South Africa’s Team Sanlam Painted Wolf have placed fourth place in the stacked ARWS – Adventure Racing World Series after a gruelling 627km!
They crossed the finish line in fourth place just before 8am on Monday, producing the best result for a South African team.
The team, which consists of Knysna brothers and business owners Mark Collins (47) and John Collins (42), Cape Town paediatrician Dr Andre Gie (34) and Stellenbosch engineer Robyn Owen (26), completed the 627km course involving 14-stages of non-stop expedition-length adventure racing in 100 hours 25 minutes with only four hours of sleep over the period. Sanlam Painted Wolf – one of only two South African teams – competed against 97 other teams from 19 countries.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be in the top five,” said Mark Collins, Sanlam Painted Wolf team captain. “We had many ups and downs, the race was a rollercoaster and in the last few hours of the race finishing in fourth place seemed inconceivable.”
The ARWS, which started on 10 November just a few hours south of Sydney, can be compared to doing the Comrades Ultra Marathon, Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Dusi Canoe Marathon back-to-back, three times. Over the course of the next few days, the world’s best endurance athletes were pushed to their limits, kayaking and pack rafting for 185km, trekking for 115km, caving 5km and mountain biking for 322km through the New South Wales region of Shoalhaven.
The team started strong but suffered a major setback in the mountain bike leg of the race which saw them drop from fourth to 26th place. The team lost half an hour due to a navigational error, resulting in a wrong turn which allowed team Naturex (France) to catch up.
“We had to pull the team aside to re-focus,” says Collins. “Thereafter we jumped 16 places forward in just one leg by doing what we do best and re-focusing ourselves.” The team applied all kinds of strategies to ensure they got the value of a one percent margin gain – proving that a lot can be gained by constantly striving to do better.
Considering the challenges the team faced, including their team captain becoming ill in the last 24 hours of the race, fighting their way back to the top five was the best victory for them.
The nail-biting last leg of the race saw Sanlam Painted Wolf and Team Naturex running parallel to each other along the coast to Ulladulla, with the South Africans crossing the finish line just one minute ahead of Naturex, clinching fourth position.
Known as a dominant force in the ARWC and admired by other teams for their abilities, winning team Seagate (New Zealand) had what seemed like a strange race strategy which saw the team prepare their gear for the next leg and banking sleep before heading out on the final two legs of the race. This ensured minimal errors in the final mountain bike and coastal trek. The team completed the 627km course in 95 hours 4 minutes, becoming the first team to win three consecutive Adventure Racing World Championship titles.
Despite enduring challenges like navigation error in an early mountain bike leg and losing time in the caves when one of the team members couldn’t get through, which resulted in the team not being down to the river to paddle for first light, the team moved fast on the final stage as they trekked along the coast sprinting ahead of Adventure Medial Kits (USA) in pursuit of winning the number one spot. Adventure Medical Kits had been maintaining the same time gap of 1.5 hours behind Seagate throughout the course. Another American team, Columbia Vidaraid secured third place shortly after.
“We are exceptionally proud of Team Sanlam Painted Wolf,” says Yegs Ramiah, Chief Executive of Sanlam Brand. “The team proved that commitment, meticulous planning and doggedly staying on course are vital components of success. Navigation and strategy were huge factors in the success of the team who had to know when to take calculated risks. By executing their strategy and refusing to give up in spite of the challenges ensured they conquered the 627km race and secured this outstanding achievement.”
It takes years for a good expedition team to develop. The members of Team Sanlam Painted Wolf have sought each other out during a decade of endurance events and amalgamated with the express aim of success on the international stage.
Greg Vogt, CEO of Knysna Tourism, based in the town of Knysna where the Collins brothers hail from, commented on the Painted Wolf WhatsApp group:
“Mark soaked up the feedback from the WhatsApp group and loved hearing the extent of support from SA.
He replied, “I have not been able to keep anything down for two days, except for the champagne I am sipping now.”
A crew member said that the locals did not support the event like the Garden Route towns supported Expedition Africa 2016. This concurs with what Terence (Vrugtman, the team’s photographer) reported on their arrival, that bike shops had not even heard of the event.
Mark’s truly humble demeanour epitomises the ethos of each member of Team Sanlam Painted Wolf. True role players and ambassadors to SA adventure racing. A sponsor’s dream team. Thank you Sanlam and thank you to the local companies that contributed to this happening.
Well done to the families of #OurDreamTeam.”
Painted Wolf member Andrew Gie said “Thanks for all the support everyone! Sorry for all the sleepless nights and ups and downs. It was the most exciting finish any of us have had.”
Team Painted Wolf was formed in March 2014 and returned to the stage of Adventure Racing. The team took part in Africa’s premier adventure race, the 500km Expedition Africa in May 2016, beating all 30 other African teams.
As the top teams cross the finish line, remaining teams continue the race to finish by Friday 18 November 2016.
2016 Adventure Racing World Championship final ranking for the top five:
- Seagate (NZL)
- American Medical Kits (USA)
- Columbia Vidaraid (USA)
- Painted Wolf (RSA)
- Naturex (FRA)
The next AR World Series Championship will be in Wyoming, USA in 2017.
For more information on Team Sanlam Painted Wolf visit teampaintedwolf.com.