Race Report: KeyHealth Nevarest Expedition Africa Full Moon 120km Adventure Race Kouga

Team members

The second race in the Kinetic Full Moon Series saw the Teams arrive in the picturesque holiday haven of St. Francis Bay, on the beautiful Eastern Cape Coast. Set amongst rivers, farmlands and private nature reserves, it was the ideal location for a race of this length.

The Team was eager to race in this format with the 120km race suiting their faster racing strategy over 8 – 10 hours.

 

Team preparation before the race.

The team required some restructuring with two regular ‘A Team’  members unable to compete in the event.

Regular member, Malcolm Dunkeld, was not available due to the birth of his child two weeks before the race and was on family responsibility leave.

Jaco Lourens was also unable to race due to prior work commitments. It was, therefore, necessary to select a team member that would be strong on the MTB and willing to go at a fast pace. It was decided to call up Antonie Joubert to race this format and having raced with Ruan at Transkei Tuff, the team felt he was perfectly suited for the race.

Ruan “Although Antonie is not an elite athlete, he certainly has the grit and determination to compete at this level of adventure racing.”

It was also the first time that siblings, Antonie and Michael, were racing together in the team which added a unique dynamic to the team.

As far as preparation was concerned, all their individual preparation and fitness was very good going into the event. The added bonus of no injuries, left the team feeling confident before the race.

 

The Journey to Cape St Francis Resort

It was a great trip and some team members were able to arrive a day earlier and had the opportunity to visit family in the area. They explored the local restaurants and breweries in this very popular holiday destination and were very impressed by the food and craft beer on offer. Five team members had a pleasant trip from Pretoria, and although they had a long drive to Cape St Francis, they made good time and arrived later on Friday afternoon.

Michael and Yolande flew to PE and were then collected at the airport by their Team Media person, Craig Giese, on route to the start venue at Cape St Francis Resort.

 

Feelings before the event

This was the first time Ruan took responsibility as the lead navigator for the race and was looking forward to the challenge.

Ruan “I had previously only assisted with navigation on some easier legs during a race, so going onto the race and having the full navigational role was quite stressful for me”

The additional pressure was navigating the course against other teams like Jabberwock and Merrell, who each have almost 15 years navigational experience in adventure racing. Fortunately, as part of his preparation, Ruan worked with a close friend,  Eugene Botha, from the Rand Orienteering Club which assisted with navigation a great deal.

“I look forward to the challenge and although the team and I were a bit concerned initially, we have made the decision to help each other at critical points along the route.” said Ruan ahead of the race.


Registration

Fortunately, most of the gear and bikes were packed by Alec and Greg and everything was ready for a quick setup and offload after their arrival. With the race start only at 11:00am on Saturday the team had more than enough time to setup bikes and boxes after registration and race briefing. The team worked well together with each person allocated a specific task in order to streamline the packing process according to the race book guidelines.

The race format included 5 Legs over a total distance of 120km with maps for each leg being given to the teams at the start of each leg.

 

Leg 1 – Trek (15km)

A fast paced Coasteering Leg along the rugged sections of rock and then through sand dunes, was a great leg for the team. CP’s along the coast were quite straight forward and the team did well to open a small lead.

Michael said that although the were going quite fast  “It was a very scenic section and great to have the opportunity to race through private nature reserves. The dune field was hard work and the soft sand was heavy on the legs”

It was quite a race to each CP and the teams were quite close together. The team managed to enter the sand dunes with Jabberwock. Navigation was going well, but unfortunately, like most the top teams they overshot CP5 and had to go back and collect it, which cost them about 10 min and ended up dropping back to about 15th place. Jabberwock also made the same navigational error and the race was on for T1. They knew they had lost valuable time but were confident to be able to make it up on the MTB leg.

“This section was a great warm up and good to get the nerves settled” said Yolande, who although fast, does not feel running was her strong point.


Leg 2 – CYCLE (36km)

After a very quick transition and mapping of the next map sets the team set off chasing hard.

The maps and information provided was limited and it was challenging selecting a definite route. It either was a choice of taking a more direct route, without knowing the condition of the road surface or the longer route, knowing that the road was a combination of gravel and sandy jeep tracks. It was certainly luck of the draw and the team ended up on the shorter route, but had some great difficulty on the very soft sandy sections. They lost a bit of time on the difficult terrain and weren’t able to significantly catch the front teams or create a lead. However, they did manage to hold their position and ended up arriving at T2 together with Jabberwock and with Merrell a couple of minutes behind them.


Leg 3 – KAYAK (10km)

A very fast transition ensued with the team efficiently getting ready for the paddle leg. A quick refill of bottles and then a bite to eat left the team feeling refreshed and ready for the river section.

The team realised that their shoes for the paddle were not in their gear boxes boxes but in the kayak bag which was down a very rocky road before the put in. Unphased the team cruised downhill, barefoot or in socks, 500m towards the kayaks, without flinching on the stoney surface. Tough guys indeed.

