Team Avaya were the first team to complete the long opening trek at Expedicion Guarani, the 2022 Adventure Racing World Championship. The 122 km trekking stage had taken the Kiwi team just under 28 hours, which was ahead of the expected race schedule and they approached the first transition after wading through the river on which they will paddle next. The weather has remained hot and humid, and they took the time to douse off in the river before walking through pasture land into the small town where the TA is located.
Footsore and weary, and carrying packs heavy with all their climbing gear, they still kept up a fast walking pace. Nathan Fa’avae said, “It’s a long time to be trekking, we’re well into the second day now aren’t we, and just finishing stage one. It’s been pretty brutal. The ground is stony and hard and it’s been really hot. We ran out of water treatment and have been drinking water from taps we found in the villages. Sometimes people came out and they’ve all been really helpful and friendly.”
He said he was looking forward to getting the stage done, but the news he received from race Referee Adrian Crane on arrival was not what he was expecting or wanted to hear. First thing this morning Avaya was the first team to arrive at CP19 and the zip lines, but they picked up their climbing gear and continued on without completing the zip lines. The marshals were under instruction from the race to say nothing to the teams, and that’s what they did.
So, Avaya left, and the race and referee were left with a difficult situation to resolve, a job which fell to Adrian Crane at TA1. He explained his decision to the team, which was they would be stopped before accessing their gear boxes for an hour, to make an adjustment for the missed zip line. He felt the route book instructions were not 100% clear, especially to the first team, and given that the zip lines were not visible or marked, he wasn’t putting any fault on Avaya. His assessment was that most teams took 35 minutes for the zip lines, and as the team were resting when stopped, that an hour was fair adjustment.
Avaya didn’t see it that way, saying it was not their fault as there was no obvious zip line at CP19 for them to do, they’d have been quicker anyway, and that the hour was a penalty to them and unfair. It was a heated exchange and Fa’avae said the decision was ‘bullshit’. He asked about appealing and that is an option, but for after the race, and the time-out went ahead with Avaya sitting and eating any remaining food they had, sorting their packs and doing what they could for their sore and blistered feet. After the hour was up they went to their gear boxes to prepare for the paddle stage, and this point no other teams had arrived.
There will be many and sharply different opinions on the situation, and its possible the teams chasing Avaya will feel a bigger penalty should be applied for missing an activity everyone else completed. (Brazil Multisport also raced through the CP19 transition, but turned back after 10 minutes, realising they’d missed the zip lines.) In these situations there is no right answer, and no one is usually happy about the outcome, and all the referee could do was to act quickly to resolve it as fairly as possible.
As Avaya were completing their final preparations for the paddle, the 3 teams behind them were running in from the river crossing close together, and they met Avaya in the doorway to the transition as they were leaving! There was quite a crush in the entry!
Now, Avaya’s missed zip lines has been corrected teams are on equal terms and it’s a close race with Avaya leading from Life Adventure Imptek, Estonian ACE Adventure La Sportiva, and SAFAT. Into the second night there teams will be paddling 80km downriver, and it’s likely they will all stop to sleep somewhere on the river bank. It will be hard for them to stay awake, and they will need to watch out for CP33, which is up a small tributary, and not on the main river channel.