x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Weather rules out sea leg of AD Adventure Challenge

The 129km sea kayaking leg was called off yesterday to ensure the safety of the teams after the event was hit by uncommon adverse weather conditions.

Endurance competitors take the chance to exercise and relax after yesterday’s cancellation.
Endurance competitors take the chance to exercise and relax after yesterday’s cancellation.

ABU DHABI // The 129km sea kayaking leg of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge was called off yesterday to ensure the safety of the teams after the event was hit by uncommon adverse weather conditions

The finale, which will be on schedule in Abu Dhabi city today, will now be staged as a pure power sea-kayaking sprint around the sheltered Lulu Island, just 500 metres off the capital's Corniche.

"Athlete safety is always our first priority. With the extremely rare weather conditions, which have never been seen in the four years of this event in Abu Dhabi, we felt the responsible option was to postpone the sea-kayaking," said Faisal al Sheikh, the Events Manager for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) - which is behind the Challenge.

"Like the athletes racing this event, being prepared for every possible outcome is crucial. As such, the event will now finish with a spectator-friendly, high-speed sprint leg around Lulu Island. With teams rested up and looking to overturn time differences on the front runners, you can be sure that this will be a high-intensity finish of the highest quality."

With a 24-hour rest period, the record 48 teams from 18 countries still in contention will be using the enforced break to patch up their wounds, grab some much-needed sleep and battle with staying concentrated on the end game.

Thule Adventure Team, the triple Kiwi champions led by Richard Ussher, were first out of the vast expanse of the Empty Quarter on Monday evening, building up a lead of close to 40 minutes over second-placed Thule Adventure Team Europe of France.

"We have no problem with the weather condition but this may not be the same for the inexperienced teams," Ussher said.

"Our game plan wasn't really to win the challenge on the kayaking section but on the desert where we had a very efficient run."

Ussher has teamed up with his wife, Elina, and fellow Kiwis, Nathan Fa'avae and Marcel Hagener, as he zeroes in on a fourth victory.

After a commanding 116km desert orienteering section, Switzerland's Team Wenger are in third place, just 10 minutes behind the French.

"It was the right decision not to continue with the race today," Bernhard Hug, Wenger's team captain, said yesterday. "We were not really looking to grab second place because long-distance paddling was not our strong suit, however with a new final day that could change."

"Our main goal now is to defend our number three spot. To be on the podium would be a big success for us. I am among those who have done the Adventure Challenge all four times and for me this is the hardest race ever. So we are very lucky to be able to rest today and we will sleep and eat a lot."

Rounding out the top five, the UK's Adidas Terrex and the rookies Netcompetence of Sweden, managed to hold their fourth and fifth standings with an energy-sapping night-time push through the Empty Quarter - the world's largest unbroken body of sand.

"We are only 12 minutes ahead of the Swedish team so we have to focus on clearing the final day section without mistakes in order to defend our position," Nick Gracie, the Adidas captain, said.

"We don't know how strong the Swedish team is, so we will concentrate on our own race."

In the battle for local bragging rights, 2XU Blackberry put in a strong display to leapfrog up to 16th place, making them the outright leaders of the UAE's eight-strong contingent. The next best domestic team, EcoRacers, are in 36th place, more than 10 hours behind 2XU.

"We are happy not to go out and kayak under strong wind conditions," 2XU's Adam Marcinowicz said.

"However, we wanted to catch up with the team ahead, which is leading us by 16 minutes. Now, it will be much harder especially when the section is much shorter. It will need a lot of hard work but as a very experienced paddling team, we hope we have what it takes."

* Agency