A “relentless” Queenstown/Wanaka team won the Godzone adventure race in Queenstown yesterday after fending off a strong challenge from world champ’s Chris Forne quartet.
Team Tiki members grounded their kayaks at Frankton Beach at 11.15am after three days, four hours and 15 minutes of racing and a 47km paddle up the Kingston arm of Lake Wakatipu.
Forne’s team Yealands Family Wines arrived just under two hours later, while Team Swordfox finished at 6pm.
Tiki Tour took the race lead several times on Saturday’s first day, and maintained its lead over Yealands to the finish.
Almost 300 competitors set off on the race from Queenstown Bay on Saturday morning to kayak, mountain bike, trek, raft and climb over 400km of wilderness.
Tiki Tour navigator Tom Lucas, of Queenstown, says the team of his brother, George (Queenstown), Mike Kelly (Queenstown) and Floortje Grimmett (Wanaka) had a pre-race plan to “go hard” and stick with three-time adventure race world champion Forne, of Queenstown, and his team of Simone Maier (Wanaka), Dan Moore (Picton) and Dan Busch (Nelson).
“We did the first bit, but we never had to do the second bit,” Lucas says.
Until this year’s race, Forne had been in the winning team of the previous five Godzones.
The two teams tussled for the lead until Sunday, with Yealands Family Wines breathing down Tiki Tour’s necks until the final morning.
Lucas says they got away with “a couple of blunders”, including getting bluffed in Allen Creek as they emerged from the Eyre Mountains near Kingston early yesterday.
“We thought ‘here we go, they’re going to sneak past’.”
He felt surprisingly good at the finish, despite having only 20 minutes’ sleep the previous night, but his team had endured constant stress about holding off Forne and his crew.
“It was very close. We always knew they were right on our heels the whole time.”
He praises his team-mates for being “towers of strength”.
He says a special motivation spurred him through the race.
“I promised my wife that if I was doing it again I’d win – so I had to.”
Race director Warren Bates says the event was following his “dream scenario”, with a spectacular course, close racing and perfect weather.
Tom Lucas navigated superbly, more than holding his own against Forne, and his team-mates never let up, Bates says.
“They handled the pressure, they were relentless and just kept on going.”
Otago Daily Times