few days later in New York State. The UK is hoping to assemble a team! 

Here is a report from last year’s British Open Speedgolf Championships, registration for this year’s championships are open now  Enjoy!

 

World Cup Fever – Swamp Soccer madness

With the World Cup kicking off in Russia later this month, I thought I would delve into my archives for this week’s blog.

Blairmore in Scotland is a shade over 2,200 miles away from Moscow in Russia, but it might as well be Mars with regards to the beautiful game. It was back in June 2014 when the small Scottish village played host to the filthiest game of footy you are ever likely to see.

It was a pleasant enough journey, the location was on a remote peninsula in Argyll and Bute – just getting onto the old ferry across Loch Lomond all added to the adventure.

Normally when you arrive at a football match, you are greeted by overzealous members of security who after much huffing and puffing will finally thrust a lanyard around your neck. So, it was a convivial surprise when I turned up at the stadium, I say that, it was a dodgy looking field, to see the local farmer churning up the so-called pitch with his tractor and another guy holding a hose flooding the whole area. This could be a bit of fun I thought as I squelched my way back to my car, although I could have done with some wellies!

This so-called sport is fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It apparently originated in the swamps of Finland back in 2000; they found it to be an excellent means of training for cross-country skiing, apparently. Swamp soccer tournaments are held across the globe with countries such as Brazil, Turkey and China now getting involved.

Surprisingly, no training is required; but the player’s do require real guts, coordination, determination and an extremely good washing powder.

16 teams packing their home and away kits for a dirty weekend north of the border with names such as ‘Mud, Sweat & Beers’, ‘Mudwatch’, ‘Real Manky’ and ‘Whitby Walruses’  the tournament was always going to be fun affair.

The World Cup was open to everyone over the age of 17 years -old with teams of all male and mixed. Each team consisted of 6 players but teams could draw on an unlimited supply of substitutes throughout the match. Each match lasts 24 minutes and watching some of the better teams who had played before to skill was to keep their players moving all the time otherwise as ‘newbies’ found out you sink into the boggy pitch and can’t move.

The rules of the game are also a little bizarre. Players are prohibited from changing their shoes during the game and are advised to tape them onto their feet with duck or gaffer tape. Also corner kicks, penalties and throw-ins are taken by drop kick – I guess you can understand why 

Unlike the 2018 World Cup which is spread over 6 weeks, this quirky tournament only lasted two-days. In the mixed team final Turkish team ‘Erisim Istanbul’ lost on penalties (4-3) to ‘Yipee Ki Yay Mucky Fudders’ – I had to type that one carefully when filing back to our client.

In the Men’s final ‘Team AKA’, from Scotland, beat fellow countrymen ‘Deportivo Lack of Talent’ 3-1.

 

The Royal Wedding of Meghan & Harry

We Brits are pretty good at pomp and ceremony.

Being one of 5,000 journalists and media workers that had been accredited to cover the Royal Wedding my first thought was that it was going to be one hell of a long queue at security…. I was right – it took me nearly two hours to get the four wristbands that I needed.

 

Interest from the US media was enormous, whilst in the queue I was talking to a women from NBC who was one of over 230 that had been sent over to cover the event.  The mind boggles at what they all did! Still, the local hotels and restaurants were complaining.

My role for the event was working with the Japanese broadcaster Nippon TV during their two live hits.  We had an amazing ‘live’ position as it was inside the castle grounds, which gave them a great view of proceedings and fortunately all went tickety-boo.

 

For me one of the best moments was looking at all the faces of the assembled media listening to the most Reverend Michael Curry, the Afro-American leader of the Episcopal Church in the US.  His sermon was both passionate and entertaining,  although it did last rather too long, which meant that we had to push back one of their our live hits, but no real drama.

 

Not being a huge royalist, I had mixed views before the event but whatever our thoughts of the Royal family, the broadcasting of the Wedding across the globe was a magnificent advert for UK PLC; even the sun came out for the day ensuring proceedings looked even more splendid!

North Pole Marathon 2018

The two-hour flight from Spitsbergen is pretty uncomfortable as the Antonov plane that is used does not have many luxuries. These planes were built for Arctic work; they mainly shift goods around rather than athletes and members of the press. 

The marathon operates from a drifting Russian camp base at the Geographic North Pole –it is the only race in the World that is run on the waters of the frozen Arctic Sea ice.

Camp Barneo, otherwise known as the North Pole Camp is located approximately 49 kilometres from the top of the world. As I looked at my GPS watch I can quite clearly see that we were drifting about in the Arctic Ocean – northerly winds push the floating camp towards the southeast at up to 0.5mph – a little bit scary if you sit down and think about it.

Richard Donovan, the race organiser and all-round top geezer, marks the marathon course out around the camp.  This is for safety reasons; well you wouldn’t want to get lost out here that’s for sure.

The runners this year had to complete 10 laps but they were able to retreat into a refreshment tent every lap to regain body warmth and hydrate themselves with hot drinks and snacks. Everybody needs to protect their skin against the harsh conditions. Our clothing included a full faced balaclava, goggles, gloves and mittens, long johns and several layers of thermal clothing under a ‘shell’.

 

This year, 60 athletes from over 20 Nations took part; China had a significant entry with 13 athletes vying for glory.  The race started at 10:35 Sunday evening (15th April) with a temperature of ¯30° degrees Celsius. That time of year there is 24 hours of daylight, so it was a bright sunny outlook throughout the race.

Aside from the cold, competitors had to negotiate the energy-sapping soft snow and small ice pressure ridges to complete the race. Conditions were very tough underfoot, in places many had to slow their pace to avoid slipping and injury. As the race progressed temperatures dipped further to ¯33° degrees Celsius

This year’s winner was the wonderfully named Greek runner Argyrios Papathanasopoulos, transpires he’s an emergency physician now living and working in Halifax, England.

I was thrilled for my Aussie chum Marcus Fillinger who ran the race with two husky dogs called “Blue and Duro” as they now enter the record books becoming the World’s first dogs to complete the North Pole Marathon.

 

 

 

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