ARC Adventure Race - Exploring the Bay of Plenty

22/03/2015 by Steve Knowles

The longest running adventure race in New Zealand the ARC for 2015 headed south of the usual Coromandel to the equally stunning Bay of Plenty and Kaimai ranges

Race start 6:00am – Anzac Bay, Bowentown, Western Bay of Plenty

Teams line up for the start of the 15th ARC Adventure Race. Its dark and the water is dead calm. The hooter blasts and they are off to find 11 checkpoints in the Tauranga Harbour before returning to Anzac Bay. Teams have 3 hours after which they start incurring time penalties. The sun comes slowly up over Matakana Island at about 7am, the teams take stock of where they are and it all starts to get a bit easier.

Crash Bandicoot are one of the first teams off the water having opted to miss two of the optional checkpoints. It’s a strategic move designed to save energy for the long race ahead.  An hour later the 8 hour race start to build their rafts for a quick paddle around Anzac Bay.

After the water activities the teams jump on their bikes. They have a few checkpoints to collect before arriving at the Northern end of Waihi Beach. This is a nice gentle ride warming up the legs for the challenging trek that lays ahead.  The trek takes teams over the Orakawa Reserve. The 8 hour teams are through first followed by the non kayaking 12 hour teams. There are several school teams in these categories and at this stage they are reasonably close to one another.

The major challenge on this trek is an optional checkpoint on the 253m trig just to the north of Waihi Beach. There are several routes to the top and teams took just about every option. This was a tricky navigational challenge and very easy to get wrong. It was rewarded with a 2 ½ hour time bonus.

In the closely contested 12 hour mixed fours Team Jixel decided to miss the trig in the hope that the Thames based Bandis and close rivals Fuse Creative from Auckland would come unstuck. Adventure Racing involves lots of strategy and constant decision making. In the 24 hour race first to the top of the Trig were the young guns Team Tumeke with captain Ryan Thompson fresh from his 4th place in the Godzone the week before. They were leading the charge over David Blundells Team “Out for the View”.

The trek finished at the Ngatitangata Road end and a large contingent of support crew waited patiently for their teams to arrive. There were also a few unsupported teams who had their bikes and gear waiting for them at this busy transition. At around 10.30am the first teams began to arrive looking pretty tired after their 220m slog up from the coastline. All were in good spirits however as the sun was shining and they had along downhill bike ride to look forward to. The stage 4 mountain bike leg took teams through Waihi, via the Blackhill mountain bike tracks. Then it was onto the Hauraki Rail trail as teams headed towards Karangahake.

On route team stopped for the rifle shoot at Waikino. An annual feature at the ARC adventure race,  competitors get 5 shots with a 22 rifle. Time bonus of 2 minutes per hit are achieved with  a 5 minute bonus for getting all 5. With a few checkpoints to find the mountain bike stage ended with a ride through the 1km old rail tunnel to the transition at Karangahake.

The next stage for the 12 hour teams and the final stage for the 8 hour teams was a loop along the Crown Track following the mighty Waitawheta river. A couple of checkpoints located in the amazing windows mine were followed by a tryolean traverse across the deepest part of the gorge. There were a few nervous competitors who had to back their rope crossing with a swim down the fast flowing river to find a couple of checkpoints placed on the bank. For most it was refreshing dip after a hot days racing.

The 8 hour teams finished back in Karangahahke with the keenly contested Schools fours won by Whakatanes Trident Jorts with the schools other 8 hour team team Triudent Tricertorps only 5 minutes behind. The Womens pairs was won by the Shocker Chicks captained by Auckland Anne Owens finishing in a time of 8:47.

The 12 hour teams final stage was a mountain bike loop up to the top of the Karangahake Mountain. They were following in the tracks of the 24 hour teams who would be trekking up the Crown track next. DOC had kindly given us permission to ride the Karangahake mountain which is generally only a walking track. The mountain can be reached from two directions and teams had to choose one way up and the other way down. One route was a lot easier to ride and would save teams considerable time if they got it right.

In the 12 Hour race whilst Jixel were the first team to finish , however the time credit that Crash and Fuse had achieved on the 3rd stage was more than compensated for the  time it took to retrieve. Mike Whites Bandis took out the 12 hour mixed fours once again, finishing  ahead of Leigh Cokerills Fuse Creative.  The Whakatane Schools teams performed fantastically with the Trident Hillary Top and Hillary 1 teams finishing 1st and 2nd with only a clean sheet in the rifle shooting giving Hillary Top the edge.

The 12 hour non- kayakers was dominated by the New Plymouth Boys and and Girls High schools taking the first three positions with Team Larry clear winners followed by Team Clarence. 

Meanwhile the 24 hour race had an epic night trek in front of them taking competitors from Karangahake through the Kamais and eventually finishing at Woodlands Road South, near Katikati. Team Tumeke started the trek some 40 minutes ahead of  “Out for the View”. Both teams were on equal time credits to date and had scored equally in the rile shooting. 

After the rope crossing and swim down the gorge there was still a 40 minute gap. The big trek included a couple of route options and “Out for the View” were relentless in hunting Tumeke down. They managed to close the gap  to a mere 12 minutes. Tumeke groaned as they saw “Out for the view” come into Transition and what was expected to be a leisurely transition became a hasty exit! Out for the View could smell blood and also transitioned quickly for the final mountain bike back to Waihi Beach.

The last mountain bike, however, was anything but straight forward with some challenging navigation in the dark of night through farmland and the Athenree Forest. In their haste Tumeke made a small navigation error which enabled “Out for the View” to sneak past. At they descended from the final CP at the Crows Nest in Antenree Forest  Tumeke were just halfway up the ascent and Out for the View knew they had in the bag. They just needed to get home with out any mistakes to ensure victory.  Sure enough they managed to finish just 9 minutes ahead of Tumeke. Well done to both teams for an epic battle.


