Absolute Wilderness Adventure Race 2018
The 5th edition of the Absolute Wilderness Adventure Race will be held in Reefton over the weekend. A record number of 117-teams (365-racers) has entered in the sporting event that includes whitewater rafting, mountain biking, trekking and navigation.
Teams of three and four persons will navigate their way from the start to the finish using only map and compass, through a series of control points.
The competition is the creation of five time Adventure Racing World Champion, Nathan Fa’avae, who also organises the iconic Torpedo7 Spring Challenge Adventure Race.
Both events travel to new locations each year and for 2018, Fa’avae has chosen the Buller region, with Reefton for this race and later in the year, Westport for the Spring Challenge.
The Reefton race will have four categories catering for a wide range of abilities. For beginners there is the 3-hour event, intermediate level participants will be taking part in the 6-hour and for the advanced teams there is the 12-hour. New to this years race is the introduction of the 12-hour 4-person teams division which is part of the newly established A1 Adventure Racing Series, a national series which is also in Australia and South Africa.
Fa’avae explains “it’s really important to offer a wide range of entry options, to grow the sport and make it accessible for more people. The 3-hour race is 28km, teams will get to do an amazing rafting trip, a scenic hike and a fun bike ride, with some compass work mixed in. It’s aimed at being achievable and adventurous. The 6-hour is a step up, a 38km route but with more testing navigation, I think a few teams will be wandering around in the forest doing circles in a few places, but the skilled teams will move quickly. We have two 12-hour events, one is 84km and the other (the A1 Series) is a big step up at 124km. The 12-hour events have technical navigation and the longer race includes a pack-rafting stage. This year we see a number of the New Zealand’s elite teams taking part. One of the great things about this race is that the beginners and school teams are in the same event as the top level athletes, they have something to aspire to.”
The main race is the 12-hour 4-person teams competition, with these teams using the race as a final hit out before the GODZone Adventure Race held in March, in Fiordland, New Zealand’s multi day expedition competition.
There are 4-teams expected to be battling for line honours. Leading the charge will most likely be Swordfox (Brent Edwards, Aaron Prince, Ash Whitehead and Georgia Whitla). They are a highly experienced team, include a former World Champion and would be the strongest navigators.
They won’t have it easy though with Yealands Family Wines (Dan Busch, Nick Hahn, Sia Svensden and Patrick Higgins), they are a powerful team and navigation will be a strength of this team too with ace orienteering champion Hahn holding the maps. Another team that is capable of winning is 2017 GODZone winners Tiki Tour (George Lucas, Tom Lucas, Mike Kelly and Floortje Grimmett). They are a strong team and will be keen to mix it up at the front of the race.
A wild card team that could surprise is Easy Over (Nick Ross, Sophie Hart, Gus Jennings and Shane Armstrong). This team is likely to have social aims for the race but they have the skills and ability to be competitive if they choose to.
The racing though is not limited to the 12-hour competition. Throughout all the grades and divisions there will be races within the race, school teams taking each other on, veteran teams, men’s, women’s and mixed teams. The beauty of an adventure race is teams can opt to the race the course, the other teams, or sometimes it can be purely a personal challenge, a race within. Different people take part for different reasons, but one thing all the participants will have in common, is that they will traverse some incredibly scenic and beautiful landscapes of the Reefton area, powered only by themselves.
The course is kept a secret until Friday evening prior to the race but teams found out recently that they will be rafting the Gentle Annie Gorge on the Grey River.
“It is unique to have a wilderness rafting stage in a 1-day adventure race, I think this is a first for the sport in New Zealand. The Grey River is one of the ‘best kept secrets’ in terms of South Island rivers and the teams are in for an ‘wow’ experience” Fa’avae adds.
The other event stages all fan off the rafting stage with teams hiking and biking on conservation estate and private land.
Teams have been told to expect true wilderness feeling courses, primarily in the valleys of the Reefton region.
“I have said to the teams they are going to be amidst the scenery, as opposed to looking at it from afar” Fa’avae quips.
The event is significant for the small town of Reefton, with approximately 500-people attending the race, athletes, supporters and staff. The organisers have been praising the local community for their enthusiasm and support. Linking an adventure race course together requires the assistance of land owners and Reefton has embraced the event. The local SAR team are playing a critical role with event logistics and a number of local community groups are working on the event, including the Reefton Area School. Buller District Council and the Department of Conservation have also worked alongside the event management team to assist.
Fa’avae concludes “The locals have been so welcoming and helpful, I really hope we can do them justice but delivering a safe and successful event”.
The event sponsors are Absolute Wilderness Freeze Dried Meals and Torpedo7.