The result means the quartet of Graham Bird, Craig Carter-Brown, Shale Biggs and Leo Sorensen, will go to the 2024 World Championships as ARWS Africa Champions.
In Ecuador they will aim to continue a long track record of successful World Championship performances. The team has raced 6 World Championships to date with a best finish of 5th in Costa Rica in 2013 (and they’ve also won Expedition Africa 3 times).
Team captain is Graham Bird started racing in 2004 and has been the consistent team member and driving force behind the team’s continued success. The Kouga World Championship was his 28th expedition race and he said, “The physical, mental, and spiritual challenges of getting through an expedition race are what I enjoy the most. It gives me a “reset” on life.”
Talking about the recent World Championship he said, “We had a solid, consistent, and trouble-free race, focusing on ourselves and not getting caught up in racing teams around us. We raced well as a team and ensured we looked after ourselves. The three youngsters in the team took the course in their stride, with myself hanging on for dear life.”
Those ‘youngsters’ included Carter-Brown, who was on the winning Expedition Africa team in 2012, and the 2013 World Championship team! Sorensen was in his 7th expedition and Biggs her third, having raced with the team to take 5th place in last year’s Expedition Africa in Lesotho.
The other consistent ‘team member’ is the team sponsors and Bird said, “We want to say a huge thank you to our title sponsor, Merrell for their continued support and guidance. Having raced as Team Merrell since 2010, it is a huge honour and privilege to represent the brand and all that they stand for.”
It’s the longest standing team sponsorship in adventure racing and Liezel Joost of Merrell, said, “We are incredibly proud of the Merrell Adventure team and their achievements. This team are all nature explorers and adventure seekers, and these are exactly the qualities that align with Merrell brand values. They help us to share the simple power of being outside with everyone.”
Merrell were also a major sponsor of the World Championship, supplying clothing and shoes to participants and race staff, and are supporting the 2024 ARWS Africa series.
The series next year comprises five races, staged by 5 different organisers in different and spectacular locations around South Africa.
Racing starts in February with the new 200km Wild@Heart AR, organised by South African adventure racing legend, Adrian Saffy in the Eastern Cape, followed by the return of the Mountain Mammoth AR, planned by Damian Giulietti.
Racing then returns in September with the No Frill No Fuss 45 hour race under the Race Direction of Robert Le Brun and in October Adventure South Africa takes place in the Western Cape, planned by Alfred Thorpe.
The final race in the series will be an Expedition Africa event, planned by Franco Oliver and taking place at the end of November. It will be based at the Qwantani Resort and take teams on a 200km course into the Drakensberg mountains. There will be no ARWS Africa Championship race for 2024 as the top South Africa teams want to race the World Championship in Ecuador in November. Instead, the 2024 ARWS Africa Champions will be decided on the best 3 scores from the series and they will win a place in the 2025 AR World Championship in British Columbia, Canada.
Also, taking place in May-June is the next Expedition Africa ARWS Qualifier, in the dream destination of Namibia! The race, organised by Stephan and Heidi Muller, takes place on a 600km course through deserts and canyons, starting at the race HQ in Windhoek.
ARWS CEO Heidi Muller said, “After 13 years of hosting adventure races in South Africa, Rodrigues, Swaziland and Lesotho, Expedition Africa's dream of hosting a one-off event in Namibia becomes a reality next year. It’s the country of my birth and I can’t wait for racers to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race in the fabulous landscapes of Namibia.
“There is a wonderful year of adventure racing ahead in ARWS Africa Series as well, with a choice of 5 great races organised by passionate and experienced Race Directors and I know they will deliver courses to challenge and delight the teams taking part.
“Then at the end of the year we can follow the Merrell Adventure Team, representing South Africa in the World Championship in Ecuador!
“It’s going to be a memorable year for ARWS Africa and I want to give my heartfelt thanks to Merrell for supporting our events and teams. Through adventure racing they are a company that really lives up to their brand motto to encourage everyone to Get Outside!”
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