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Husky team heads north

A TEAM of 15 husky dogs from the Sussex Coast have started their training for a 200-mile race across the Italian Alps.

Husky TeamStephen Wightwick and Malcolm Goodwin, from Eastbourne, are preparing their six Alaskan dogs and nine Siberian Huskies to travel to Sweden to prepare for the Alpen-Trail 2008. The race is scheduled to take place in January but Stephen, who works as an IT manager, says they have been training hard all year.

He said, ‘This summer has been all go with regards to overseas preparation. All the un-passported dogs needed to have pets passports issued by our local vet and the van needed to be re-fitted to accommodate the dogs. We also needed to buy sleds, sled equipment, rope to make new lines, harnesses, dog booties, jackets and appropriate clothing for us.’

The dogs started their training in Friston Forest at the end of September and can usually be spotted early in the morning, as the animals prefer the lower temperatures.

The Eastbourne team, named Winterpaws, will soon be off to the colder climates of Sweden, where they hope to be training in very low temperatures. Stephen said, ‘There is no humidity, it's all frozen. And if Sweden doesn't have snow, nowhere will.’

The early part of training will include all 15 dogs being hooked to an all terrain vehicle, which weighs 180kg plus the weight of Malcolm and Stephen.

Stephen said, ‘The ATV runs will be for four weeks and each run will be four miles, this is to build up the dogs' muscle tone.

‘But Sweden is where the real fun begins. I've only had some experience on a sled, but Malc has none. So in the first couple of days, I'm going to be re-gaining my experience on the sled, while teaching Malc how to ride.’

The Winterpaws team will leave the UK by Eurotunnel on December 17 and hope to reach Sweden and begin their training two days later.

They will then go on to Cortina, Italy, on January 9, and take part in the Alpen-Trail.

Malcolm has also been using the dogs to raise money for charity. Rides in Friston Forest have raised more than £600 for children's charity, Leo House.