After registration, followed by the flag parade and opening ceremony, teams had one more night’s sleep before setting off for the start. Given the scale of the race ahead, (840km of wilderness travel over 5 to 9 days) it may be a restless sleep, but they could relax a little once they had handed in their carefully packed gear and bikes boxes to be transported out onto the course.
All that remained was to get on the bus at 5.00am on the 19th, to be taken to the start, which is at an undisclosed location at 11.00am.
Flag Parade and Opening Ceremony
The Flag Parade at an Adventure Racing World Championship is an opportunity for all teams to be together for the first time, and to proudly wave the flag of the country under which they are racing.
Teams gathered on Tuesday (17th) at the St Francis Links, a signature golf course, under blue skies and sunny warmth. A snake of teams, waving flags from 38 countries meandered from the gate to the clubhouse, stopping on the fairway for a cultural show featuring traditional African dancers and drummers. By the end most of the racers were dancing among the performers as the drummers upped the tempo and everyone was invited to join in. Nothing quite like it had happened on the golfing fairway before!
The Parade halted at the clubhouse for teams to file into the conference room for the Opening Ceremony and the red carpet entrance was lined with posters and photo collages from the previous 10 Expedition Africa’s. There were many teams stopping to look at their photos from previous races and there are four racers who have competed in them all.
Inside the teams were wished well by the Executive Mayor of the Kouga Municipality Mr Hattingh Bornman and Director of Medicus Shoes representing Merrell, Mr David Palmer (who is competing in the race), and the owner of Cape St Francis Resort, Ms Fiona Malherbe.
Ms Charlene Booysen, the Executive of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality also spoke and reminded the gathering of Nelson Mandela's words: "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does".
Given what had just taken place on the fairway, with so many nationalities coming together to celebrate this World Championship, that truth was evident.
As co-organiser of Expedition Africa and CEO of AR World Series, Heidi Muller warmly welcomed teams and thanked the AR World Series and event partners, her dedicated volunteer crew, and over 100 media who are covering the race.
She also acknowledged the untimely passing of adventure racers; people with passion for life and adventure racing who are sorely missed by their Adventure Racing family. (Some teams are racing in memory of recently deceased team mates.)
Muller also shared a message of HOPE. A year ago, after announcing this year’s event, she went for a run on the beach at Cape St Francis. As an event organiser, she hoped on that day that teams would come here to South Africa to participate.
That faith was fulfilled and the teams now set off on the race she has prepared with her husband and co-Race Director, Stephan Muller, all with their own hopes for the days ahead.
Her role in both Expedition Africa and the ARWS, as an INSPIRATIONAL leader and advocate in the sport of adventure racing, helped to fill the race and make it the most internationally representative AR World Champs ever.
Lastly, she added a message of UNITY reminding everyone of the importance of unity in adventure racing, as a team can only make it to the finish line if they stay and work together. The sport is also unique in that men and women are united in the same team.
Pack, Load and Go
After the Opening Ceremony teams received more details of the course at the race briefing. The teams received their Race Book with details of each stage and the checkpoints, but not the race maps. (Those will be given out, stage by stage, during the race.)
That information allowed them to return to Cape St Francis Resort and complete their packing of gear boxes, paddle bags, bike boxes and food for each stage. This is a complex task, especially for such a long race, and important for a successful race. Not having enough food or missing a piece of equipment would be costly.
Following a final team captain’s Q&A at 7am on the 18th the final packing was completed and all of the boxes and bags loaded onto trucks. At that point teams could relax for their last night before the race, and the logistics team began their own immense task, moving them all around the course. (Over 2000 bikes, boxes and kayaks will be moved transported.)
On Thurs Oct 19th teams finally reach the start line of the 2023 Adventure Racing World Championship and receive the first of their maps for the opening 56km trekking stage.
The race will have extensive media coverage, including daily videos and photo galleries and live reporting from the course. There will also be live satellite tracking and the best place to keep up with the news is www.arworldseries.com/live where you can see the tracking and feeds from the ARWS Facebook, Instagram and Youtube channels.
A video of the opening flag parade is available at https://youtu.be/v4-qscoar44.