Raid Gallaecia was the third round of this year’s Adventure Racing World Series and saw a return of expedition racing to Spain.
The inaugural race attracted 23 teams from 12 nations to Gallaecia in the North West corner of Spain with visiting teams from Finland, the UK, Sweden, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Colombia and the Czech Republic. The field included World Champions Team Seagate, already winners of Godzone Adventure this year, and the most experienced and successful Swedish team, Haglofs Silva.
Gallaecia is a region with a cool Atlantic climate and a rich cultural history and the 500km course offered teams the chance to explore the rugged coastline, a rich agricultural interior, small mountain ranges, and finish in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Santiago de Compostela.
The race began from the town of Cuntis, famous for its thermal spa, and continued South-West to reach the coast for the first paddling stage on a sheltered area of the wild Atlantic coast, taking teams around several islands and bays. The paddle was broken up by several orienteering stages, which were a feature of the race, and the hot temperatures of the first day were cooled by a thick sea mist as night fell. (The variable Gallaecian weather was another feature of the race.)
By the end of the first day the race had developed into a battle between Seagate and Haglofs Silva, chased by the most experienced Spanish team, Adventure Addicts. During day two teams raced to make the first race cut-off, and it was only these 3 teams which succeeded and were able to complete the canyon descent to the sea at Ezaro. This took them down a series of falls, scrambles and swims to a final, broad cascade, one of only 7 in Europe to fall directly into the ocean. Sophie Hart of Seagate said it was the “best canyon and ropes stage I’ve done in a race.”
Behind the leaders the chasing teams just couldn’t complete a river paddle in time to start the canyon and the unluckiest were Team Arctic Circle from Finland who arrived just 10 minutes too late. They’d capsized in white water twice and faced a strong head wind all the way down the river as they battled to make the cut-off. (From here on the teams on the short course would aim to complete as much of the route as they could, with the option to miss checkpoints and accrue time penalties.)
Seagate had now established a lead, but on the ‘coasteering’ stage Haglofs Silva pulled them back. This was another signature stage, taking teams from Cape Fisterra, with its lighthouse at the ‘end of the world’, along the ‘Way of the Lighthouses’ to finish at Muxia. At Cape Fisterra teams were in the company of the pilgrims who travel from around the world to the area as the lighthouse is the end of one of the traditional pilgrimage routes, while on the following coastal trek they were mostly trekking along deserted, surf swept beaches and exposed rocky headlands.
The coastal scenery continued with cycling, trekking and orienteering, including a visit to Trece Beach, the largest moving sand dune in Europe, and the nearby ‘English Cemetery’, the graveyard of 172 sailors from an English shipwreck.
This part of the race saw the most intense competition between the Swedish and New Zealand teams, with the lead changing frequently and each team taking short breaks for sleep and making small navigation errors to allow their rivals to catch up. The navigation in the race was testing and required intense concentration, which was harder to maintain into the third day of almost non-stop racing.
This part of the race kept those watching the live website tracking glued to their computer screens to see if the World Champions would be beaten, and they were. Moving into the 4th day of the race it was Haglofs Silva who dropped their rivals as the course turned back inland towards Santiago de Compostela and Seagate made two costly navigational mistakes at checkpoints 93 and 94. (There were 113 checkpoints in total!)
By the time they reached the race finish in the corner of the famous Plaza del Obradoiro, the main square set by the entrance to the cathedral in the old town, Haglofs Silva had a clear lead and claimed their first AR World Series win since 2013, when they won Expedition Africa.
Their win in 81 hours and 9 minutes was a notable victory over Team Seagate and a return to form for the team who had pulled out of the last two World Championships due to injuries. Hopefully, they can now put that run of bad luck behind them in Brazil later this year at the 2015 World Champs.
Team Seagate were second and Adventure Addicts third, finishing as the top Spanish team, while the best of the short course teams, and finishing in 4th place were ‘Team Fenix Multisport – adidas’ from the Czech Republic.
You can see full results, photos, videos and reply the live tracking on the live race website at https://tracktherace.com/raid-gallaecia-2015/live
The next AR World Series race is Expedition Africa between June 5th and 14th in Swaziland.
For more information on the AR World Series, please visit www.arworldseries.com
Photos credit. 1,2,4,5 E. Blanco / Photo 3 Antonio Aradas Raid Gallaecia