The two men powering their way to the Arctic to raise money for UK Scouts
Most people spend their summer holidays lounging on the beach. Rob McArthur and Poldy van Lynden will spend theirs running, swimming, cycling and rowing nearly 5,000 kilometres from the heart of London to the edge of Arctic to raise money for UK Scouts.
This Friday, after three years of preparation, the two men will set off from London on the first leg of the expedition – running the equivalent of three marathons in three days – to reach Dover on the south coast. They expect about 30 people will be there to see them off, including a few Scouts.
“It’s been a long, long journey,” McArthur says over the phone from London. “Definitely, it’s not been a smooth ride to the start line. Once we start, we can almost relax and just get on with it.”
McArthur and van Lynden are embarking on the kind of challenge that might make even an Ironman wince, but they hope to raise more than GBP100,000 for the Scouts Association. Pledges have already reached more than GBP31,000.
McArthur was a Cub as a boy, but he didn’t stay on in the Movement. Poldy grew up in a remote part of Scotland, and while he spent much of his childhood outside in the wilds he wasn’t a Scout because there were no groups nearby.
Nevertheless, both are convinced Scouting offers an inspiring programme that not only enables young people to have fun in the outdoors, but also nurtures skills for life.
“It encourages young people to explore and have adventures in the outdoors and that’s important to us,” McArthur says. “Anything that keeps kids outside and away from technology is a good thing.”
Arch2Arctic is, “an incredible expedition that will test the team to the limits – and raising funds for the Scouts is such a powerful way to change many young lives,” says Bear Grylls, UK Chief Scout.
At Dover, McArthur and van Lynden will face the most daunting part of their expedition – swimming the English Channel, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Even in June the water is cold and weather unpredictable, and the current can increase the length of the crossing to well beyond the usual 30 kilometres. They estimate it’ll take at least 13 hours to reach France.
“The channel is the toughest part by a long way,” says van Lynden. The two have dedicated much of their training to learning how to swim in the open sea, acclimatise to the cold water and build their strength and confidence in the water. “We’ve been turning ourselves into long distance athletes.”
In France, they’ll collect their bikes and cycle through northern Europe towards Tromsø some 3,500 kilometres away in Norway. They’ll put their bikes on the ferry and kayak between Germany and Denmark, and later from Denmark to Sweden. Then they’ll cycle across the border to Norway and pass around fjords and mountains on the way to Tromsø, camping on the way. The two estimate it’ll taken one million pedal revolutions to get there.
“Rob and Poldy are undertaking an incredible challenge in aid of a brilliant cause,” says Helen Glover, twice an Olympic champion and a UK Scout ambassador. “As a rower and Scout myself, I could not wish them more luck.”
The two have been training hard to give the expedition every chance of success, spending evenings, weekends and mornings before work honing their swimming and rowing skills and improving their fitness. They’ll be documenting their progress on social media.
In the final leg – rowing 80 kilometres across the open sea – McArthur and van Lyden will need to call on all their skills, and strength. Three seas meet in the area – the Barents Sea, Greenland Sea and Norwegian Sea – the water is cold, and weather unpredictable. Massive waves, gale force winds and thick fog are all a risk. And there might be polar bears.
By the time they row into Longyearbyen in Svalbard, it should be the end of August and the team will have covered nearly 5,000 kilometres under their own steam. From an idea that once seemed impossible, and almost got derailed when McArthur came down with glandular fever last year, successfully completing the challenge is likely to be a hugely emotional moment.
“I don’t dare to think too much about how it will feel,” van Lyden says. “It’s going to be incredible.”
All photos by Dave Bird/The Scout Association