“Oh goodness, it’s the lost world.” That’s what Louise Foulkes, co-director of the Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) said when Raid in France organizers Nancy and Pascal Bahuaud approached her with the idea to host the ARWS World Championships in Reunion Island. Reunion Island, a region of France and the farthest flung part of the European union, is located next to Madagascar and the Seychelles. You may have heard of it as the only place that wreckage of the disappeared Malaysian flight MH370 was found. It’s volcanic and tropical, rippling inland from white sand beaches and coral reefs to awe-inspiring forested mountains thrusting to the sky.
Kiwi adventure racing icon Nathan Fa’ave was inspired when he heard about it, reflecting, “as a young adventurer in the 90s, the main appeal of adventure racing was hearing about mettlesome teams racing in exotic and remote locations around the world, places I’d never heard of. Now that AR is 30 years old, it’s rare to hear a race venue that forces me to open the atlas -where is that again? Reunion Island is one of those places.” Nathan Fa’ave continued: “I truly believe this race will be an opportunity of a lifetime for any adventure racer worth their salt.”
Raid in France is famous for its technical, tightly organized races. Nancy and Pascal have been working for three years to put together the 450 km race, with 15,000 ft of elevation, mountain biking, ropes, and caving for 70 intrepid teams. Racers are expected to be autonomous throughout the race, even for class IV rapids and ropes sections. Bjorn Rydvall of Team Silva from Sweden noted that Raid in France races are famous for their difficulty: “This would be intense. Raid in France is just on the edge between challenging and very difficult. Bjorn also said that in 15 years of adventure racing, Reunion Island was the most exotic location he has ever heard of.
The opportunity to travel to places that would never occur to one when booking a vacation, but which set your imagination alight, is one of the chief benefits of racing for some. Ruben Manduré, from Team Uruguay Ultra Sports, commented that Reunion Island was a “lonely place, one I would never go, but I would be very excited to race there.”
Not only is the landscape exceptionally dramatic, with hikeable live volcano Piton de la Fournaise, the tropical ecosystem produces flora and fauna in a dazzling array of colours. The panther chameleon, a common sight, is spotted like a leopard and has a tongue longer than its 17-inch body. Canadian Liza Pye of Team Bones sounded dreamy when thinking of it. “I would be so excited to travel to this region, to see the landscape and the endemic species while racing hard. It just sounds so cool.”
The race will be held the third week of November 2018. As the Jurassic Park theme music thunders in your head, try not to crash the site in your scramble to register when the Raid in France site opens for registration.