Hessequa Challenge ’09

reports060809Team Penny Pinchers | The team of Jeff Willcocks, Chris Crewdson, Amanda Van Zyl and James Stewart along with seconds Dirk, Brandon and Andries arrived at Oudebosch Farm near Riversdale relaxed and ready for the 200-250 km race. Great hospitality and dinner bought us to a short briefing and then Jan put up a master map for us to plot the check points onto our own maps. There was a flurry of excitement as the all novice team from Plett set alight one of their maps on a candle on the table luckily only a small corner burnt but the chirps about this not being a treasure hunt with pirate maps flowed for the rest of the evening. Back to the Korinvet Dam and we plotted our route folded maps and manage to hit the sack by 11:00am.

The race started at 6:00am before sunrise but with the light of the full moon the teams all headed in different directions, each with their own theory on getting the three checkpoints the fastest before heading out in to the Lange Berg Mountains to what would be a very long hike. As usual we choose the ultra conservative route and passed teams coming and going in all directions before we settled into a good steady hike. The hike that followed was spectacular going behind the common landmark of the Sleeping Beauty Peak behind Riversdale and past the historical Toll House on the Garcia Pass.

T1 at Klien Kruisfontien Farm found a very happy second and our bikes, we were pleased to see both.

There were a couple of teams in the transition which we did not expect to see because we had started quite slowly and seemed to have continued quite slowly. We then set of for a long rolling ride towards the coast with windmills as check points. This is a great idea because they can’t be moved and once you are in the area you will see them. With Sleeping Beauty watching over us we rolled our way towards the coast to Blombos Nature Reserve for a long coastal hike to Jongenesfontien. Jeff pushed Amanda up all the hills on this leg but had over done it and he went into the red and then hit the wall. The pasta prepared by our seconds at this transition was soon wasted and so was anything else he tried to eat. We were now not looking that great as a team, Jeff was blown and Chris was already carrying all Amanda’s gear and her feet were a bit of a mess. With the advantage of a super powerful torch we tried to stay on what must have been a fantastic hiking trail before it was washed away by a storm two months ago.

The first CP on this was a natural arch in the sand stone and the second a fresh water spring right on the dunes. It was quite a relief to walk the last two kms into town on the tar which was level. The whole hike was lit by the full moon but was mentally tough for the team. We arrived to a great transition set up by our seconds and told them that we were going to not stop and we put on our helmets and bike shoes and hit the road for a short cycle to Saayman Farm close to where we started the beach hike. The seconds were asked to get our sleeping bags ready so we could catch an hour and a half nap at the next transition where hopefully Jeff would be able to hold down a bit of food and Amanda could rest here battered legs and feet. As navigator I was worried about the next hike I had a feeling it was going to be tough. An hour and half latter the seconds kicked us back into action. Bags were re-packed to redistribute the loads and Jeff managed to keep a bit of food down for the first time in about 15 hours. The navigation on the first part of this leg was tough and we felt our way along fence handrails in the dark because the moon was now blotted out by a coastal fog that had rolled in. After about an hour the sandy jeep track was covered in tracks of all the brands of AR shoes but they were coming and going in both directions. We decided to carry on despite those confused tracks being from McCain. Sticking to our guns we found the Trig Beacon in the mist just in time to seem the McCain team bolting of down the hill. We had made up a gap of about 6 hours in about 2 hours. The rest of the hike opened up as the sun burnt the fog of and we headed down hill to the second last transition and also the farm we the race would ultimately finish. Our seconds were caught a little unaware as we dashed into the transition half an hour behind McCain but with a 20k bike ahead we were in and out in good time. The bike leg took us down to the Still Baai harbor where Chris made short work of gutting a 2kg Kob which we latter braaied. That done we were allowed to hit the water and paddle up to the special events stage (one is always nervous about these stages). Four ks up stream we were met by Hano Smit of McCain whom gave us the briefing. Two members had to take a map and go of and find three check points on Quad bikes (the less said about this the better). The other two had to make a wire windmill out of the materials provided. Jeff made a wonderful windmill and Chris and I returned with the check points but rattled to pieces. An hour paddle up the river took us back to the finish where we crossed the line in 31hrs and 25 minutes. This time put us only an hour and half behind McCain which were really pleased with.

A great evening was had at the finish with teams braaing their Kob and discussing the race. A huge well done to Team Thule who came in at one thirty on Sunday morning still full of beans and having slogged out the last paddled despite being offered a bed in Stillbaai.

Despite being a relatively easy route and only about 200km it was one of the most testing that we have had as a team. All teams have challenges throw at them that are not related to the course and are unexpected but good teams manage to solve these issues and carry on. We had a race where these curved balls were thrown at us and we made clear calm choices and turned what could have been a bad race into one that we will all remember for a long time. To our seconds and sponsors thank you all once again for the support of this team that is starting to mature and take shape. The new cycling gear from Pennypinchers is of great quality and very comfy and once again we went thru a race with no chafe or sunburn thanks to Blue Steel and Island Tribe. Belen’s ongoing help at Earth Scout keeps us in the mix with regards to gear.

Well done guys and one mad girl on a great race. From this we can take a lot and use it in the next race.

Hessequa Challenge, 6-9 August 2009