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Island Explorers Brave the Storm

Author : Magnus Woxholtt-Jensen (Race Director)
PhotoCredit : Per Frost

Taking a dive at Island Explorer

This year was the 10th consecutive Island Explorer, and with a field of 19 teams at the start-line, ranging from some of the most experienced racers Denmark has to offer, down to people giving adventure racing their first go, the stage was set for an exciting adventure for everyone.

As always, the weather gave the race-directors gray hair, with forecasts of 10m/s from the west, and with a kayak stage planned on the beautiful, but exposed and difficult coastal section on the northern part of the island, with many steep cliffs and few safe spots to land a kayak. With a few modifications, plan B was enforced, and TA2 was moved to the eastern side of the island. Less-experienced racers were asked during the briefing to consider their own skills before setting off on the furthest kayak-checkpoint, as a capsize and lack of skills at getting back in could sweep them quickly off the coast.

At 10:02, the start went off in the middle of Hammershus - the ruins of a large fortification, placed majestically overlooking the northern part of the island, and the roaring waves beneath. The race started with a short prologue of 8 checkpoints inside the castle ruins, to be taken in any order, before the rest of the maps for the race were handed out.

Right from the start, Salomon Adventure 2, consisting of Janus Høhne and Niels Torp Madsen, both very experienced racers, with many international results, broke off from the rest of the group. They got their maps and set off on an orienteering-section in Slotslyngen, a heather-covered plateau high above the sea, with beautiful views across to Sweden.

Shortly after Team TT of Tobias Bartholdy and Tore Sten Andersen followed, chased by a large pack of teams. After this, a short mountain-bike section followed that took the teams to the now moved TA2, where 3 loops were to be taken in any order.

As availability of kayaks was the limiting factor the first many teams opted to start here, and with Salomon Adventure 2 still in the lead and Team TT hot on their heels, the field started to spread out already within the first hour of the race. The two lead-teams still had a pack of teams that were within reach, with among others last year’s winners, Salomon Adventure with Bjørn Axelsen and Iben Nelson.

Among the chase group were also the girls of CAS Women, who are skilled navigators and fast racers.

After the kayak-stage followed an adventure-swim stage, consisting of relatively easy navigation, and 3 checkpoints placed in lakes - two with short swims in Hammersøen, Denmark's only mountain lake, and one in Opalsøen, an old granite quarry, that has now filled up with water, and poses a thrilling jump from 7 meters into the cool October water.

The swims were taken in strides, perhaps because torrential rain-showers had started hitting the field with short intervals, adding to the already cold wind.

The last stage at TA2 was an Island Explorer classic; coasteering along the steep cliffs, where racers familiar with running and scrambling in rough terrain and wet, slippery cliffs easily gained time.

Some teams were in less of a rush than others and "Snajlana" (The Snails in the dialect of Bornholm) insisted on a smoking-break before setting off, claiming they only smoked during sports...

Upon leaving TA2, Salomon Adventure 2 had an 8 minute-gap on Team TT, and well over half an hour on the chasing teams, now a little over 3½ hours into the race.

The teams then had a short bike to Vang, a small coastal town connected to the large quarries in the area. Here, the teams had to climb one of two available grade 4 routes, top out and run back to their bikes. The climb was made more difficult and cold by the rain and wind beating down on the racers, who had no shelter along the coast, making them huddle behind a lee-wall close to the fire created by the climbing marshals while waiting.

Another short, but steep bike section inland followed, up to Svartingedal, a small hidden gem of a valley, where the teams were surprised with the checkpoint dangling 4 meters above the ground on a rope bridge.

While the lead teams were here during the mid-afternoon, many trailing teams came just as darkness set, and decided to skip a loop of mountainbike-orienteering with many optional controls bundled together, and head straight for the short canoe-section.

The lead teams managed to clear the 30-minute canoe-section without seeing each other or the chasing teams, as the gap had opened up to 1:20 minutes between first and second, and a 1:30 lead between second and third.

From the canoe, a 1:30 section of easier mountain biking, mostly on paved- and gravel roads led the teams back to the school, where they had departed the same morning.

Now it was properly dark for all teams, and the rain was beating down heavily, but Salomon Adventure 2 set out on the final coasteering section without hesitation, despite knowledge of their lead being at least 30 minutes at the canoe take-out. They later admitted they were glad they didn't have to force the pace for a sprint finish on the wet and slippery cliffs, and finished as clear winners after 9 hours and 37 minutes.

Team TT meanwhile had set in the chase and reduced the gap significantly, and in the end finished 51 minutes behind the winners. In third place overall and first mixed/female team was Salomon Adventure, finishing in 10 hours 28 minutes to round out the overall top-3, and the only teams to clear the entire course.

All through the night, teams kept coming in, but an honorable mention goes to CAS Women, the 3 girls who unfortunately failed the rock-climb, and due to this was 1 mandatory checkpoint short of clearing the course. Another mention goes to Hafnia Rangers, who lost a teammate halfway through the race due to injury, but despite being unranked managed to be the last team on the course, finishing with 12 minutes to spare to the midnight-cut off.

The weather definitely set the tone for the race, but despite being cold and miserable, no one complained and everyone gave their all to the unforgiving conditions!

Next year, Island Explorer will host the national championship with a longer course on the weekend of September 14-16th, and we hope to see a strong field, both with regards to competitiveness and eagerness!

You can see lots of photos and the full results on the race Facebook page.

More About This Event

Island Explorers - Racing on Bornholm in the Baltic Sea

Island Explorers - Racing on Bornholm in the Baltic Sea
We have covered a few Danish Adventure Races on SleepMonsters recently, and another is taking place this coming weekend, the Island Read More

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