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Next Generation Adventure Racing with South East AR

Rob Howard / 25.06.2024See All Event Posts Follow Event
Racing the Wolf Cub Challenge with South East AR
Racing the Wolf Cub Challenge with South East AR / © Rob Howard

South East Adventure Racing launched their innovative new race series for young adventure racers at Albury near Guildford on June 16th and around 100 new adventure racers aged from one upwards arrived with their parents (many also new to adventure racing) to have a go. 

These very young adventure racers were very excited when they found checkpoints (and sometimes when they didn’t), ran uphill in sudden bursts, rode up big hills on bikes with very small wheels, had the occasional tantrum (that’s children and parent) and were mostly new to navigating with a map, so getting lost and found again was all part of the fun.  All had a great day out in the Surrey countryside and big smiles on their faces at the finish line.  (Well, apart from one young man who was NOT going to smile for the camera!)

All in all, the day was a great success and a step towards finding the next generation of UK adventure racers.  In more than 20 years of UK adventure racing there have been almost no attempts to encourage youth racing, with only some parent and child categories in adult races, and with the one exception of the Burn Series races run by Maria Leijerstam in Wales, which include a ‘Mini Burn’ category for families, run alongside a longer race. 

The new Wolf Cub and Pack Challenge races from S.E.A.R were the first event designed specifically for young racers and were the initiative of Race Directors Kane Magee, Alex Egginton and Damon de Boor. 

Their aim is “to share our passion for Adventure Racing with a new generation of Adventure Racers and their families. We have seen the benefits first hand with our children, and we truly believe that taking part in physical outdoor challenges increases confidence, resilience, well-being, sportsmanship, and teamwork. We want to see your children also heading back into school on a Monday morning brimming with stories and pride about their achievements.”

Much of their inspiration came from Damon’s early days of adventure racing in South Africa where for over a decade Expedition Africa has been running regular family friendly races to ensure there was a pathway into adventure racing.  (The fact that over 50 South African teams entered last year’s World Championship was the result of that long term commitment to the sport.)   

As the first teams arrived at the Albury Sports Club for The Pack Challenge, De Boor commented, “I want to see kids learn to use maps and go on to bigger events, and this is a start!”  The Pack Challenge was the longer of the two races, pitched at 1-3 hours (12-20km) and the course was a combination of bike and trail run orienteering, with a special challenge stage during the run.   There was some navigational challenge to this race and teams spent some time studying the maps before setting off.

Team Flyers were father and son Johannes and Remi Marais (16) with friend Johan Sheldon (14), who said, “We’re air cadets and have done D of E, so we have some navigation experience.”  He was taking the lead on the route plotting and keeping a tight hold on the marker pen! 

Team Dutchies, Michelle Baeten and Ellen van der Velden, were an adult team and had taken part in Tri-Adventure events before, while Team Endor Fiends, father and daughter Roy and Anna Sievers, were starting their first adventure race.  Roy had lots of questions about how it all worked and said it was his father’s day treat (the race was on father’s day).  When he got back the plan was to race the shorter Wolf Cub Challenge with his son Adam as well.

The 5km run into Blackheath Forest came first, with 5 checkpoints and lots of tracks to choose from.  CP5 was the special challenge and this was an orienteering maze (borrowed from Guildford Orienteers) set out with marker tape in a forest clearing .  The 8 bike checkpoints were both North and South of the start and CP11 was made optional as tracks to reach it were very muddy.  Some shortcuts were marked on the map and teams had free route choice and could complete as many checkpoints as they wanted.

Fortunately, the early light rain showers petered out and it became a fine day for racing as the teams set off on their adventure, searching for checkpoints and navigating on the move.  For most it was a first time using a bike mapboard.

Endor Fiends were by far the quickest, taking 2 hours 20 minutes and opting to  miss CP11 as Dad had to get back for the shorter race.  At the finish line Anna said, “It was my first race and really great. I liked the challenge and had a map on the biking stage, though Dad did most of the navigating.  We were pleased with our fast transition – only 2 minutes!”

The other teams took over 3 hours and Flyers were the last back.  Johan admitted, “We got lost 3 or 4 times and it’s not so easy navigating while riding.  We also got chased across a field by cows and my chain broke, but we managed to get it fixed. It was a good challenge and we’d do it again.”

There were a lot more racers in the Wolf Cub Challenge, which had a total of around 6-8km on a similar format to the Pack Challenge, but with more optional checkpoints, using a google map, and with the route marked.  The same special challenge was included and easy routes were shown, as well as a welcome snacks stop.   

There were excited children of all ages on the start line (the youngest carried on parent’s shoulders) and De Boor told them that today their parents could be wrong and they should take over if their they were going the wrong way! 

Despite the route marking there were soon teams running in different directions all over the nearby woods, enjoying the checkpoint hunt and sometimes the challenge of getting an optional checkpoint.  One of these was on top of a steep bank and helping hands were needed to get some children (and adults) back down!

Quickest again were Endor Fiends (this time with 11 year old Adam racing with his Dad) and Team Barkydog were out the longest at just over 3 hours, but it was a challenge not a race and most important was that all of the kids had fun and got medals, stickers and a buff on the finish line!  A few parents dropped their race punch card, but it really didn’t matter as the sense of achievement and team work on the finish line was the reward. 

Surrounded by families and children on the finish line, De Boor commented, “This is exactly what we wanted, I don’t think it could have gone better.”

Many of the racers bought race shirts and on the back it said, “I’m an Adventure Racer” and now they were, and they’ll hopefully be back for another race, excited to go checkpoint hunting again.

The next SEAR Wolf Cub and Pack challenges will be held on September 21st at Liphook in Hampshire and you can find out all about it at  Mark the date and take your children adventure racing!

Photos and videos from the first race can be seen on Facebook and Instagram @sear.adventureracing

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