Skip Navigation

Noses All A-Quiver

Adam Rose / Photo : Bruce Viaene / 03.09.2019

Team Merrell on the via ferrata chasing Blizzard

You know how rabbits prick up their ears, sniff the air, get all quivery when they sense something a-lurking? That’s how Day 3 ended. There’s excitement in the air, certainty is no longer certain, and the Russians are coming! Or maybe the Merrells. But not definitely the Swedes.

At dawn, we arrived at T6. Boats were scattered on the shore, teams off in pursuit of tortoises, caves and islands of Crab. Team Merrell were just setting out on the leg 17 paddle to T7. On their return from them caves, none of them could remember what discipline was next. Minds blank. Clean. Fortunately the glitch was dealt with, so paddling it was. Greener Adventure Team had left at 1am, KeyHealth Nevarest at 4:09, Blizzard at 4:24, and Merrell escaped the clutches of the transition at 5:08.

KHN’s boat had dragged anchor onshore thanks to the bare mast. The fishermen had warned this would happen, due to the incessant wind. At least that was the extent of their worries. Another team threw their anchor in correctly but forgot to ensure it was tied to the boat, which drifted off on the tide, and needed to be retrieved by the coastguard.  

Jabberwock arrived at T6 ready for the paddle, and Craig Metherell was in a similar blur. He couldn’t remember “if it was long legs, short legs, left legs, right legs.” Tracey just wanted to get going. Team Domkrag were multiple stages behind, but when I asked which team Stella belonged to, she started to say Wally, her husband’s name. When they first checked into the TA, she asked whether it was T5? No, said Bruce, T6. “Ah, good”, was her reply.

I disturbed Bloed & Omo in the grounds of the Fisheries building, just behind the TA, and Daryl got up to say hello. He hadn’t been able to sleep properly thanks to the mice running around near his head, which he claimed were after his food. I wondered if the mice were real.

Heading out of the hamlet, I visited the shores opposite Crab Island, where teams had to swim a tasty 600m or so across the channel, grab 2 CPs, then return en route to the tortoise lair. Castlelite’s Craig Powell said he’d had dry shoes all of 5 minutes in the race. Apparently the relative healthiness of racers’ feet was due to the salinity. That’s what Plett AR’s Drew Scott claimed: saltwater doesn’t get absorbed the way fresh water does; rather, it dries things out. I have no idea so I’ll agree.

What I saw everywhere was the effect of that saltwater on chaffing, especially of the crotch area. In that vein, the Yeehaa! prize for obvious cowboy gait goes to XPD Holland (34), where the stride was wide, stroop waffles a birthday treat for team member Stijn Ribeek, and beers flowing. XPD Holland (54) joined in the cheers, then got back to groin damage control before the tortoise trek.

Sweaty Betty’s had made it to T6, where Michell Powell noted that the navigator can ask for anything, because they have such responsibility keeping their minds in the map. Barely minutes later, Nikki Smit walked up oblivious, asking, “Can you guys shake the sand from my shoes, please?”  

Happy couple Lynette and Fritz were also freshly into transition. Lynette said her future husband “makes me work very hard for (the engagement ring)” by proposing during the race. The team had totally underestimated the toughness of the race, which is expected from newbies, but then truly appreciated the support and advice they were continually receiving from experienced teams. Hey, one tribe.   

On the tired side, Fritz had spent 10 minutes this morning trying to find the CPs on the map in front of him. They were clearly printed in red. 😊

The bulk of my day was spent retracing loops between the caves, T6 and Crab Island, scootering down goat tracks, watching the endless to and fro of the same faces across different disciplines. Taking a breather was essential. One involved 4 locals calling me off my scooter to drink 33% Blue Diamond cane spirits and eat salted fish under an ancient tree. We barely spoke each other’s language, and google translate doesn’t like slurred pronunciation. No, I didn’t imbibe, but good times. I also saw two pigs being taken for a walk in the ocean. Not sleepmonsters.

Teams are starting to feel the strain. Fear of the sea isn’t helping. At the Crab island swim, we met many teams with one or two members needing serious convincing to enter the water, especially if they had done the swim-run from T4. We swam it to catch teams on the other side, and though the current was deceptively weak, it looked fast thanks to the wind chop. One person was quite teary after the return swim, saying her team “had saved her.”

As dusk was drawing in, word came that a drama was unfolding. It had seemed GAT had the race in the bag barring incident, and it came in form of a sandbar. Paddling from T7 out to Coco Island with a 3hr lead, they’d run foul of the tide, and could do nothing but wait. Looking on the bright side, they used the time effectively for sleeping and eating, and just as the tide rose sufficiently to resume paddling, Team Merrell appeared. Blizzard weren’t far behind.

T8 on Coco had them minutes apart. Into T9 at the Oasis Vacances hotel, all within 10 minutes, but crucially the Russians emerged first. The race to the via ferrata bottleneck was on!

I skidded into T9 shortly after they left, and hightailed it with other media crew for the cliffs overlooking Baie aux Huitres. A brand-new operation not yet open to the public, the teams would be the first to use it in anger.

GAT overtook Merrell and Blizzard, but just before the cliffs, made a crucial mistake, overshooting a path. Standing by the edge, the Russians came storming down the grassy track, looking strong. Merrell were just a minute behind them. Both teams scrambled for their harnesses and biners. Blizzard won, and left a minute or so before Merrell.

Greener Adventure Team appeared within seconds. Frustrated, they geared up. Jonas was annoyed, then took back control, “We’ll overtake them afterwards.” He seemed confident.

I followed them from below as the teams traversed the cliff face, clipping the cables in the dark. All had switched on their head torches. Merrell and Blizzard were close together, GAT lagging.

