Racing Away From the Competition on 3 Continents
Rob Howard / 18.05.2012
At the beginning of April expedition adventure racing returned to its roots in New Zealand for the inaugural Orion Health Godzone Adventure Race, based in the adventure sports mecca of Queenstown. It is widely accepted that the first adventure race was the Raid Gauloises held in New Zealand in 1989 and the country has a rich multisport history, including hosting the 2005 World Championships.
Despite this there had not been an expedition race held in New Zealand since 2008 and there was considerable excitement surrounding the new event with enthusiastic support of adventure racing kiwis.
The new race attracted 31 teams representing Malaysia, Singapore, Ireland, Sweden and Australia with New Zealanders making up the bulk of field with twenty teams and considerable strength in depth. It had a spectacular start too, in the iconic Milford Sound – a fact which was kept secret from the teams until the last moment. Only when they boarded buses for an overnight pre-race camp out did they find out where they would be starting the race. (Though many had guessed where they would be going.)
It was a spectacular pre-dawn start with the racers head torches bobbing in the darkness and the dawn light gradually revealing the surrounding peaks. Just to add to the magic a pod of dolphins closely accompanying some of the kayaks.
It was no surprise that the two top Kiwi teams, with several world champions among them, raced into the lead. Subway and Seagate raced closely together until Seagate pulled away on the first overnight trek. Subway, with multisport champions Richard and Elina Ussher, slipped behind due to navigational errors in the dense bush, and later in the race were to withdraw due to injury.
Seagate were fielding the same team which had won the Tierra Viva race so convincingly in Argentina (Nathan Fa’avae, Chris Forne, Sophie Hart and Trevor Voyce), and once they had given Subway the slip they kept extending their lead, leaving the rest of the competition a long way behind and finishing in Queenstown with a 15 hour winning margin.
Just because they were a long way ahead doesn’t mean it was easy! Team captain Nathan Fa’avae commented; “As we pulled away from the other teams it was the course that became our biggest adversary, doing all it could to hinder our speed and progress, dropping snow, choking gullies and ravines with thick bush, dropping to freezing temperatures and hiding in darkness for 12-hours a night. We suffered periods of great discomfort, soreness, and fatigue and battled to stay awake at times. 3-hours sleep out of 85-hours of racing takes its toll. We expected a challenge and we got one!”
Team Seagate’s second convincing win of the AR World Series this year reaffirms their status as one of the favourites for the World Championships in France in September, but other established teams are showing good form and booking their places in the World Champs as well.