Explorer seeks a Pole position
ENDURANCE expert Andrew Barnett faces an important test this Saturday in his bid to join a history-making six-man rowing expedition to the North Magnetic Pole.
The 51-year-old Monmouth Rowing Club champion from Staunton has been short-listed to become the sixth member of Jock Wishart's crew on a 450-mile record-breaking Arctic challenge.
The challenge will take between four and six weeks, starting from Resolute Bay in Canada.
The vessel has never been tried and the voyage has never been undertaken before. It is only believed possible now due to a seasonal ice melt.
On Saturday, Barnett will join 43 other British contenders on a two-and-a-half hour session on an Ergo rowing machine at Eton Rowing Centre, site of the 2012 Olympic games. He will be allowed just 150-seconds of rest per hour.
He will also undergo a range of group interviews and psychometric tests.
"I train on an Ergo machine anyway, but I've never had a psychometric test," he said.
"I would imagine they'd test strength of character and whether I'm a leader or a follower. I'd say mental toughness is 50 per cent of the challenge. When you're in a confined space in the middle of an ocean you must be able to cope with your situation or to defuse any conflicts."
The journey is a fraction of the 2,931 miles he rowed with Guatemalan Juan Carlos Sagastume in the 2005 Atlantic Rowing Race, from the Canaries to Antigua. The pair narrowly survived a shark attack 300 miles from the finish to come seventh in their class.
"This time I'd say our greatest wildlife danger would be from polar bears," he said.
Barnett is no stranger to Arctic conditions. He lost the tip of a finger from frostbite while completing the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a running race which he won in 2004.
"It was -45C and I learned my lesson about wrapping up when it's so blinking cold. You really need to look after yourself in the Arctic."
Barnett's most recent achievements include setting a new course record in the Boston Marathon in Lincolnshire, winning a gold at the Henley Regatta, and becoming a national rowing champion in two age-group categories.
He said: "Many explorers carry on well into their 50s and even 60s, and I'm not worried about my age. Your mental resilience increases with experience and as long as I'm physically fit, age works in my favour."
Barnett will find out at the London Boat Show in January whether he has won his crew place for the August 2011 challenge. If he doesn't, he has a fall-back plan.
"I'll cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats instead, as that's something I've always wanted to do."