Multisport in crisis

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Long-distance entries sag – even Southern Traverse

A Queenstown multisport event organiser admits adventure racing in New Zealand is struggling to go the distance.
Geoff Hunt, who’s run his multi-day Southern Traverse since 1991, is even finding it hard to drum up good fields for two shorter events this weekend.

His “24 Hours of Southern Traverse”, which runs from midnight tomorrow at the Greenstone, is likely to have fewer than 10 teams in its third year – after attracting 20 in 2006 and 14 last year.

The veteran organiser has even offered 10 free entries for under-25 teams but so far only three have taken the bait.

For the first time, Hunt’s also running an eight-hour “adventure challenge” over some of the same course, leaving Greenstone at 10am on Saturday, to try and attract novice teams and individuals for the kayak, mountain bike and running legs combined or in relays.

Yet he’s expecting only about 10 team and 10 individual entries.

“[Sponsor] Macpac was keen to do it but I’m not very sure it’s something we’re going to continue.”

Hunt’s multi-day Southern Traverse has also suffered – this year’s event at Hanmer, postponed from last year, attracted only nine teams and its future is uncertain: “Maybe we’ll only do it every two or three years.”

Ironically, he says, there were more Kiwi teams in the adventure racing world champs in Brazil last week – an event which comes under his branding – than there will be at this weekend’s Southern Traverse races.

The economic downturn is affecting all adventure racing in NZ, especially multi-day events, Hunt says.

Major reasons are cost and time: “With a [three-day] Southern Traverse, you always needed not just the four racers but also four support crew and vehicles.

“People are still doing adventurous activities but not adventure racing, [not] in NZ anyway.”

Hunt points out his other shorter-duration events are still popular – this winter’s long-standing Peak to Peak attracted about 500 competitors and the women’s triathlon/duathlon almost 400.

“I just have to change with the market a little bit,” he admits.

As an example, next Easter Saturday he’s launching a mountain bike Tour de Wakatipu sponsored by local New World supermarket owners John and Mary Thompson.

The 36km race on local trails will have exclusive use of the precipitous Chard Road above the Kawarau River.