After three successful events, Expedition Africa has now established itself as one of the major Adventure Races on the World Series. Scheduled for the 23-31 May, the fourth edition of this unsupported non-stop 500km Expedition Adventure Race has attracted the top teams in the world. Over 160 racers from around the planet will line up in Port Edward and will experience some of the most beautiful and pristine countryside South Africa has to offer as they traverse on foot, mountain bikes and kayaks through the magnificent Wild Coast. The event will see mixed four person teams navigating with maps, compass and landmarks from control point to control point.
Over the past eight years, Team MERRELL has traveled the globe, competing in races that form part of the Adventure Racing World Series. This experience has been invaluable, with the team now able to compete against the top teams in the World. After some major injuries and set backs in the first half of 2013, which saw the team withdraw from the 2013 Expedition Africa, the team bounced back to finish an impressive fifth place at the 820km Adventure Racing World Championships (ARWC) in Costa Rica during December 2013. “It was a race that suited us,” says Team MERRELL Captain, Graham Bird. “It was more about survival and looking after the body rather than pure speed. Something we have always been good at.”
Regarded as the top Adventure racing team in the World, Team Seagate from New Zealand will be on the start line for Expedition Africa, together with other top ranked teams, Tecnu from the USA and last years winners of Expedition Africa, Team Silva from Sweden. “With these teams in the race, it will make it a completely different race to the ARWC which took us just over seven and a half days to complete.” stated Graham Bird. “The organisers are predicting a winning time of 90 hours for the 2014 Expedition Africa. This race will be more about speed and all out racing rather than ‘survival’”.
After being diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia and being forced to miss the ARWC in Costa Rica, Donovan Sims will make his return to Team MERRELL’s line up for Expedition Africa. Having had extensive consultations with specialists and adapting his lifestyle over the past four months, Donovan’s Leukemia has settled to manageable levels and has allowed him to return to full strength. Donovan will be joined by Graham Bird and Craig Carter-Brown to form an experienced pack of gents. “With Hairy Don back, it has allowed Hanno to sit out this race and let his Achilles recover from the pounding it has taken over the past few years,” mentioned Graham Bird. “He is old and needs more rest now.” With Team MERRELL’s resident “chick”, Tatum Prins, still out due to motherhood duties, the team has looked to New Zealand Multisport athlete, Joanna Williams to join the team for Expedition Africa. Having recently been part of the team that finished second at the AR World Series Race in New Zealand and having raced with other top teams in the world, Joanna brings a load of experience and speed to the team.
With the lineup now confirmed, then Team heads to the De Hoop region of the Western Cape for some expedition training as they focus their energies for the best preparation possible for Expedition Africa, a title they won in both 2011 and 2012. “We feel we have the ability and experience to mix it up with the top teams at the front of the race and challenge for the victory.” Commented Graham Bird. “Racing in our own country wont necessarily give us an advantage, but we do know what to expect from the terrain. Racing in South Africa is always special.”