The leading 6 teams completed the stage 5 kayak on day three, avoiding a mandatory 10 hour overnight riverside camp (from 19.00 to 05.00), which teams behind them had to endure. With the chasing teams stalled the top 6 were now racing for the world title over the final stages, and it’s a close race.
Starting the kayak stage it was 400 team of France who lead, then the Estonian ACE/La Sportiva team moved into the lead on the stage seven 224km cycle ride, only to be passed by the Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team (SAFAT), who now lead going into the 4th night.
Merrell Songlines (the leading RSA team), Bend Racing Skin Doctor (USA) and another French team, Absolu Raid Capganguise, are all still in the title hunt for a podium place as well. They may be some hours behind, but in expedition adventure racing that is a small margin as a team’s pace can drop significantly after more than 80 hours of almost non-stop racing. A navigation mistake or a bike mechanical problem can also cost hours and these experienced teams will race to the line, concentrating on their own performance and on not making mistakes in the closing stages.
At the close of day 4 SAFAT has a slim lead over their Estonian rivals as they complete a 64km trek. These two teams have battled many times before, including in the last two World Championships, and at Adventure Race Croatia this year. Each time the Swedish team has come out on top. Merrell Songlines will have the support of South Africa, while Absolu Raid Capganguise are the surprise members of the lead group, racing well beyond their world ranking of #162.
These teams still have to complete the stage 8 trek, which is now shortened by the cancellation of a canyon stage due to flooding, then comes a 124km cycle ride and final 32km coastal trek with has checkpoints in some of the world’s biggest sand dunes. The winners are expected to reach the finish line at Cape St. Francis Resort on the afternoon of Monday 23rd and their progress can be followed by live satellite tracking at www.expafrica.live
It’s is possible some of the chasing teams will catch the lead pack after their night spent by the Fish River. After a day of storms and rain, they suffered a very cold night, camped out with only an extra layer of clothing and a bivvy sac for protection.
Camila Nicolau of Brazil Multisport said, "We had to stop paddling very early as there were no good take out places but we found a house and slept on the veranda so were out of the wind a little. But it was so cold! We had an extra layer of clothing but no sleeping bags as there wasn't space in the gear boxes."
In the same position were the Fear Youth team (NZ) who are the youngest in the race, aged just 18-20, but they completed the paddle in much better condition. “We just stopped 2 minutes before the deadline and slept on the riverbank,” said Dean Stewart. “It was cold and uncomfortable, but it’s not like the cold at home, so we were OK and just waited it out.” The young team, in their first international race, are still on course for a top 10 finish.
Further back in the race teams were still recovering from the storm and heavy rains which hit them on a trekking stage the previous day. Many teams descended from the mountains and took shelter where they could. South African farm hospitality was shown to teams, who were given a place to sleep out of the rain, and in some cases invited in to watch the rugby!
The teams who missed checkpoints or were transported forward in the race, will now be non-competitive. At the close of day 4 less than half of the 107 starting teams were still ranked on the full course. The teams at the back of the race are gathered at transition three at the Buffelshoek Dirosie Lodge, waiting the kayak stage to open again at first light on day 5.
By Monday night we will know the new AR World Champions and teams will then continue to race to the finish at Cape St. Francis Resort over the next 4 days.
Follow the race live on AR World Series media channels @arworldseries and on www.arworldseries.com/live