Vasbyt Racing Tests Teams in the Southern Drakensberg

Press Release / 30.01.2021
Trekking on the first stage of the race
Trekking on the first stage of the race / © Vasbyt Expedition Racing

Race Director Graham ‘Tweet’ Bird Sums Up the Vasbyt races last weekend.

Some of you may have considered finishing within the cut-off to be the mark of success. In that case, you all failed. However, choosing to turn up at a Vasbyt event and face failure knowing that it is but a part of the process of a much greater success, you have already won a greater reward. Respect to all of you!

The Vasbyt 36hr course was set to test and challenge teams physically, mentally and navigationally – yet still be achievable.  The routes are in line with what I have experienced racing internationally over 15 years.  With Vasbyt, I am committed to raising the level of expertise in South Africa so that our teams can be equipped to compete admirably against the global racers.

If you were pushed beyond comfortable, if you learned something, if you wanted to quit at least once, but chose to continue, if you marveled at the beauty and recognized the unique opportunity you were offered to be exactly where you were, our event was a success. I’ll admit I doubted it at times, when the potjie was getting cold all afternoon and anxious supporters were demanding answers, but messages like these reconfirm we did the right thing:

Thanks again for putting on another legendary event”.

“ I love your style of races! Tough, honest and no fuss. Just a good way to test ourselves and see some incredible places on the way.”

We tried to always reward effort with views and clever nav with clear advantages. It was awesome to watch the tracking and see dots charging off in all directions heading to the same destination. It was awful to lose the tracking and not know where some teams were for most of Saturday, but we had to keep reminding ourselves that you could call, you could find someone out there to help if you needed, and you were actually just out there doing what you came here to do.

Thank you again, everyone, for trusting us even though you knew it would be difficult and putting yourselves out there.

Circumstances forced the decision of going undercover in terms of media coverage and satellite tracking. We are confident we made the right decision in going ahead and although it’s unfortunate we couldn’t share your experiences with the public we don’t think it was to the detriment of anyone’s race experience. Instead, we ask you guys now, as disciples of this style of adventure racing, to spread the word and encourage others.

The Vasbyt 36hr course had five legs. First 20km trek leg took the teams into the Ezemvelo Wildlife Park to the top of Siphongweni (just under 2300m) with a spectacular 270-degree view of the Drakensberg escarpment, before dropping off to one of the Drakensberg’s best bushman paintings cave. The second leg was a 31km paddle down the uMzimkhulu river, followed by an easy 22km mountain bike leg across to the second trek leg.

With curfew in place and the need to keep the teams at a “place of residence” overnight – we had a 32km (1800m ascent) loop on Sunset Farm in the Marwaqa mountains. Navigation on this leg was tough at night, but easier during daylight.  The final leg was a 100km MTB with over 2000m of climbing with some sections of tough navigation requiring navigators to continually concentrate on the features.

The Vasbyt 12hr course was designed to be a bit more basic, giving distance and time on the legs but less chance for choice and strategy.  A quick 1.5km run to the put in for a 7km paddle down the uMzimkhulu river, followed by a 12km trek around the base of Sangwana mountain with the final leg a 36km MTB back to the finish.  This course had the right balance of introductory basics with a touch of tricky navigation. The 7 teams, though tired where all elated at the finish.

The Vasbyt 6hr course was a butterfly layout of four looped legs set around our host farm, Khotso, that allowed teams to decide how much they wanted to do based on fitness and skill levels.  Navigation was basic with Google Earth images and Open Topo Maps used.  The highlight for the three family teams that entered was the 2.5km of tubing down the uMzimkhulu river, but for us it was watching the special bonds forged amongst families racing together.

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