"A sailor and a mountaineer! Well, at least there's one of us who knows what they're doing"

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The Nordkapp 2004 Team:

Rona Cant: round-the-world yachtswoman
Cathy O'Dowd: high-altitude mountaineer
Per-Thore Hansen: Norwegian dog-racer

Meet the team and hear the tale post-expedition...
Venue: Travellers Club in Pall Mall
Date: Thursday 13 May 2004
Time: 18.30 to 21.00

Rona Cant and Cathy O'Dowd.
Rona Cant

In her late 40s Rona decided to abandon her old way of life and seek the adventure she had always craved. Since then she has successfully circumnavigated the world in the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race 2000-2001 despite a major crash in Wellington.
In July 2001 Rona was evacuated out of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island 15k from the 77k Trail end. This is one of the world’s ten toughest trails.
In April 2003 Rona was on the winning yacht in the Round Britain Challenge.

Her first book A Challenge Too Far? was published in October 2003. It is the story of Rona’s experience of the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race 2000-2001 – The World’s Toughest Yacht Race.
Rona works as a professional speaker sharing with corporations the lessons she learnt on board and how they directly co-relate to the challenges in the business world today.

Rona is British, 55 years old, divorced with two grown-up children and lives in Oxford. She has a Diploma in Private Secretaryship and graduated with a BA Hons in English and Geography from Oxford Brookes University in 1998.
Rona started sailing in 1994 and after a total of one month’s sailing had an interview with Sir Chay Blyth for the BT Global Challenge. She was one of 180 out of 4-5,000 applicants to gain a place on the Race, 15% of whom were to drop out and need replacing. The route was the ‘wrong way’ round the world i.e. against the prevailing winds and currents and was that first sailed by Sir Chay Blyth 30 years earlier.
Two days after returning from the Race Rona flew to Canada to embark on her next adventure. The West Coast Trail is also known as the Shipwreck Trail and it takes 10 hours to cover 10k. Rona met the bears at the beginning of the trail, met the Indians and had the company of a cougar as she waited to be evacuated out.
Rona was successful in the selection process to gain a place on the Round Britain Challenge and utilised the skills learnt on the Global Challenge to help win the Race.

Why does Rona want to spend two weeks crossing 650 kilometres of Arctic wilderness behind a team of dogs?

“I spent my 20’s+ years wanting to travel but not having the confidence to fulfil my ambitions. Getting divorced and graduating showed me that I could do anything that I turned my mind to. I do not ski so going fast over icy/snowy ground is overcoming my innermost fears – pushing my boundaries, challenging myself. My father always believed that his daughters could do anything they wanted to – he who did it best did it.

“I believe men and women to be equal, they just have different strengths and weaknesses and the adventures that I have done have proven that. As if reflecting life women are beginning to reach the top in sailing and in climbing.

“To experience a different culture, one where dog-sledding is the norm, will be fascinating. To learn to read the weather in snowy conditions will be interesting and to have to rely on ourselves in the wilderness where the terrain will be tough will make this an expedition where fitness and stamina will play a major role. Cathy and I are both strong characters and to see how we relate in the close confines of a tent in sub-zero temperatures when we are cold, exhausted and hungry will be an interesting exercise. Whereas on the Global it was always the boat came first, this time it will be the dogs no matter how we feel.”

Rona was brought up with dogs when as a small child her father bred Cocker Spaniels. The kennel lad would take Rona and her sister for a walk (on reins) when he walked the puppies. When she was a teenager her family once more had dogs and whereas the family dogs have been gentle Rona bears the scars of being attacked by a pack of Jack Russells in her mid-teens.


Rona sailing in the Global Challenge.

Rona on her first Arctic dog-sled trip.