There was a steep carry down a short slippery section towards the river and then a final 300m across a grassy embankment to the put in. They ended up reaching the river at the same time as Jabberwock and entered the water at the same time.

The Fluid kayaks are stable, but not built for speed so they were not able to pull any significant lead and decided to paddle together and enjoy the scenery in the fading golden light. It also turned out a good strategy to conserve a bit of energy.


Leg 4 – TREK (15km)

This was a very special section of the race and although they were chasing for most for the way, running along the coast in the moonlight was a wonderful experience for the team.

“The full moon was so bright we hardly had to use our headlamps. The beach sand was fairly hard but still made us work hard” said Antonie.

Halfway through the leg decided to leave the beach and take a tar road through the small village of Paradise Beach. Although only 1 km longer they thought it would be a good option.

Ruan “Antonie’s leg was taking some strain on the beach with and I was towing him a bit. The idea was to conserve energy on the last MTB and we decided it wouldn’t be worth trying to keep up with Jabberwock who were moving very well on the sand”

The team continued to move at a fast pace along the road section and with good navigation arrived at the transition about 6 minutes behind the lead team Jabberwock.

This ended up being a very good decision and a great tactic for the final leg.

Leg 5 – CYCLE (45km)

The transition was going to be very important and the team discussed ahead of time exactly what they were going to do when they arrived at T4 at the Walskipper Restaurant. An excellent transition followed, with Ruan running off to do maps, while the rest of the team worked together to fill water bottles and allocate food. This ensured that they were able to reduce the amount of time spent in transition. As a result of this efficiency, they ended up leaving only 5 minutes behind Jabberwock.

They managed to catch up with them at the first CP of the leg whilst Jabberwock took time to find the CP whilst having a slight mechanical issue.

Yolande “We moved quickly and managed to catch them and then we got excited knowing the race was on”

They left the CP at the same time and decided to put the hammer down and averaged about 25km/hour for the leg and managed to do the leg in under two hours. Jabberwock were pushing and chasing very hard but just couldn’t catch them. The team is very strong on the MTB and used this to their advantage on the last leg.

Unbeknown to the other team members (and because of the dark) Antonie had a nose bleed the entire leg but still pushed through without a complaint. A real champion indeed. He did however frighten a couple of innocent spectators as he crossed the finish line with a face full of blood.

The team was elated to finish in 10h 05min after an extremely tight race with Jabberwock. They were warmly welcomed by Heidi and her effervescent support crew – receiving a heroes reception and applause from the local community.

The champagne tasted extra sweet with this victory and valuable series points to boot.


Closing thoughts

For Team Captain and lead navigator, Ruan, this was a very personal race. In charge of the team and navigation was a huge responsibility which made the win extra special for him.

“This was my first win at a full moon and I’m very pleased with the teams performance. We raced against some very tough competition and huge respect to Jabberwock for fighting hard to the end. This will certainly be a race that i will remember for a very long time”

The youngster in the team, Antonie, performed exceptionally well against other racers and was pushed to his limits in some sections of the race.

“It was very tough and at times I thought my legs were going to take major strain, but I managed to hold on and very pleased we managed to hit the MTB section hard.”

Yolande, even though she is such a strong mountain biker, realised the last leg was going to be a challenge; “We decided it was going to be a hard race to the finish and made the call to to go all out. Fortunately, it worked out well for us and we are pretty happy with the result. This was such a great race, great scenery, awesome course and lots of fun”

Michael -the team energiser bunny- shared his thoughts on the race; I took strain on the first cycle leg, especially on some of the climbs. It felt very long in some sections and we were moving at a fast pace which was tough. But after that, I was able to settle and ended up feeling good and enjoyed the rest of the race. The beach section – even with a sore leg – was a highlight for me

Antonie: “Racing with my brother for the first time it was really awesome and a great experience. We were able to just knew when to help and support each other. The EA in St Francis was great and it’s a wonderful area to race in this beautiful area and I really enjoyed the challenge of the course.”

Ruan shared these closing thoughts: “It was a very well organised race and Heidi and Stephan put together a super event. I always enjoy racing against tough competition and this event delivered on that. It was also really fantastic racing with our adventure racing friends on a great course


The Full Moon Race series ends with the Kinetic Full Moon Drakensberg on 27 – 28 th October. It’s going to be an all out race for the series win with the Nevarest Team tied with Jabberwock going into the final race. There is a huge prize incentive on offer with the overall winners receiving a full entry into Expedition Africa 2019.

The Team will be focussing their preparations and effort into performing well at the final part of the Full Moon Series.

Will they take the win? All we know is that the KeyHealth Nevarest Team will be planning to go all out at this race.

 

 

Craig Giese is an Adventure Photographer and Media Content Developer from the Eastern Cape, South Africa