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Fogle and Cracknell race to the South Pole

30th September 2007

AFTER nearly drowning when they rowed across the Atlantic, Ben Fogle and James Cracknell vowed that they would never attempt such a foolhardy challenge again.

However, two years later the adventurers are planning a race on foot to the South Pole - and trying to recruit Leonardo DiCaprio, the Hollywood star, to join them.

The pair will fly to Los Angeles in the next few weeks to meet the actor after he expressed an interest in the expedition.

Fogle, 34, a television presenter, and Cracknell, 35, a former Olympic gold medal-winning rower, believe DiCaprio may be the ideal person to complete their three-man team, which will attempt the 426-mile journey in sub-zero temperatures next year.

“We know he wants to go to the South Pole and we know he wants to do it on foot,” said Fogle this weekend.

The closest that DiCaprio has come to polar wastes was on screen when he starred in Titanic, the blockbuster movie which recreated the sinking of the liner after it hit an iceberg. But the Oscar-nominated actor is a prominent environmental campaigner and could choose to take part in the challenge to highlight the impact of global warming on the polar icecaps.

DiCaprio, who drives a petrol-electric hybrid car and has fitted solar panels on his home, has previously described climate change as “one of the single most important issues facing the entire world”. Should he prove too busy, Fogle and Cracknell have other candidates in mind, including Cameron Diaz, the American actress who starred in the all-action Charlie’s Angels films. More conventional possibilities include Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the polar explorer, and Ellen MacArthur, the round-the-world yachtswoman.

“Sir Ranulph is a hero of mine and I’m in awe of him,” said Fogle. “I’d love the thought of going with someone like that or Ellen, who has such incredible stamina. We are keeping all our options open.”

Fogle’s and Cracknell’s last big adventure was competing in the gruelling Atlantic Rowing Race. They finished the 2,937-mile course - often rowing naked to avoid chafing - in January 2006 after almost 50 days at sea.

Close to the end, the pair were struck by a giant wave that tossed Fogle 100ft away from their capsized boat. After crossing the finishing line in Antigua, Fogle recalled: “There was no sign of James and I had no line to the boat. I thought: that’s it, I’ve had it.” Subsequently, they righted the boat and carried on.

Last night he explained why they were now embarking on this new feat of endurance. “After the rowing, we both thought that we’re never doing anything else like that again,” said Fogle. “But anyone who’s done something similar knows that it’s particularly addictive . . . and I think we both just wanted another big challenge to take us out of our comfort zone.”

The race to the South Pole will take place in November 2008 and will be the first time that teams have competed against each other to reach the landmark on foot since Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, beat Captain Robert Scott in 1911.

Fogle and Cracknell included other Hollywood stars in their shortlist, but according to Fogle's wife Marina, she vetoed women. "I made a point of striking off Cameron Diaz's name," she is reported to have said.

The pair will endure temperatures of -50C and will be pulling all their own supplies, including tents and provisions, on sledges.

It is estimated that they will lose up to four stone each as the human body uses up 6,000 calories a day in such conditions. Fogle has asked his friend Tom Aikens, the Michelin-starred chef, to help to devise “tasty” meals for the trip.

The adventure, which will take up to two months to complete, will be filmed for a five-part series to be broadcast on BBC2 in 2009.

Today the pair will start their training by taking part in the Great North Run in Newcastle. They are hoping to find the third member of their team by the end of the year before they embark on their first polar training session inside the Arctic Circle in Norway

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