Mountain Designs Hells Bells

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Checkpoints _ Challenges at the Mountain Designs Hells Bells Adventure Race in Mooloolaba

Press Release / 27.09.2021See All Event Posts Follow Event
A spectacular sunset over the Glass House Mountains
A spectacular sunset over the Glass House Mountains / © Wild and Co./Hells Bells

Adventure racing returned to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast last weekend when the Mountain Designs Hells Bells race, the oldest 24 hour event in the country, started and finished in Mooloolaba.

The race attracted a strong local entry after being rescheduled from earlier in the year, with many competitors new to adventure racing among the 53 teams who arrived to tackle either the full or half courses.   When they entered they didn’t know where the courses would go, but they came expecting an overnight adventure, combining paddling, trekking, mountain biking and map and compass navigation. 

The 24 hour ‘Hells Bells’ racers started on the beach, with teams paddling across the bay to the river mouth to start an 11km stage, which took them up river.  A brisk northerly wind sprang up before the start and the racers found themselves paddling out through the surf, with some of them taking an early swim.  

A few teams chose instead to run with their sit-on-top kayaks along the beach to the river mouth rather than set off into the surf – adventure racing is all about teams making choices. They had to make choices anyway, as the checkpoints could be collected either on the opening stage, or left to the end of the race. 

Kim Beckinsale of the experienced Mountain Designs Wild Women team explained, “We moved down the beach a bit for an easier launch, and were up for an ocean paddle to start the race on a fantastic spring weekend for racing. The tide wasn’t good to get the checkpoints at the start of the race, but we didn’t want to leave them to be done at the end and in the dark, so we pressed on to get them all.”

For the teams on the half course ‘Fairy Bells’ course, there was no choice but to get wet at the start as they swam across the river during their opening 7km ‘Urban Paths Trek’ around town, before picking up the kayaks left by the Hells Bells racers for their own river paddle stage.

Both courses then combined some fast mountain biking stages (if you were navigating well and going the right way) and short treks which looped out and back to the transition areas.  Hells Bells was 140km+, taking teams out to the Glass House Mountains and back, while Fairy Bells was 90km+, going out to and around the Ewan Maddock Reservoir.

Navigating to find the best route (and the checkpoints) is an essential part of adventure racing and as teams raced into the night this became much harder with some teams taking detours which lengthened their route and tested their resolve and teamwork.  (Those wanting a shorter route could choose to miss checkpoints and take time penalties as the aim is for teams to achieve as much as they can and get to the finish.)

Even those who had raced Hells Bells and other events in the area before, found themselves in new places and enjoying new views, especially as the fantastic sunset over the Glass House Mountains.

“I loved there were so many small stages, with the four short treks into the hills,” said Beckinsale. “It meant there were lots of transitions, which is all part of racing, and at some we had to mark up the maps for the trek ahead as they were not on our maps, which puts the pressure on and keeps you on your toes!  It is more manageable for the beginners too, as really long stages can be off putting.”

“Chris (Dixon) did a great job with the route and maps. We went a long way and everyone had a good time out there.  For us the sunset silhouette of the Glass House Mountains was superb and then the sunrise on the blue water as we paddled to the finish was spectacular. Like all the teams, we were glad to be out there on such a perfect weekend.”

The Mountain Designs Wild Women were one of the two all-female teams on the Hells Bells course and they were up for the challenge of racing the many all-male teams taking part, taking 4th place overall in a time of 18.58.43. (Only two of the 14 all male teams got ahead of them.)

The premier racing category is always for mixed teams of 4 and team ’3 Points of Contact’ were comfortable winners in this, and the overall winners.  With very experienced racers Gary Sutherland and Russell Stringer in the team, they were probably pre-race favourites, but Sutherland explained, “For me it was great having Laura (Newton) join us as she is a newbie to adventure racing, and to be with my mate Clint (Falla), who is coming back from injury and is quite new to the sport as he’s done 4 races.”

He added, “The race ran smoothly for us. It was a flatter than normal course and took us on a lot of cool trails Russell and I had never been on, and we have been racing in the area for 15 years. Our favourite sections were the running and riding around Mount Beerburrum.”

Their winning time was 16.06.19, well ahead of any other mixed teams, but they were pushed all the way by the all-male team ‘Out all Night’ who finished second overall in 16.30.17.

In the Fairy Bells race the overall winners were Tim Price and Scott Cuthbertson, racing as ‘Team Dodgy Backs and Shakti Mats’. They finished in 8.59.20 after a close contest with the ‘Back Up Team’ and team ‘Mr Wrong and Mr Wright’, also racing as pairs.  The top 4 person mixed team were ‘Buckleys and None’ in 12.12.51, and the best all female team were ‘Tri Adventure Girls’, who finished in 9.55.30, taking 4th overall.

Whichever course they did, and however many checkpoints they got, for all the teams the weekend was about doing the best they could and enjoying the course, the scenery and the Spring weather.  After all the teams had returned to Mooloolaba there was an informal, open air prize giving in the park, attended by many families, who had brought the kids along for a beach day to round off the weekend.

Chris Dixon of Wild & Co, gave out the prizes and said, “It’s great to see the race so well supported, and to have lots of new adventure racers come and give the course a go.  Mooloolaba has been a fantastic race venue for us, teams are buzzing about the course and I know they’ll be back to explore it a bit more at their leisure ... and maybe to use it for training for their next race!”

For the full results and more information on the race visit: www.hellsbells.com.au 

The Mountain Designs Hells Bells race is organised by adventure racing event management company Wild & Co. and is part of the Adventure Racing World Series Oceania calendar.

The next race from Wild & Co is Terra Nova in NSW held in April 2022. Find out more at www.terranova24.com.au  

For more information visit: www.wldnco.com.au

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