Britannic Assurance-sponsored balloonist David Hempleman-Adams is embroiled in a row over whether his daring balloon flight to the North Pole constitutes a world first.

Hempleman-Adams' flight log shows he came within 12 miles of the North Pole, but this was not enough to give him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. A Guinness spokesman said: “He has the record for the closest, but that is not the same thing as actually flying over the pole.”

Its adjudication panel has dismissed his claim of flying to the North Pole because he failed to pass within one metre of the geographical point.

This stringent rule has been criticised by the British Balloon and Airship Club, which has agreed to recognise Hempleman-Adams' achievement.

He said it was almost physically impossible to fly closer to the North Pole than he did.

His six-day flight resulted in seven other records for endurance, altitude and distance, including first solo balloon flight across the Arctic Ocean.