Adventure Racers Bus to Win

The win in Saturday’s City Safari of outstanding endurance athletes Al Cross and Jill Westenra was no surprise. Both Cross and Westenra are training for the Southern Traverse World Championship in adventure racing, in which navigation skills are increasingly important. Previously manager for Cross’s team, Westenra has now joined Team Kathmandu, last year’s Traverse winners.

A mixed-sex team also placed second in the prime 6hr category. Lower Hutt team Debbie Mansfield, Julie Gordon and Glen Warner are part of a growing band of off-road runners who delight in Wellington’s hilly trails. They also surprised by placing second in the autumn series of 3-hour afterwork rogaines, after taking up the navigation sport only this year. Their team name: “Quick Learners”.

After the 15min prologue in downtown Lower Hutt both teams used buses to get to control points on the Eastern Hills. Though both took different routes, buses helped between controls in Wainuiomata before bush tracks in East Harbour Regional Park. From Lowry Peak Cross and Westenra descended to Point Howard, while Quick Learners came out of the bush at Days Bay, busing back to Seaview.

In fact Quick Learners were lucky to recover from an early tactical error. They initially picked up a 10-pointer in Alicetown intending to catch the bus up the Western Hills. But after just missing it, they did a complete about-face, heading back past the start to Queensgate and a bus to Naenae. Third-placed Paul Chaplow and Barryn Westfield included the Western Hills in their route, but in spite of the "leg-up" provided by the bus they didn't reap enough points to beat the two mixed teams. Jo Forbes and Rob Harrow, who will team with Cross in the Southern Traverse, were sucked even further out on a limb. They were one of only four teams to visit the 70-pointer at Korokoro Dam - not enough to justify the effort - and they finished in tenth place.

Eastbourne rogainers Mike Sheridan (winning autumn series team) and Lynne Plimmer saw a leading position in the 3hr competition plummet to "back door" when they missed a bus at Days Bay by 100m. With only an hourly service a huge lateness was inevitable, and the pair went home and picked up a car to report in at the finish! Which was worth it, a party atmosphere in warm sunshine around the Cityline bus in Andrews Avenue and all-you-can-eat pizza.

The 3hr category was won by Wellington City Councillor Andy Foster and Greg Thurlow. In spite of the shorter time period, the two members of Wellington's Ridge-Runner off-road running club got right to the south end of Wainuiomata, across Lowry Peak and down to Days Bay in time for a bus home.

The 3hr category also attracted family groups. Three generations of the Ross family of Whitemans Valley including 16-month old Angus placed 5th. Jill Ford, Bill Brierley and their daughter Odette took scooters to help between buses. Hutt South Greens candidate Paul Bruce took part with transport lobbyist Brent Efford. And the college category was won by Wanganui High School including Tessa Ramsden, fresh back from the Junior World Orienteering Champs in Switzerland.

And by all accounts the bus drivers had a good time too. Shane Ross wrote... "We (Generation Gap) had a great time... We did the Mangauraki loop, and did well at it and we have nothing but praise for the drivers on that section. Helpful, courteous, lots of advice, good humour and encouragement. Even my 12 year old son commented on how great the bus service was."

Foster's parting shot: "We must talk about running a Safari in Wellington..." Well we want to see it in Christchurch and Auckland too:-))

Results now include winners routes, visit analysis. Click on the photos at left for larger versions. Thanks to photographers Kathy Farquhar, Mick Finn, Graeme Silcock, Chaucey Ellis.

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