Mark and John Collins of Team Sanlam Painted Wolf going steady on the first day. Picture by Terence Vrugtman (@tvrugtman)

The Adventure Racing (AR) World Series championship got underway today (10 November) .  Two SA teams – both with local members – our very own Merrell Adventure Addicts (Tatum Prins, Hanno Smit, Donovan Sims and Graham Bird) who are ranked 5th in the world, and winners of this year’s Expedition Africa, Sanlam Painted Wolf (Robyn Kime, John Collins, Mark Collins and Andre Gie), are amongst 97 teams of the world’s best, coming from 20 different countries and every continent.  

The race started at 3am (SA time) in Jervis Bay, near Ulladulla in the county of Shoalhaven, which is 230km south of Sydney, Australia.

The AR World Series Championship is a grueling nonstop course, that  will see competitors trekking, mountain biking, ocean and river kayaking, pack rafting, navigating and caving for 600 kilometres around the Shoalhaven and surrounds for up to 8 days.

‘Dot watchers’ can keep abreast of their progress by at this link  At the moment both teams are going exceptionally well and have been in the top 10, but anything can happen in adventure racing – so keep on watching!

According to website, the top teams from nine AR World Series qualification races this year will be the favourites, bringing race winners to the start line from events which have taken place in Belize, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, Paraguay, USA, Colombia, Ireland and France.  The European and U.S. national champions are also in the start list, as are the top 7 teams in the AR World Series rankings so there is no doubt this will be one of the most competitive races ever held.

What better place for the a magnificent adventure racing course:- a staggering 70% of Shoalhaven is designated National Park and there are dozens of rivers, lakes and bays, and 109 beautiful beaches, including Jervis Bay, with the whitest beach in the world. Wildlife is abundant, and the huge Morton National Park is renowned for its sandstone cliffs, canyons and forests. Host town Ulladulla is a beach and surf Mecca and nearby Nowra is a renowned climbing destination.

The 600km route was only revealed just before the race start with teams given their maps in ‘Lock Down’ (i.e. without access to phones/internet) and the course will be open for 8 days – which is shorter than previous XPD’s. 

The event is described as “a straight out linear race, no mandatory stops, no dark zones, no optional controls – pure adventure racing at its best!”  This is very much in the XPD ethos of ‘as much an expedition as a race’, giving all the teams time to finish the route and have their own adventure regardless of their position in the rankings. The leaders are expected to take 4.5 days to complete the route, sleeping only for a few hours at the time and place of their choosing.   (As always in adventure racing, tactics, navigation and team work will be as important as endurance and speed in the final outcome.)

The question is who will be the leaders?  It’s a very hard question to answer as there are so many experienced and elite teams in this race and any team getting into the top 20 will have had an exceptional race. Let’s hold thumbs for our local lads and lasses.