New addition to the AR calendar, WCAD Winter Wanderer race report

Logo_winter wanderer

26-27 July 2014

Citrusdal – Koningskop

Introduction

The WCAD Winter Wanderer was a new addition to the AR calendar for 2014. The inaugural event took place in the Citrusdal region, exploring the Olifants River Mountains. This beautiful area is a little less known to Adventure Racing and definitely worth the visit.

The weather was true to the event’s namesake and competitors had to battle the terrain as well as the fury of the Cape’s winter through the night as they made their way around the course.

Preparation station

All the teams arrived on the Friday evening to get registered and start their route planning as far in advance as possible. The start/finish was at Koningskop Campsite and Lapa, a fantastic venue located amongst dramatic mountains. Teams enjoyed pizzas for dinner as they strategized and planned for the adventure that lay ahead, all the while hoping that the skies would show some mercy.

Preparing for battle

Everyone woke to thick mist and occasional drizzle and started the final packing and organizing before race briefing and final Q&A. First up would be the micro-nav leg, which was revealed in surrounding mountains as the mist started to lift and teams could start planning their routes from below.

Leg 1: 7km Micro-Nav

The race started at 10h15am and the first leg required teams to collect four checkpoints in any order and by any route possible. Some teams ‘tiger-lined’ their way from point to point whilst others elected to stick to the tracks in the hope that they would cover ground faster.

Leg 1: Micro-Nav

Team MATES seemed to nail each CP in the most direct fashion possible and were back at Koningskop in under an hour to be the first team to saddle up and get going on the first mountain bike leg. Slower teams took one and a half hours for the micro-nav.

WCAD WW 044

Leg 2: 34km MTB

The first mountain biking leg headed back up through the valley, treating teams to some fantastic views and even visiting a special rock art site before descending down the mountain in a hurry.

Leg 2: MTB

The rain would have helped compact some of the sandy tracks but it also made the rocky decent down a 4×4 track much more interesting. Teams took between 2 and 4 hours on this leg before arriving at T1 and preparing to raft the Olifants River.

Leg 3: 16km River Raft

Now mid-afternoon and temperatures were peaking at about 10 degrees so most competitors chose to don wetsuits as they set off in two man inflatable ‘crocs’ down a seriously swollen Olifants River.

Leg 3: River Raft

This river is no more than a trickle during summer months and is usually fairly tricky to navigate through the maze of channels but the recent rains had transformed it into a massive force of nature. More water meant that teams were quicker than expected which was good considering they had to deal with very cold hands and quickly disappearing daylight. The last team only got onto the water at 5h30pm so they did the last hour of the rafting leg in the dark. Luckily, there was a fire at the river exit, but that was all there was at this transition so teams quickly changed and started the mammoth trek up the mountain into the night.

Leg 4: 26km Trek

This leg was always going to be the ‘tester’! Starting this leg, team Olympus had a 20 minute lead and they did well to make the most of what little daylight was left by reaching the tricky CP at the top of the mountain just as the light was going.

WCAD WW 019Leg 4: Trek

It was hard work getting to the top of the mountain with teams gaining almost 1000m in altitude since leaving the river. The CP on the high point was also not the most straightforward to find, it required precise navigation in windy and stormy conditions, let alone pitch dark.

There were a couple route choices to get off the mountain and this is where things got very interesting. The more direct route went down a kloof on a track that was more real on the map than on the ground, this route also lost quite a lot of altitude which would need to be regained en route to T3. The less obvious but far quicker and easier route was longer but contoured its way toward the road that would take competitors to T3. Only the Mountain Manne elected to this option and ended up saving about an hour and lots of scratched legs.

Arriving at the transition at Golden Sunset provided temporary relief from the elements. Standing around the fire with warm soup and coffee seemed to revitalize teams and get them energized for the final MTB leg.

Leg: 5: 65km MTB

The final MTB leg was fairly straightforward, sticking mainly to main roads in an effort to avoid the soft sand tracks. The big decision was how to fetch the final CP. There were two completely different route choices, one involving far more climbing but less distance on better roads in a big loop to get the CP, the other choice, as chosen by Extreme Lights Untamed and Epic, was an out and back and much flatter but teams had a bit of soft sand to contend with so there was unlikely any big advantage to either route.

Leg 5: MTB

This leg took teams 4-7 hours and after 16h30min of racing, it was the mixed pair of Tim Deane and Jane Swarbreck, racing as Team Olympus, who were first to arrive back at Koningskop. They were followed closely by Team MATES, a mixed four consisting of Alec Rust, Alwyn Maass, Pieter Holtzhausen and Vanessa Fisher.

Wrap-up

The Koningskop Lapa began to look like a bomb site as teams seemed to crash on the floor, soon after arrival. Most people managed to get a few hours of sleep in before we were served a lovely buffet breakfast and everyone started to exchanged war stories and share their adventures!

Everyone chipped in with a short account of their experience at the prize giving. It was awesome to see the fellowship that this shared crazy experience creates. Winning teams and lucky draws received awesome prizes from Capestorm and Extreme Lights which left big smiles on their faces. We would also like to give big thanks to our new headline sponsor: First Technology, without whom, this event would not have been possible.

Special thanks must also go to all those who made this event happen:

  • The farmers in this area were some of the friendliest I have ever come across and land permissions were almost always given freely. Thank you for sharing your special part of the world with us.
  • Thanks to Koningskop for hosting us at their beautiful venue and campsite. And all the hard work and effort in the lead-up and during the weekend.
  • Thank you to all the hosts of the transition areas, especially Golden Sunset who provided the cottage for T3 free of charge because of their own passion for adventure.
  • Thanks to the photographer: Jonathan Jones from Urban Lung Productionsfor providing great pics at a seriously discounted rate.
  • Thank you to all the marshals who gave up their weekend and sleep to come and help out in some pretty miserable conditions and thanks to the supporters who seemed to lend a hand wherever they could.

Well done to everyone who took part and special congrats to those who got to the finish line with team intact. We hope to see you all at the WCAD eXpedition 250km AR in November and please encourage novice friends to try out AR at the 30km Adventure Sprint at the Gravity Festival on 16 August.

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