Expedition Africa Rodrigues 2019

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Shaun the Sheep, Newbies and The Ear

Adam Rose / 01.09.2019Live TrackingSee All Event Posts Follow Event
/ © Adam Rose

Teams took different approaches before the 1pm kick off. Some bothered their gear, checking and rechecking. Others lolled in the sun or the shade, lying on the grass. I found one team having a full burger and chips in the Ebony Hotel. Whatever will float your boat.

Adventure racers aren’t a superstitious lot, in my experience. They do like to bring keepsakes to keep themselves motivated, especially during the dark times. Sometimes a photo, sometimes a toy, sometimes just a song.

Sally and Heiki from Team Nyamezela introduced me to their self-composed ditty, The Rhyme of the Oyster Road Mariners (where they all live), used for morale boosting. It's sung to the tune of Rodrigues songs. They also brought a heap of presents for Pete’s birthday on Tuesday, including a tot of Jack Daniels, a party hat for the day and a glowstick crown for the night, some jaegermeister, and a dagga (marijuana) lolly for him. All were being kept in a fish-shaped bag called Louis in honour of the French – usually he’s Luigi.

Tatum Prins of Team Merrell had an image of her children, her family, which is a popular treasure. She was a little intimidated not having competed for over 3 years due to family commitments, not knowing if she could still handle racing at the sharp end. Her teammates are tough, so presumably they’ll take good care of her.

Velocity Made Good (9), a Saffer team, introduced me to Shaun the Sheep, a fluffy beastie. He always represents them at interviews (as he did today), and is a legend on Expedition Africa, having completed 4 events. Apparently, he takes no sh*t, is the ideal ice breaker, and sits close to the heart (inside the shirt of whichever team member is available). He’s apparently quite agile for a sheep. The story goes that the farmer always messes up, the other sheep have no clue, but Shaun always pulls them through. That and caffeine tablets.

The wait for the tide also meant teams had time to talk, not least the usually shy (focused?) Greener Adventure Team (14) who were looking very sharp. Preparation had been on point, aided by the logistics expertise of Cecelia, her job in the military. All members have a military background. They even went to bed last night before 11pm, a rarity when maps are available to study. Their media rep said they had practised all legs, drilling transitions, thinking 4 or 5 stages ahead. They’d spent at least 12 hours simply analysing the route. Their only concern was whether they could execute and that their bodies would hold up. Injury has been a problem in the past.

Team Raiders of The Lost Ark (41) is an Israeli team, a mother and 3 sons. She was the one with experience, EA Baviaans, and EA Swaziland. I asked who was the captain? Both she and her youngest son, Jonathan, raised their hands… None of the sons had done adventure races, but all are ex-army, all are practised navigators. Were they worried about race? “Why should we?”, was the response.

Their sail was very similar to the local version, albeit smaller, and easy to adapt to different conditions. It looked professional, and their family loves sailing. With all this preparation, their goal was simply to have an adventure holiday. Nice.

Also on the fresh side of the spectrum, team Never Surrender (4) were all first timers for expedition racing, and included brother and sister Madeleen and Wynand. They’d done some 24hr events, while complete novice Andre had 6 ironman competitions under his belt.

Gone Racing (48) were the burger eaters. They were very chilled, had found out their landlord was their skipper, and didn’t seem to have any fears about the upcoming sailing. Megan said it was the one thing they had absolutely no control over, so were just going to sit back and relax. Their only regret was that they couldn’t bring any beers. Who says?

The team raised the point that yesterday had been the dark moon, of major significance on the ocean when hunting black islands in black blackness. It also made for spring tides.

Some teams had injuries affecting their chances. Splash, Flash, and Dash (18) were the nicknames for another newbie Saffer team, with Anton being represented by the comma. They were similarly nervous in the face of all the experience, and included Lynette, recovering from knee surgery done 6 weeks ago. She’d already decided to sit out the biking and snorkelling legs, waiting for the others in transition.

Finally, the award for AR grit should go to Nyamezela’s Kim van Ketz. She’d had a tough 2019, including a car accident in China. Did she get hurt? “No, mainly just my ear came off. Serious concussion was the major concern.” Yes, that is verbatim.

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