The via ferrata ended with a short zipline, but I didn’t hang around. The rain was setting in, and there was no point joining the teams in their misery.

A stiff trek in dense bush across multiple summits lay crouched. Shrouded in drizzle, hill tops barely visible, it looked nasty. Stephan chuckled as he said the CPs would be hard. The very first was a fork in a stream in a ravine, with only one fork shown on the map but three in reality. I shivered and ran back to my scooter. The race was heating up, but I was cold, and no rest awaited the weary.

[If you enjoyed this story and would like SleepMonsters to continue reporting on Adventure Racing then we need your help. Please support our Patreon campaign or make a donation via PayPal.]

About The Author

Adam Rose
Adam Rose (Do-Wat). Adam is our specialist dot watcher and Facebook updater, as well as reporting races, when he's not racing them. (Recent outings include the Basque Expedition Race, Raid Bimbache & the Czech AR.

More About Expedition Africa Rodrigues 2019

Sailing Adventures in Paradise – Expedition Africa Rodrigues

Sailing Adventures in Paradise – Expedition Africa Rodrigues
Adventure Racing tests endurance, outdoor skill and team work by putting teams into new situations and locations, where they can explore Read More


Party, Party, Party

Party, Party, Party
The closing ceremony took place at the Mourouk Hotel, where the race had started 7 days previously. Teams were bussed in from all over the Read More


This Is The End, My Friend

This Is The End, My Friend
The last day of racing. Today was the busiest I’ve ever seen at Expedition Africa, with 50 teams crossing the finish in a single day, Read More


Das Boot

Das Boot
OK, let’s talk about the crux of Expedition Africa Rodrigues: the Floating Vessels of Dooom!! (cue thundering chords and howls to the Read More


Mind Games And Loads of Bull

Mind Games And Loads of Bull
Navigation is key in AR. We know that. With all the mental pressures in this race due to its complexity, teams are employing whatever means Read More


Fine Details Made The Difference

Fine Details Made The Difference
Whew. That was a good one. And so frequent in AR, a sprint finish after days of racing, in this case 70hrs 40 mins. Swedes Greener Read More


Swedish Team Greener Adventure Cyklekraft Take The Win

Swedish Team Greener Adventure Cyklekraft Take The Win
Leading teams, Greener Adventure (SWE) and Blizzard (RUS) race neck and neck throughout the night, hoping to gain some sort of advantage Read More


Families, Couples, Neighbours and Butt Cracks

Families, Couples, Neighbours and Butt Cracks
This race is a curious beast. With so many stages, and all so short, it has encouraged many competitors out of the jungle, with visions of Read More


T4 Top 4 High And Dry

T4 Top 4 High And Dry
The first team to arrive at T4 on Pierrot Island were the Swedes, Greener Adventure Team, at 3:02am. Only 7 minutes slower than Read More


The Helluva Start

The Helluva Start
That was intense. Knock my socks off and grip my knees intense. Like certain mangrove swamps, it will be a stage never forgotten by the Read More


Shaun the Sheep, Newbies and The Ear

Shaun the Sheep, Newbies and The Ear
Teams took different approaches before the 1pm kick off. Some bothered their gear, checking and rechecking. Others lolled in the sun or the Read More


Expedition Africa - How it Works!

Expedition Africa - How it Works!
Expedition Africa Rodrigues is going to be a real one-off with teams using local sailing boats as a mobile transition and the 350km Read More


Race Day 1: A Jumping Memorial Service

Race Day 1: A Jumping Memorial Service
Riding down the long hill to the start, dark clouds were brewing to the south. Storms over Mourouk? That would be hectic. With a southerly Read More


The Prologue That Wasn't

The Prologue That Wasn't
Q: How do you get 238 bikes across a hilly island without any effort, guaranteeing there won’t be any damage or logistical Read More


The Brief-ing

The Brief-ing
Stephan gave a customary no-nonsense briefing to answer all the questions, and such was the preparation, it finished pretty sharpish. Read More


Footballs and Love

Footballs and Love
Dawn was ideal racing conditions. Slight overcast, cool breeze, low humidity. Not what I expected before arriving here. It boded well for Read More


There's Still Time For Dance

There's Still Time For Dance
Registration took place at 12 o’clock today at the Women and Family Centre (Youth) of Anse aux Anglais, a few hundred metres from Read More


Everyone’s In The Same Boat.

Everyone’s In The Same Boat.
I arrived on-island at about 8pm last night, straight into a meeting that confronted the enormity of the task ahead. It is hectic. Everyone Read More


Encore! Encore!

Encore! Encore!
Encore! Encore! In the passport queue at Mauritius airport, waiting for the connecting flight to Rodrigues, I spied an Osprey Read More


Preparations Are In Full Swing For Expedition Africa Rodrigues

Preparations Are In Full Swing For Expedition Africa Rodrigues
Hundreds of adventure athletes, at this very moment, are packing, preparing and double checking their gear as they get ready for their Read More


Expedition Africa Rodrigues 2019

Expedition Africa Rodrigues 2019

Support Adventure Racing

SleepMonsters Patreon

Facebook

like us on facebook

Our Patrons

Rootstock Racing

TanzNavigation

SleepMonsters Patreon

Thank you to all our

adventure racing

patrons


Rootstock Racing

Tanz Navigation

-- -- --

Brian Gatens

-- -- --

Adventure Enablers

Chipp Dodd

Celia Nash

David Ellis

Erik Sanders

Fiona McBryde

Graham Bird

Jakub Malik

Strong Machine AR

-- -- --

Adrian Crane

Barbara Campbell

Klaus Mygind

Marco Ponteri

Nigel Davison

Rob Horton

Semyon Yakimov