Cathy O'Dowd

Cathy has been climbing mountains for 17 years, throughout southern and central Africa, in South America, in the Alps and in the Himalaya. She remains an active mountaineer, rock-climber and skier.
In 1996 Cathy became the first South African to climb Everest, and in 1999 the first woman in the world to climb Everest from both south and north sides.
In 2000 she became the fourth woman to climb Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain.
In spring 2003 Cathy attempted to climb a new route on the notorious east face of Everest. This ambitious project was ultimately unsuccessful.

Cathy is a South African, 35 years old, married but without children, living in Andorra. She was raised and educated in South Africa, moving to Europe in 2000 to pursue her interest in adventure.
Cathy has a Masters Degree in Media Studies from Rhodes University.
She has written two books, both about Everest. Everest: Free To Decide was co-written with Ian Woodall. Just for the love of it is Cathy’s story of her first three Everest expeditions.
Cathy works as a professional speaker, sharing with corporations her lessons learnt from Everest about teamwork and motivation. She has spoken in 22 countries on 5 continents.

Cathy was one of 200 women who applied for a place on the famous, and controversial, 1st South African Everest Expedition of 1996, and was the one finally selected. The team followed the Edmund Hillary route, fighting their way through ‘the worst storm in Everest’s history’. Despite being the apprentice on the team, and having to deal with three fellow team members walking out, on 25 May 1996 Cathy reached the summit. It was, however, a tough introduction, as a team-mate was killed on the descent.
In 1998 Cathy took on the challenge of the treacherous north side of Everest, where George Mallory had famously disappeared in 1924. Her attempt ended when she stopped to try and save a dying American woman. In 1999 Cathy returned once more, and succeeded, becoming the first woman in the world to climb Everest from both north and south sides.

After four expeditions to Everest, Cathy is swearing ‘no more Everest’ and looking for new challenges to tackle.

Why does Cathy want to spend two weeks crossing 650 kilometres of Arctic wilderness behind a team of dogs?

“Having spent much of my time on foot, humping heavy loads up snowy slopes, I am fascinated by this ancient form of travel, by the bond of trust and courage and shared aim that must exist between person and dog to travel together successfully.
“Adventure is a very macho field, heavily dominated by men. And virtually all of my climbing has been done with men. To work together closely with another woman is an additional element of this challenge.
“The psychological challenge is as interesting as the physical one. I want to know if I have got what it takes to complete this adventure, and to do so in a spirit of friendship and good humour. I have seen many teams crack under the pressures of the wilderness. I hope that Rona and I have the experience, and the temperament, to meet whatever we may encounter with grace.”

Cathy’s entire experience with dogs consists of owning a Pomeranian, which, with all the imagination of an 8-year-old, she called Fluffy. The Pomeranian had an illicit affair with a poodle in the park, and produced two puppies, adding Wassit and Tapocita to Cathy’s dog team. The most Cathy ever managed to get them to do was to run round the garden in circles, yapping.


Cathy on the south side of Everest.

Cathy ski-mountaineering in the Pyrenees.

Per-Thore Hansen

Per-Thore Hansen is Norwegian from Skutvik, 37 years old, married with two children aged 7 and 2. After finishing College he joined the Army, serving in the Norwegian Special Forces as a Paratrooper for seven years, spending 2 years in Lebanon, 6 months in Bosnia and 3 months in Somalia. He was in the Norwegian National Team for Cross Country Skiing when he joined the Army. When he left the Army he took a course to become a Social Worker and led a programme for children with drug problems. Per-Thore is happier with a team of Huskies in the mountains than in an office. In the winter months he guides tourists as they dog-sled around the mountains in Sweden and Norway.

In 2000 Per-Thore took part in the Finmark Race, the longest and hardest race in Europe covering 1000 kilometres.
In 2001 he took part in the Fjellreven Polar Race, 350 kilometres from Norway to Sweden in which he finished second. In 2002 he took part in the race again, this time winning it, and in 2003 he was third.                                                                        Top

Per-Thore training with some of his dogs.

Per-Thore Hansen

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