Team Yealands conquer 530km adventure race leaving ABs great in their wake
The epic 530km GODZone journey has been conquered by a team fuelled on determination and a quantity of pies.
A team of four from Yealands Family Wines crossed the finish line at Kaiteriteri Beach after three days, 13 hours and 44 minutes of adventure racing, leaving former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and his Cure Kids team at least 36 hours in their wake.
Crowds gathered on the beach to welcome the team of Dan Moore, Sia Svendsen, Dan Busch and Chris Forne as they reached Kaiteriteri after their 35km sea kayaking leg at 11.47pm on Tuesday night - well under the expected finish time.
"Today was my favourite day, it was real cool that final trek just real pretty, big boulders, nice sunrise. It was nice to finish on a good highlight," Forne said, acknowledging the fact he took a pounding during the whitewater paddle down the Matakitaki River on stage six.
"We were on a pie mission the whole way. Every time we went through a little village we stopped off for pies," Forne said.
"Although it might not sound the most luxury thing it's usually what you feel like in these races so we were on the pie hunt."
In spite of the challenges, Forne said there were plenty of supporters.
"I was a little bit scared of the night paddle but it worked out pretty well, I guess the fine weather which makes things easy.
"It was outstanding the amount of people that came to watch and be on the sidelines as we were biking around. It was quite special and they're definitely a good bunch in this area of the country."
Forne, regarded as the world's best adventure race navigator, has now won the past three GODZone titles, winning in 2014 and 2015 with Team Seagate.
Meanwhile, McCaw's team were struggling through the 35km stage-eight alpine trek across Mt Owen in 21st place.
His team, who have raised $294,000 for charity, still have another eight hours on the trek before tackling the 140km cycle to Totaranui and then the final 35km paddle to the finish at Kaiteriteri.
McCaw said his former rugby team-mates have "got it easy" after making his way through another transition area on the mammoth journey.
"At about 5am this morning walking down the hill when I was wobbling was a bit tougher than rugby," he said.
When asked if he had a message for his former team-mates, McCaw replied: "They've got it easy."
The Yealands team left Kaiteriteri at midday on Saturday and took three hours and 31 minutes to complete the coasteer and kayak to Rabbit Island. It was another four hours and 53 minutes for their mountain bike orienteering and ride to the start of the Red Hills.
The team were up in the Red Hills for 17 hours and 33 minutes, spent four hours and 13 minutes on the mountain bike ride and orienteering to Lake Rotoroa.
They went across the lake and the next trek in 13 hours 21 minutes, canoed down the Matakitaki River in seven hours 11 minutes and did the next mountain bike trek in two hours 20 minutes. The final trek across Mt Owen took them 17 hours and 57 minutes.
They then hopped onto their bikes and completed the mountain bike to Totaranui in 8 hours and 57 minutes. The paddle to Kaiteriteri beach took five hours 48 minutes.
The team only rested for two short bursts, stopping for two hours 44 minutes just before check point 17 for a sleep and then for 4 hours 15 minutes on Mt Owen.
With second-place Swordfox chasing them down, Forne said the second sleep was crucial.
"We were a little bit concerned. We knew we needed to get more and we felt a lot better today. It's much more fun racing if you're not super tired.
"We felt like we were losing time a bit and the tricky thing is we knew on Mt Owen that if we needed a good sleep. The hut in the middle was perfect timing for us."
McCaw: Former team-mates have it easy