High winds force Adventure Challenge course rethink

ABU DHABI - Uncommon adverse weather conditions on the fifth day of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge — the gruelling, six-day multi-discipline endurance race — saw organisers on Tuesday postpone the final 129kms sea-kayaking leg to ensure the safety of the record 48 teams from 18 countries still in contention.

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Published: Wed 15 Dec 2010, 11:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:57 AM

The final day, which will still finish on schedule in Abu Dhabi city on Wednesday, will now be staged as a pure power sea-kayaking sprint around the sheltered Lulu Island, just 500 metres off the UAE capital’s sweeping 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, events manager, 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 on Wednesday. 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 nearly 200 athletes 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.

Triple Kiwi champions, Thule Adventure Team, led by endurance stalwart, Richard Ussher, were first out of the vast expanse of the Empty Quarter, building up an assailable 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. 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. Today we will relax and sort our gear,” said Ussher, who has teamed up with wife, Elina, and fellow Kiwis, Nathan Fa’avae and Marcel Hagener, as he zeroes in on a record fourth victory.

After a commanding 116kms desert orienteering section, Switzerland’s Team Wenger SUI-GER has solidified its third place standing, and now sits only 10 minutes behind the French, meaning an-all out sprint on the new-look final day leg is a must if it hopes to usurp its European counterparts.

“It was the right decision not to continue with the race today. 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,” said Wenger’s team captain, Bernhard Hug.

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