Adventure Racers Meet Their Match

People Beating Down the Door to Enter

Adventure racers Al Cross and Jill Westenra, favourites for the third City Safari navigation event, were beaten into second place on May 20. By experienced bush rogainers emerging from the Tararuas for a rare visit to the city? Nope. By lean and speedy elite orienteers interrupting their split-second training for something a bit more deliberate? Nope.

The winners were Wellington city councillor Andy Foster and Greg Thurlow. Both are members of niche running group Wellington Ridge-Runners, which organizes day-long runs over bush tracks usually regarded as 3-4 day tramping trips. This illustrates the strong links between WRR and Orienteering Hutt Valley, which has led to the capital’s burgeoning rogaine scene.

The City Safari is an urban rogaine with a new element – “a moving playing field” provided by public transport routes and timetables. It’s like having moveable hills – if a bus is due travel is fast, if not it is slow – but in a predictable way. And the wilderness feeling is equalled if not surpassed by the wonderful views from Wellington’s hills! The idea has caught the imagination of Wellingtonians, with numbers almost doubling each year from 80 to 140 to 270!

In the 6-hour score event, Foster and Thurlow headed straight for Johnsonville using the train, collecting control points on the 445m Mt Kaukau before descending to points in Khandallah and Ngaio Gorge. They also visited Wilton Bush and Wrights Hill before rounding the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to the wind turbine, and back to the finish at Frank Kitts Park.

Cross and Westenra used buses to get to Johnsonville allowing them to pick up controls on the way, and at the top of Kaukau were only a few minutes behind but with a higher score. Bypassing Khandallah and bussing from Wadestown to Otari enabled them to complete a similar circuit of the west and southern high points and they were ahead on the ground descending from the windmill. This allowed them to get some controls in Kelburn and finish via the cablecar, but the points gained did not match those scored by the winners in Khandallah. The margin was 100 out of 1255. Maximum score was 2000.

Rogaining is a branch of orienteering, but the first well-known orienteering names were those of William Power, Sarah Underwood and Peter Bakos, who finished 8th. Warwick Hill (who won NZ’s first rogaine in Belmont Regional Park) was 10th with daughter Katie. The top womens team Fiona Clendon and Pip le Couteur from Eastbourne were 9th overall.

But it wasn't all serious competition. 60 of the 100 teams chose the 3-hour competition; they were more likely to have larger teams, and be mixed-sex or family teams. They had a special set of additional control points close to transport routes, which were not available to the 6-hour teams. Though the winners Ross Bidmead and Anton Marsden followed the pull of Mt Kaukau, others explored different points of the compass. Many just enjoyed a day surfing the buses. Areas where public transport got close to controls included Mt Victoria, the airport, Mt Albert and Southgate, Kingston, Karori, Wilton and Khandallah. The control at the Johnsonville Domino’s could be reached while the train waited at the station. And of course there was a control at the top of the cablecar:-))

Wellington also has a busy underground! The control point at one end of a tunnel in Ngaio Gorge required a lengthy stream traverse or a bent-over shuffle through the very dark tunnel. It was visited by 29 of the 40 6-hour teams. Other “underground” control points were located in caves on Mt Kaukau, Tinakori Hill, a subway under the airport, and gunpits on Wrights Hill and above the Hutt Road.

Rogaine mastermind Mike Sheridan and 8-year-old Ryan took a scooter - wearing out the brakes coming down the Old Porirua Road from Ngaio. Green party candidate Paul Bruce and “Living Streets” coordinator Celia Wade-Brown visited Mt Albert and the headland above the proposed marine museum at Te Raekaihau Point. The Ross family team “Generation Game” from Whitemans Valley headed to the south coast using routes that suited their baby buggy. The team consisted of grandparents Peter and Sue, parents Shane and Jill, 2-year-old Angus - and 2-MONTH-old Lachlan!

Shane wrote... "Big thanks to Wellington Regional Council and the public transport system. Travelling with a mountainbuggy was only a minor hassle - the bus aisles were wide enough to carry a collapsed pram and the routes that we took were long enough for bubs to be (breast) fed between groups of control points. Other people travelling in the buses were quite interested in what we were doing and asked lots of questions. I suspect that you will have people beating down the door to enter next year."

Results now include winners routes, visit analysis. Click on the photos at left for larger versions. Thanks to photographers Greater Wellington, Graeme Silcock and Mick Finn.

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