How do you win six adventure racing world titles? Navigator extraordinaire Chris Forne explains his success to Paul Taylor
Save precious seconds and the hours will take care of themselves.
That’s one of the major secrets to winning a record six Adventure Racing World Championships, Queenstowner Chris Forne says.
Forne, 40, won his sixth adventure racing world title last month at Wyoming’s Cowboy Tough.
It was his fifth victory with Team Seagate – the first came with Team Nike at the 2007 race in Scotland.
The world’s best adventure race navigator is also a world champion in the orienteering sport of ‘rogaining’ and has won five of the six New Zealand Godzone races.
Originally from Christchurch, he also represents NZ at pure orienteering.
His best finish is 17th in the orienteering world champs, but it is the skills developed there that allow him to consistently finish on top in adventure racing.
“I started orienteering when I was about five or six, through my parents,” he says.
“They dropped me along to PAPO – Peninsula and Plains Orienteers – the Canterbury club, basically.”
Forne, who’s represented NZ since 2003, is still a member.
In short orienteering, a winning time can be 15 minutes.
Forne: “If you lose more than five seconds it’s considered a mistake.
“So you get quite nicky-picky about your loss in time; all the little things like cutting a corner, picking a line, you realise how they add up.”
Team Seagate won the 2017 world champs in 79 hours, 13 minutes and 20 seconds.
He says while other teams will think they’re not making navigation mistakes, even hesitation of 20 seconds over decisions can affect the final time.
“Over the course of an hour you could be making a decision every few minutes, so you lose a couple of minutes, minimum.
“And when it gets more technical you lose even more.”
Team Seagate were about four hours ahead of Swedish team Haglofs Silva.
“If you divide it into the hours, it’s only about three minutes slower per hour over the course of the race – so it’s quite close.
“It’s not that you’ve got to be miles faster. It’s time saved.”
Forne says there are also efficiencies to be made in the transitions between disciplines – adventure racing is a multisport event of trekking, mountain biking, kayaking and abseiling.
And, of course, there are efficiencies out on the course.
“You want to have a group stop, rather than everyone stopping individually to take food out of their pack or go to the toilet.
“It’s about communication.”
Forne, who moved to Queenstown with wife Emily in early 2016, says that’s where Team Seagate has room for improvement.
The Kiwis are ranked number one in the world but for 2017 welcomed new members Bob McLachlan, who replaced retiring founder Nathan Fa’avae, and Joanna Williams, replacing Sophie Hart, who put together an all-female team.
Top physical endurance is a given, but knowing your team members’ strengths and weaknesses is another secret to success.
“It’s about trying to keep the effort or workload of the individuals as equitable as possible when you’re out there.
“The key thing is to try to be efficient and smooth all the time.
“If someone happens to be a bit weaker at a discipline, or not feeling too good, you want to try and help them as much as possible so you’re all pushing or working to the same intensity.”
That can be done by someone taking more gear or giving a team-mate more rest at a transition.
The whole team must also manage its effort, trying to eliminate any lulls, choosing when to go hard and when not to push in hot conditions or with a lack of water.
“It’s about saying, OK, we’d gain a little bit but we’d cook ourselves, whereas we could be conservative and go faster for the next 12 hours when it’s a bit cooler.”
Despite six world titles – tied with team member Stu Lynch, also an excellent navigator – Forne says he still feels the pressure.
“There’s a whole team who’ve prepared well, so you feel responsible.
“But you’ve got to enjoy it rather than getting stressed or wishing it was easier.
“I love the decision-making, it keeps me mentally engaged.”