On a final note after adjusting for time penalties and bonuses it has been discovered that the Opotiki Possums have not come last this year. They have beaten Team Albatross by the narrowist of margins - 4 minutes! It was revealed by Adventure Racing  legend Steven McLeod at prize giving that after getting lost on the last mountain bike stage that the team decided to sleep until day break. On waking they found themselves to be 15m from the checkpoint!

A jubilant Maurie Abraham, captain of the Possums is expecting a Street welcome in Opokoti on Sunday night and the team has hired a double decker bus to drive through the town. A devastated Steven McLeod has likened the loss to that of Team New Zealands losing an 8-0 margin to Oracle in the Americas Cup. He is considering his options and may take up sailing !  Sorry no photos of the Possums as they only tend to come out at night.




24 Hour

Mxed Fours

  1. Out for the View  ( Dave Blundell- Rotorua)– Elapsed 19:34 –Adjusted 5:10
  2. Tumeke (Ryan Thompson- Whangamata) –  19:43 – Adjusted 5:19

Mens Fours

  1. Gary and the Black Dogs (Pat Drummond – BofP) – Elapsed 21:35 –Adjusted 13:58
  2. Y.O.Y  ( Grant Hall – Manawatu)–  21:36 – Adjusted 20:05

Mens Pairs

  1. Albatross ( Grant Donoghue – Auckland) –  25:42 – Adjusted 21:13


12 Hour – Kayaking

Mxed Fours

  1. Crash Bandicoot (Mike White – Thames) – Elapsed 13:19 –Adjusted 0:04
  2. Fuse Creative ( Leigh Cockerill – Auckland)  –  15:40 – Adjusted 2:45

School  Fours

  1. Trident Hillary Top (Robert Lengkeek- Whakatane) – Elapsed 14:22 –Adjusted 3:17
  2. Trident Hillary 1 ( Jake Smith – Whakatane)  –  14:22 – Adjusted 3:33

Mens Fours

  1. Lash Landscaping ( Matt Lash – Opunake) – Elapsed 16:22 –Adjusted 5:05
  2. BBB  ( Jethro Gilbert – Wellington) –  15:23 – Adjusted 11:46

Mens Pairs

  1. Wild Hombres ( Warwick Smith – Auckland) – Elapsed 13:32 –Adjusted 6:10
  2. Kiwi and the Frog ( Pierre Daviau – France)  –  11:54 – Adjusted 10:54

Mixed  Pairs

  1. Expedio ( Richard Keene- Manakau)  – Elapsed 12:18 –Adjusted 5:53

12 Hour –  Rafting

Womens Fours

  1. Blame Her ( Linda Webster – Cambridge)  – Elapsed 12:25 –Adjusted 6:24

School  Fours

  1. Team Larry ( Cory Sutherland – New Plymouth)– Elapsed 10:14 –Adjusted 2:49
  2. Team Clarence ( Sam Evans – New Plymouth)  –  Elapsed 11:34 – Adjusted 3:43
  3. NPBHS/GHS ( Noah Jones – New Plymouth) –  Elapsed 11:40 – Adjusted 4:02

Womens Pairs

  1. Team Martin ( Genevieve Martin- Auckland)  – Elapsed 12:02 –Adjusted 4:29

School Pairs

  1. Boys High Bogans ( Calum Sutherland – New Plymouth) – Elapsed 9:25 –Adjusted 2:32

8 Hour –  Rafting

Mxed Fours

  1. Smile N Wave ( Craig Endres – Waikato))  – Elapsed 9:11 –Adjusted 6:38

Womens Fours

  1. That’s Us  (Tui Hambrook – Tauranga – Elapsed 12:25 –Adjusted 6:24
  2. Muffy and the Muffettes ( Lee lash – Opunake) Elapsed 9:20 – Adjusted 6:08

School  Fours

  1. Trident Jorts ( Oliver Dobbin – Whakatane)– Elapsed 6:54 –Adjusted 1:54
  2. Trident Tricertops( Kaitin Blackwood- Whakatane)   –  Elapsed 7:57 – Adjusted 1:59
  3. Warts 4 ( Mika Hill – Whangarei) –  Elapsed 8:22 – Adjusted 2:20

Mens Threes

  1. Flying Doctors ( Jim Webster – Cambridge)  – Elapsed 8:58 –Adjusted 2:52

Womens Pairs

  1. Shocker Chicks ( Anne Owens –Auckland) – Elapsed  8:47 –Adjusted 2:50
  2. Ginger Ninjas ( Vanessa Gundry- Nelson)  – Elapsed 8:33 – Adjusted 4:24
  3. She told me it was a Wine Tour ( Liz Palmer – Auckland)  - Elapsed 8:42 – Adjusted 4:32

Mixed Pairs

  1. Death Squad ( Shane Death – BofP) – Elapsed  9:01 –Adjusted 3:14


School  Pairs

  1. Trident Jacks ( Jack Nelson – Whakatane) – Elapsed  9:18 –Adjusted 2:20
  2. JAC ( Cameron Hardy – Auckland) - Elapsed  9:09  –Adjusted 6:44


Mens  Pairs

  1. Craven Morebush ( Dillon Macfarlane – Auckland)  – Elapsed  8:05 –Adjusted 1:57


Father and Son

  1. PC   (Philip and Cameron Browne – Tauranga)– Elapsed  7:05  –Adjusted 1:06