City Safari - NZ's Biggest Rogaine

Top Teams Tie

The Metlink City Safari has smashed the record to become New Zealand’s largest rogaine! Last Sunday 540 people mapread their way all over Wellington - nearly 100 more than previous record held by an event at Piha last year.

In its sixth year, the Safari is a game on a moving playing field. Teams can use buses, trains and the cablecar to score points by visiting checkpoints. The harbour ferry is usually allowed too, but high winds prevented it operating. Winds up to 100kmh also buffeted high-up points on the western skyline and Hawkins Hill, but elsewhere conditions were good. Places such as Otari Plant Museum; the maze-like Karori Cemetery; Tapu Te Ranga Marae at Island Bay; the penguin colony at Greta Point; and Seatoun School. There was even a checkpoint at the Cuba Street fountain!

The 6-hour Safari was won by Australian rogaine pioneer David Rowlands, teamed with Jamie Stewart of Wellington. Since planning the first world rogaine championship in 1992, Rowlands has been in the winning team no less than three times. Even at the age of 49, he placed 11th in last year’s championship in Estonia. Stewart is an all-round navigator - current Oceania orienteering champion in the sprint (15min) distance, but also placing third in the 2005 Southern Traverse/World Adventure Racing Championship, in which teams are on the move for a week! Two weeks ago he led his team to victory in Canterbury’s 24hr “Twalk”.

But their Safari result was a close call. After being 30 points down in the 10-minute prologue around the waterfront, the winners posted a score of 1175 using the train to Khandallah, gathering controls in Wilton Bush and Tinakori Hill, and climbing round the top of the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Upper Hutt orienteers Bill Edwards and Tim Wilson got exactly the same score with a completely different endgame. From Karori they bussed right through the city to high-pointers near the airport, finishing over Mt Victoria.

However ties are broken by finish time, and they were back at Queens Wharf 3 minutes later, not unlike last year’s result when Nathan Fa’avae and Dennis de Monchy lost the lead through a lateness penalty.

There was another tie in the 6-hour mixed category. Karori couple Liam Drew and Rachel Ockelford are just back from a top 5 placing in an adventure race in Victoria. They scored 1000, exactly the same as multisport legends Al Cross, Jill Westenra and Jerry Shepherd (Petone and Wellington). But by finishing 4min earlier, they were given the title. There were 60 teams in the 6-hour category.

A further 130 teams - 400 people - set off later in the morning on a 3-hour adventure. The most popular category was for young families. The three-generation Ross family has done every Safari since 2005 - with Angus now 5, and Lachie now 3. Team "Have Babies, Will Travel" is following the same path, with Thomas van der Gulik aged 2 and Catherine, 8 months! The next most popular category was Mixed, including "The Alter Bolters" dressed as a wedding couple! There were 40 students from Te Puke Intermediate, in the capital for an educational visit. There were teams from schools and business houses.

The 3-hour Safari was won for the third time by father and son John and Tim Robertson from Lower Hutt. They used the "Airport Flyer" and a "cruel" set of steps to get to the heights above Moa Point - only to find other teams already there via the Strathmore bus! However from there they hoovered up all 14 controls on the Miramar Peninsula, bussing to Hataitai to run over Mt Victoria for more points on the way back.

But as one team named itself: "Who Cares Who Wins?" as they relaxed over pizza under the sails at Queens Wharf. Shane Ross summed up the feelings: "Another awesome City Safari. Friendly bus and train people. It's a traditional measure of how much our children have grown when we fit them into their race bibs each year...

"This event is really one of the best events around where family teams and serious athletes compete together. Good times too when you come across another team and it's all smiles and hello's. Thanks for (another) great day and roll on 2010!"

Click on the photos at left for larger versions. Thanks to photographers Magnus Bengtsson and Metlink.

  1. Preparation for the Safari started with costume design. Team Speleo from Ashhurst.
  2. It continued with a thorough study of the map. Jiminy and Buzz came from Nelson.
  3. Kaitlyn Randal (9yrs) is a seasoned safari-er, with her dad and her uncle. They used a bus parked on the waterfront to plan their route.
  4. But not as seasoned as David Rowlands (Australia) and Jamie Stewart. Rowlands has won the world rogaine championship three times - and now the City Safari!
  5. "They're off" as the hooter goes for the 60 teams in the 6-hour contest.
  6. Bill Edwards and Tim Wilson won two years ago - and almost did this time too! They tied on points with Rowlands and Stewart but were beaten on time.
  7. Liam Drew and Rachel Ockelford also tied for top mixed team, but got back before their multisport rivals.
  8. 130 teams in the 3-hour contest head for buses, trains, and the cablecar.
  9. They included the 3-generation Ross family from Upper Hutt, whose children have grown up with the Safari
  10. And the "Alter Bolters" dressed for the occasion.
  11. John and Tim Robertson look confident - with justification. Team in the background also seems to have been successful reversing global warming - too successful!
  12. Bus routes cover the whole city, even on Sunday. But they don't always come when you need them.
  13. Ah, here it is. Ryan Sheridan and mum Fiona get on in Courtney Place.
  14. A "Good Hair Day" for Te Puke Intermediate who entered more teams than any other school - 12!

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