Race is on for Carlisle sled dog team aiming for top championship spot

Matty Clarke

A SLED dog racer has his sights set on bagging a top place in a World Championship event next year.

Matty Clarke, of Dalston Road, Carlisle, is aiming to come in the top 10 of a competition in Sweden – and is looking for sponsorship.

He and his wife Adele own 24 husky dogs and have been sled dog racing on wheeled riggs for about 12 years in the UK.

In 2014 they ventured to Europe for their first World Championships in Switzerland and haven’t looked back.

Matty, who works for Pirelli, recently competed in his fifth event in Europe – the World Sleddog Association European Championships in Inzell, Germany, where after three days of racing finished 14th out of 27 competitors.

The 32-year-old said: “When we first went out in 2014 to a race on snow, and once you compete at that level and you realise the standard is so much higher, I had to set a goal – and mine is to finish in the top 10 of the world championships.”

But he said if he can achieve that, it will only set the bar higher.

Matty tends to enter the six dog category due to the manageable distance of the course.

With any more dogs the distance increases, for example to 20km with eight dogs, and Matty struggles to find the training space at home.

In the UK, courses are a maximum distance of about four miles, whereas on the snow – for the same category of six dogs – trials are set on courses up to 10 miles long.

He has a permit from the Forestry Commission to use its land in specific areas designated for the training of sled dogs.

They train three hours, four to five times a week ahead of competitions.

Racing at speeds of about 27mph, he said the fun part is managing to stop the dogs.

“It’s just miles better on snow,” said Matty.

“We’ve more or less had to give up dry land racing to concentrate on this, basically because the training is so different.

“Training for wheels, you have to do a lot more faster work.

“You need to do a bit more muscle work for the longer distance. The resistance is totally different training on snow. When you’re pulling the sled on snow it’s a lot harder,” he added.

The seed was planted when Matty was younger. His childminder used to own huskies and race them.

Meanwhile Adele worked at Lowood Kennels at Armathwaite and always wanted one.

When the couple bought their first house together Matty spent time working away on joinery jobs.

He bought Adele a husky to keep her company.

“The rest is history really,” said Matty. “We had three within three months.”

Now their daughters, Darcy, four, and two-year-old Thea, also like to play their part and support the team come rain, sleet or snow.

“They love it. They come out with us. We go during the week – they’re not quite at school yet – and they always come to the forest with us and help,” he said.

“They get involved without even prompting them to do it. They just like to do it.”

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