AR Rulz

article013In adventure racing, rules are not made to be broken. In a sport where your survival could depend on assistance from a nearby team mate and compulsory equipment, it is clear that AR rules have been established to ensure your safety.


  • Compulsory team and competitor equipment, as specified by the organiser in the event rules, must be carried with the teams at all times. A race official may inspect kit at any time during the event.
  • All members of the team must be within visual and hearing distance of all other members of their team at all times i.e. spread over no more than 100m
  • All team members are required to pass through all transitions and checkpoints together and in the order designated by the organiser, avoiding out-of-bounds roads and areas.
  • Support crews may provide assistance to their team only in designated transition areas
  • Teams must be eco aware i.e. making of fires, littering and damage to natural vegetation is prohibited, human waste must be buried

In the past few months a number of race organisers have crunched down on teams, applying strict time penalties for basic rule infringements – specifically with regards to compulsory team and individual competitor equipment. While you’ll probably not get to use your emergency blanket, first aid kit, whistle, shelter, spare batteries and 10m rope, these items are not unnecessary, weighty baggage. Should your team mate tumble down a slope and be unable to climb up unassisted or your team get caught in a storm, on top of a mountain at 03h00, you’ll appreciate each compulsory item specified by the event organiser.

Compulsory gear will most likely only be required in the event of an emergency, in extreme weather conditions, or other unpredictable situations. By specifying gear, the race organiser ensures that your team will be able to cope until the storm passes, the sun rises or assistance arrives. And, as the compulsory equipment lists are identical for each and every team, you won’t be burdened with any more equipment than other competitors.

Skimping on gear is an infringement of a necessary event rule, one that is enforced by unscheduled kit checks and severe time penalties.

The “distance rule” stipulates that team members must be spread no more than 100m apart, maintaining visual and audio contact at all times. This seemingly arbitrary rule serves to keep teams together, preventing racers from being separated from their team, especially at night, in adverse weather, on rivers, dams and in the sea – conditions where dangerous situations could occur. In any case, as all team members are required to pass through all transitions and checkpoints together, they should always be close together.

The Distance Rule
At a multi-day race in 2002, a team was on a kloofing section. They were cold, had been in the water stumbling over rocks for over 8 hours and, with an hour to go till dawn, it was still dark. Knowing that their exit point was near, they’d been scouring the densely vegetated riverbanks, searching for a path. Because of the overhanging trees and the river’s winding course, the racers – even 30m apart – were unable to see the headlamp of the person behind and ahead of them. Although they’d maintained audio contact, calling back and forth, they found it difficult to hear each other’s shouts over the noise of the flowing river.
In short, one team member disappeared into the vegetation, investigating a possible path. His team mates called out but at one point no longer received a reply. For over 3 hours they searched the area, eventually waiting where they’d last seen him. But, the missing chap had somehow made his way downstream, overshooting them. Hypothermic and sleep deprived, he had little food and without a map, had no idea where to go. Eventually his team mates, distraught and concerned for his safety, made their way to the transition to seek assistance.
Fortunately this situation was resolved when a seconding crew found the missing chap, uninjured and exhausted, hours later.

Finally, roads and areas are seldom restricted but when prohibited, it is with good reason. Tarred roads or highways designated “off limits” force teams to select more challenging off-road routes and protect cyclists from the obvious dangers. “No go” areas are usually marked as such to prevent teams from trespassing through out-of-bounds lands. Dangers aside, although there may be a slim chance that you’ll be caught travelling along a restricted highway, sneaking through scorns the spirit of fair competition.

At one race an area was designated “off limits” to prevent teams from traversing an area patrolled by a territorial, mentally-unstable man armed with an AK47

So, although the basic rules are few, they’ve been established with good intent and at all times must be adhered to.

Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in MultiSport Magazine, Jan 2004