54 teams from around the world set of on a grueling 500km expedition, an adventure race through the Garden Route. After a gutsy start and early break away, Team Featherbed Painted Wolf consisting of brothers, Mark Collins – the team captain, John Collins -the navigator, Jeannie Dreyer and Darren Berry a volunteer for the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), crossed the finishing line as winners of Expedition Africa in 3 days, 12 hours and 33minutes after the start.
Expedition Africa, a 500km multi-sport, 4 person team, self-navigation, and self-supported race is considered to be the ultimate endurance sport. Teamwork, patience, strategy and incredible fitness get each team across some of the most demanding terrain in the world. Expedition Africa, now in its 6th year, took a different turn this year, as it added a small urban flavour to the typically remote mountain ranges. Over 3 days, Featherbed Painted Wolf kayaked, cycled and trekked through parts of the very scenic Garden Route in the Cape, to help raise awareness for the National Sea Rescue Institute.
From the get-go, Team Feathered Painted Wolf set off at an extremely fast pace, making a break from the pack on the first trek through the Featherbed Nature Reserve. After 3 short kayak legs, their lead slowly opened up to what ended as a massive 7+ hour gap between first and second place.
Moving quickly from transition to transition, Team Featherbed kept hard at it, opting to race as hard as possible, forgoing sleep to achieve their aim – to win! Spectators and fellow racers wondered if this pace set was sustainable however the wait for the team’s strategy to implode was all in vain. The team slept for a total of 3 hours, only!
Putting their race strategy into play, with one and a half days racing without sleep, the team eventually had a 1h45min power nap mid way, which put them at the Canyon leg of the race at the best possible time. This enabled them to do the most difficult part of the race in daylight, which was best suited to the team allowing them to push really hard going into the long cycle leg after a short paddle.
As in all races of this nature, teams always deal with aching muscles and extreme fatigue causing lack of concentration which leads to injuries or unexpected/unfortunate events and Team Featherbed was no different!
During the 5th stage of the expedition, the long, grueling 12 hour trek, Jeannie Dreyer rolled her left ankle which caused her a fair amount of discomfort and swelling. After strapping it well, and not giving into her pain, she bit down and fought through it for the rest of the race, never letting her discomfort get in the way of the teams aim of finishing at the top.
Then came the big shock! At Transition 9, the team leader, Mark Collins, was informed that the team had missed Check Point (CP) 17 and would either need to return to find and fetch it, or they would face a 6 hour penalty. The team decided to take a detour to fetch CP17 allowing them to finish the race with all check points in hand earning them the official win.
Aching muscles, sheer exhaustion but smiling none the less Team Featherbed Painted Wolf crossed the finish line victorious. Mark explains, “Mark Collins had this to say about their race, We did our best from the word go, constantly worried about who might be on our tail. Expedition Africa has fast become one of the best Adventure races in the world and is acclaimed to be so by the best teams in the world, well, we have won Expedition Africa.”
Words and Images: AdventureLife SA