Exploration and Magic – The Race Director' View
I took the opportunity to talk to Race Director Pascal Bahuaud this morning in the race office, while all around us the Raid in France staff we’re busy about their tasks in a buzzing race office. The day before a race it is rare to be able to speak to an RD at all, but he’s the most experienced RD of expedition races in the world and his team had everything in hand. This is the 10th anniversary Raid in France and his second World Championships, and he has a big team of experienced and loyal volunteers from mainland France.
I asked about these first and he told me, “We have brought 85 volunteers with us from France, including some experienced mountain guides and safety staff, and there are another 35 people on the island working with us.” It’s a formidable support team, much bigger than any other race, and in total there will be 19 manned checkpoints, with 2 volunteers at each. One I spoke to said his post on the later part of the course would be open for 4 and a half days.
I asked too about the shipping container the race sent here. “We sent it over 2 months ago so had to plan ahead and inside were 24 new kayaks as we didn’t have enough already. We will leave these on the island for the local sports clubs to use”, he said.
All in all it’s a formidable operation and the course planning has been just as challenging. “I spent a year and a half working on the course,” he said. “You can only move very slowly as it is so difficult, so it took a long time. We will use some new canyons never visited before and I think they will be a surprise to the teams. I really don’t think they are prepared for how slow they have to move here. It will be a shock to them.
“The course idea came early, but then we had to make a lot of changes for the National Park. It was difficult to agree with them and to make all the late changes but it is part of the job. Not my favourite part. We are in France here but we are an ‘outside’ organisation from the ‘Metropole’ and not Creole so it was not always easy to win trust and build working relationships.
“The big race here is the Diagonale Des Fous (Grand Raid) and it was hard to explain we are not a trail race, and what adventure racing is all about. Also, that we were not in competition with the race. We always want to go to new places so we have to teach people about adventure racing every time. I think now the island is realising we are a big international event and excited to have us here.”
I asked what he thought would surprise the teams about the island. “I think the diversity. On the East side it is so lush and wet, and this side it is very dry like a desert. And of course the volcano is quite amazing.”
He added, “For me the objective to show off my beautiful country and allow people to explore it. The race is a way to do that and I think the teams and volunteers will all be amazed by Reunion. . All the hard work and planning has been done to allow them to come here and see just how magic this place is.”