The Mountain Designs Hells Bells adventure race returns this weekend (August 6/7th). It is round 2 of the 2022 ARWS Oceania Series and will be the biggest 24 hour adventure race ever held in Australia.
A total of 90 teams (240 racers) will arrive at Kenilworth Show Grounds, ready to take on 24 hours of trekking, mountain biking, paddling and navigation on the trails and rivers of the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
The course details will remain secret until teams are given their instructions shortly before the start by Race Director Chris Dixon of outdoor events company Wild & Co, but racers know they are in for a hell of a challenge, whichever category they race.
Those on the ‘Hells Bells’ course can expect to race around 120km, and the teams racing the ‘Fairy Bells’ course 80km. Both teams have 24 hours to finish the course, which is a linear route, finishing back at Race HQ at Kenilworth.
It’s not all about the distance, whether racing as a pair or in teams of 3 or 4, good teamwork is needed as everyone has to stay together and finish together. All the teams will be navigating in the dark, the slower teams for much longer than the elite racers, and there are the climbs and the weather to cope with.
This year Dixon has promised a slightly shorter course to “make up for the extra elevation” and that will be no surprise to teams who know the area. The racers have been given a plan of the stages and expected timings, so not everything will come as a surprise. The Hells Bells racers know they will start with a 13km paddle stage … they just don’t know where the start is!
Last year’s Hells Bells winners, Team 3 Points of Contact, are back to defend their title. They race in the premier category, which is for mixed teams of 4, and these teams score points towards the Adventure Racing World Series Oceania rankings.
Last year they finished in 16.06.19 and only the all-male Team ‘Out all Night’ were close to them. ‘Out all Night’ will be back to challenge them again, but the title holders will also expect a strong challenge from ‘Team Rogue’. They are one of the country’s top teams, with many expedition races and race wins on their record.
Team Captain Liam St. Pierre said, “We are expecting a tough little race at Hells Bells this year. There is no flat terrain around the venue, so I am sure there will be some big climbs and a few hike-a-bikes. Judging by the route planner, there will be a lot of short, sharp stages, so efficient transitions will be the key to a good race.”
It is a race he knows well. “Hells Bells was my first long adventure race, back in 2007, and this will be the 13th edition I’ve raced.”
Like all good sportsmen he is playing down his team’s chances of another win before the race. “We are just keeping it pretty casual with our competitive aspirations and focussing on completing the course, minimising mistakes and having a fun time together.”
In the All-Female category last year’s winners, Mountain Designs Wild Women, are also back and will be racing one other all-female team – ‘The Dancing Queens’.
Dixon thinks the racing in the Fairy Bells race will be wide open, and of course, for most teams it will all be about achieving a finish. A full course finish is the goal for most, but how many will achieve that this year?
Last year the top mixed team of 4 on the Fairy Bells course were ‘Buckleys and None’. Two of the team, Gary Fahey and Sandy Scott have taken part in the reality TV show, SAS Australia, and strengthened by that experience Scott is back again this year with her husband Rob, this time to race the Hells Bells course.
“We are back for the full course as a team of two and as my husband Rob is a doctor and I’m an accountant, our team name had to be Death and Taxes!” She said, adding, “We even have a team logo this year.”
“Last year I was lucky enough to be a recruit on the TV show SAS Australia. I was looking for challenges that pushed me mentally as well as physically. Adventure Racing prepared me to endure the days of low calories, lack of sleep and maintain focus on achieving the goal of making it to the finish. On SAS Australia within days you feel bonded to people you’ve only just met through that shared adversity. The same can be said for Adventure Racing.
“I highly recommend AR to anyone wanting to try something new or step out of their comfort zone. You will find all of the teams willing to support and encourage you. It’s a great community and we are lucky to be a part of it.”
She added, “My husband and I see Hells Bells as an extreme date night!”
You can follow Death and Taxes, and all of the teams, and see where the courses take them, by following the live satellite tracking at https://www.hellsbells.com.au/live-tracking
The races start from 11.00am Saturday and there will be news and commentary on the Wild and Co. Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/wldnco
Hells Bells is the second race in this year’s Adventure Racing World Series Oceania calendar.