Expedition Adventure Racing returned to Ireland after a long break with ITERA moving outside the UK for the first time and setting a course down the Wild Atlantic West Coast. It proved to be very wild indeed over 5 days of almost continuous heavy rain and gale force winds which tested the team’s endurance and resilience to the limit.
For the first time the race was won by a team from outside the UK, with the recently crowned French National Champions, Team FMR (French Mountain Raiders) dominating the race and leading from the early stages. Julien Moncomble said the race was worthy of “a journey by Shackleton” and added, “we are a young team and look forward to having more adventures together around the world.”
Their win secures them a paid entry at the AR World Champs in Australia in November, but he said, “We would like to go but are not sure if we can because Lucy (Croissant) is racing the Diagonale des Fous at that time.” The team are elite trail runners but their recent national AR title and now a much sought after AR World Series win shows they can compete with the international elite of Adventure Racing too. They will be a team in demand.
The 590km course began at the historic Westport House where teams spent the pre-race wait strolling around rooms decorated with lavish period furniture, chandeliers and grand portraits, before setting off for 5 days of self-sufficient endurance and wet overnight stops.
The coastal course took a battering from the weather and had to be modified as the race progressed. The first paddling stage had to be curtailed, with a 15km beach run inserted for safety reasons, but teams were still able to take to the water again and paddle into the impressive Killary Fiord to finish the stage. (Later in the race a paddle across Galway Bay, another sea crossing and some of the coasteering were also called off due to the unseasonal storms and the high winds.)
The first trekking stage over the Maum Turk Mountains showed teams just how challenging the trekking would be. “It was really wild up there,” said Chris Caulfield of Moxie Racers. “It is very rocky and difficult underfoot, there is no drinking water and in the low cloud the visibility was almost zero. There are no paths to follow and navigation is slow and difficult.”
The race route continued southwards with highlights including a paddle among the islands of Lough Corrib, riding along the top of the 700 foot high cliffs of Moher, trekking over Ireland’s highest peaks, and a final Canadian canoe paddle in the waters of Ireland’s Lake District in the Killarney National Park.
Before a wind change caused its cancellation many of the teams also completed an Atlantic ocean coasteering stage, leaping from small offshore islands into the surf and even the most experienced teams said they’d never done anything like it before. Some completed this stage on a stormy night – a real test of nerve!
The weather also tested the nerve of race organisers Open Adventure as they made continuous safety assessments and course changes to keep the race moving safely along is route south to Killarney. The support and encouragement they gave helped 9 teams complete the full course, a further 7 to finish short course routes and 13 more to finish as non-competitive. Given the onslaught of the weather those finish figures are a testament to the skill of the organisers and to the indomitable adventure racing spirit of the teams.
You can see all of the ITERA tracking, race reports and photos on the live ITERA page at http://www.itera.ie/live/ and the video blogs from the new AR World Series film crew on the new ARWS Youtube channel.
The next race in the series is Raid in France starting on September 4th.
For more information on the AR World Series see www.arworldseries.com