A Wild YACS On The West Coast of Denmark
The 2019 Yeti Adventure Challenge Silkeborg took teams on a 410km course along the wild West coast of Denmark for this year’s European Series race and they experienced weather that was wilder than they’d expected!
The competition is based out of Silkeborg, known as Denmarks ‘Outdoor Capital’, and that was where the race began, with a short prologue around the town. Some of the race always takes place in the town, and the finish is always there, both for the Masters race and for the two shorter YACS courses, which attract hundreds of local racers.
The prologue was the first activity in this weekend festival of adventure racing and spectators watched teams orienteering around the streets, jumping into the river, and on a roped climb up the wall of the local theatre. The prologue winners were Racing Denmark Adventures who joked they were glad to be winning for at least the few hours before the main race start!
That was a 2 hour bus ride away at the coastal town of Blokhus and by the time the racers arrived the weather had turned nasty! A deep storm system hit the exposed North Sea coast where they were getting ready to set off on their mountain bikes. In total 9 teams started, with visiting racers from Ireland, France, Germany and New Zealand joining the Danish teams, who included 5x winners Team Yeti, who were obviously the race favourites. (They’d also won an AR World Series race this year.)
With a 20.00 start teams were racing through the night from the start, and what a night it was! Anne-Marie Dunhill of SleepMonsters.com said, “During the first night of racing, Mother Nature dished up quite a menu of bad weather with fierce winds, heavy rains and bone rattling thunder claps followed by blinding lightning.“ The Kinsale AR team, who had won a place at the race in the Basque Adventure Race said, “Even by Irish standards the weather conditions were harsh!”
The weather affected the course, which had to be adjusted for safety, and the teams who were enduring the conditions. Salomon Adventure DK were the first team to withdraw and not long after that, on a rough kayak section in high waves the defending champions also withdrew due to exhaustion. Race Director Simon Grimstrup commented, “When Team Yeti pulls the plug its hard weather!”
The remaining teams continued, some taking short routes, but all appreciating the places and challenges the race was finding for them. It’s a feature of the race to have many challenge checkpoints and find unique places, and Jon from the Kinsale team commented, “The event was extremely well planned and full of exciting special activities, including climbing local buildings and abseiling down a grain tower somewhere near Thyholm on the West coast. The race director included numerous interesting WWII CP locations and many more hidden gems in the forests of Western Denmark.”
The race is also known as a navigator’s race and this year was no exception with lots of route choice. Even the most experienced teams struggled at times and Racing Adventures Denmark lost an hour at CP52, as well as having constant punctures during the race. Even so they remained one of two teams on the full course as they made their way southward towards the finish at Silkeborg, encouraged by the news of Team Yeti’s withdrawal.
The course took in some of the mountain bike trails the area is renowned for and Kinsale said, “The single track was great fun and even managed to bounce two of the team off their bikes, resulting in one black eye.” There are some small hills in Denmark and the most famous is Himmelbjerget (or Sky Mountain), which is all of 147m high, and this was another of the checkpoints near Silkeborg.
With the weather improving the teams continued through a second night towards the finish and arrived in the town by paddling on the surrounding lakes and down the river, then jumping out and racing to the finish line for the final 300m – with their canoe!
They could put it down to cross the finish line and the first team to do this, despite all their difficulties during the race, were Racing Denmark Adventures in a total time of 44.14.37. It was the team’s second win in the Adventure Racing European Series, having won ‘The Beast’ in Ireland earlier this year.
As winners this year they not only took the 5000 Euro prize, but also a place in next year’s race which will be the 2020 European Championships.
The organising team will then be looking to welcome teams from all over Europe and will hope they have got their bad luck with the weather out of the way this year!
Grimstrup said after the finish; “Our plan this year was to put Denmark on the map of international adventure races. To create a challenge for the toughest and an expedition race that would demand dedication, motivation, teamwork and skill to complete! And I believe we managed to do that!
“Some of the best national teams were surprised by the thoroughness of the course, the relentless rain and headwind, and the sudden autumn weather. It was good to follow the teams and see their team work and different strategies, and of course the happiness and pride in their faces, when they reached the finish line!
“The race was also a model event for the European Championships next year. The planning of that race has already started - and I can promise it is not going to be easy but it will be a lot of fun! Again racers will experience the variety of Danish nature and landscapes ... and more of my backyard around the Lake District of Denmark.”
He described this year’s race as “the toughest race ever held in Denmark”, and it’s clear the Danish teams and the YACS organising team will be prepared for anything and will deliver a tough, imaginative and challenging course fit for a European Championships in 2020.