Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The REGGAE Boys of Dog Sled Racing

from The Scotsman

JAMAICA may seem an unlikely breeding ground for winter sportsmen, but it has already produced a bobsleigh crew - and now it is set to send a dog sled team to race in Scotland.

The team, formed with the help of Scottish mushers, will be swapping the Caribbean for the Cairngorms when it competes at the Aviemore Sled Dog Rally later this month.

Devon Anderson, the chief musher, is hopeful of success - although he admits he has never seen snow.

Eventually, the squad hopes to go all the way to the dog sled world championships and even the 2010 winter Olympics. That would emulate Jamaica's bobsleigh team which took part in the 1988 Games in Calgary, inspiring the John Candy film Cool Runnings.

"We have a lot of talent in Jamaica," Mr Anderson said. "Once we are put to the test we will always try and do our best. In future we should do well, if and when it gets to that point."

Mr Anderson was in Scotland in the summer when Alan Stewart, the owner of the Cairngorm Sled Dog Adventure Centre, taught him how to run dogs. "I am looking forward to the race and to seeing Scotland again," he said. "It is a new adventure, a new challenge for me."

He was instrumental in setting up a kennel in Jamaica for the country's first dog sled team. At the moment the "sled dogs" are a mixture of labradors, rottweilers and mongrels from the streets. The team is based at the tour operator Chukka Caribbean Adventures and is sponsored by the multi-millionaire country music star Jimmy Buffet, and Bob Marley's record producer, Chris Blackwell.

The nine dogs are trained in the early morning and evenings to avoid the worst of the heat.

Mr Anderson, 42, said: "It was a new challenge. I know it is surprising to see someone from Jamaica in the tropics do a sport that is usually done in the snow. Everybody I talk to about it is very excited."

Danny Melville, the manager of the team, has great faith both in Mr Anderson and his deputy, Newton Marshall.

He said Mr Anderson had an "incredible affinity" with animals, enabling him to run a successful team. "Mushing is not just about training and fitness of the dogs," he said. "The dogs will perform for the musher. I am confident we will do just fine, and I am looking forward to the event in Scotland and future events."

Mr Melville, whose grandfather is Scottish, added:

"Jamaica is known not just for its reggae boys, but for its athletes. We did well in bobsleigh, so why not on dog sled?"

1 comment:

George Forgan-Smith said...

LOL, but isn't life always like that. BTW I have been trying to find a good alaskan malamute breeder do you have any ideas? Nancy