If you’re one of those people who still haven’t heard about the hard core sport of Rogaining which is a hybrid of Orienteering and Adventure Racing, now’s your chance to take notes and set your sights on your next adventure. For those of you who are already in the Rogaining fraternity, it will come as no surprise that the recent World Championships held right here in ioMerino home territory Australia, was as ridiculously challenging as expected.
The Championships were held in Central Australia, an hour East of Alice Springs in the East McDonnell Ranges, mostly on land that is usually closed to the general public. For this event, special permission was granted both by the traditional owners, and local land owners, giving competitors access to rarely seen and completely untouched and unspoiled terrain. And what tough terrain it was.
Before the event, there were murmurs of the local spinifex grass that was likely to prove quite a challenge. Without getting all botanical on you, let’s just confirm this was not the relatively harmless spinifex found in Africa, The Middle East, Asia and New Zealand, but the Aussie kind of spinifex (Triodia) which, like many of our native animals (think deadly snakes, great white sharks, man eating crocodiles etc), will attack you and tear shreds off you. Welcome to Australia everyone!
Considering it was a 24 hour event, the other immediate challenge was navigating in the dark when moon rise was a full three hours after sunset. Oh, did we mention this event does not have a course and that competitors need to navigate their own way through forests and thick scrub, over rocky mountains, across rocky riverbeds and, yes, through all that spinifex? Even the best navigators need reference points and that’s really not so simple to do in the pitch black of night without even moonlight to spot a landmark and get your bearings.
Never the less, that didn’t stop elite teams from all over the world scouring the area for checkpoints and collecting points along the way. While some made it back to base or the ANC (All Night Camp) for some well earned rest or a bite to eat during the night, the hard core elites were ‘bush bashing’ their way around the course collecting a phenomenal amount of points. The electronic checking system records each team as they ‘collect’ a ‘control point’ so there’s no room for the honour system here. You were either there or you weren’t.
Let’s be clear, this area was so rugged and remote, there wasn’t even a proper map for it in existence, so the organisers spent months creating a detailed map especially for the event. After all, if you’re going to have 600+ people head out into the outback with little more than a compass, (that’s right, no GPS allowed), it’s probably not a bad idea you at least give them a decent map along with some well wishes.
They walked, ran, crawled, tripped, fell and climbed their way around the course for the better part of 24 hours, with little margin for error or going over time as they lost ten points for every minute they were late to return after the 24 hours cut off time. Needless to say, the final hour was quite entertaining watching these battered, bruised, bloodied and just generally knackered (that’s Aussie for really tired) rogainers emerging from the bush in all different directions to converge on the finish line for one last check in and some well deserved tucker and a rest.
There were smiles, there were tears, there were fist pumps… and there were some very impressive winners. Big shout out must firstly go to the overseas competitors who came from as far and wide as Russia, Latvia (the home of the 2017 spinifex-free Championships), South Africa, Italy, Estonia, Japan, Hong Kong, the United States and the Czech Republic. We can only imagine what our European friends in particular must have made of the course - perhaps not the Australia they’d seen on TV with not a white sandy beach in sight!
It turns out the overall winners were from a little closer to home, with the team of Greig Hamilton and Chris Forne from ‘across the pond’ in New Zealand taking out top honours with an epic 4,400 points! (That was 500+ points clear of second place in a field where only 13 of the 296 teams that finished collected more than 3,000 points!).
At ioMerino we were super proud to be the official clothing supplier, and grateful many of the teams seemed to prefer to wear their official tops before and after their race, rather than tear them to shreds bashing through the bush for 24 hours! So from us to everyone who competed, or volunteered, well done! And to all those who came from far away, we hope you enjoy taking home a little piece of Australia with you in the form of one of our super warm and comfy premium Merino wool tops. And hopefully not too many spinifex thorns still stuck in your legs.
Photos courtesy of ioCrew Member Sputnik. If you'd like to see more pictures, check out his Facebook gallery here.
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