Interview – Seagate Captain Nathan Fa’avae AR World Champion
Kiwi team Seagate have claimed their third world title in four years, we talk to captain Nathan Fa’avae about the win over the weekend.
The team included Nath, Sophie Hart, Chris Forne & Stu Lynch lead from day one in what was to be a 700km 120 hours race, which turned out to be a shortened race in length but taking much longer as they battled the Pantanal heat, terrain and animals/insects.
Photo credits ARWC
How did it feel to finally cross the line and win in Pantanal?
We’re very satisfied with our race, its great to win and in a style we’re proud of, doing our own race, having faith in our abilities and strategy.
Early on you seemed to take control of the race lead, never surrendering and pulling away, all too perfect?
The race started in an intensely hot afternoon, kayaking up river in 40-degree heat, it was super taxing and we kept splashing each other with water to try and stay cool, but the water was so warm it was difficult. Going into the first night in the trekking stage our team had a small conflict, I was really concerned we were going to fast and the tension resulted in a confrontation at the first checkpoint, mainly between Sophie and I, but I knew it was critical we needed to shift our thinking and how we needed to tackle the course, we weren’t racing a Godzone, this was going to be an epic in every imaginable way. While the flare up was less than ideal, it did set us up for what would turned into a near perfect race.
Team positions juggled around a little in the darkness of the first morning but by day break we were leading and never saw a team again.
Nath taking relief during the race
How did you find the course, over 700kms with teams seeming to travel very slowly in the elements?
The course was extreme, brutal and energy taxing, it required a lot of power, we were often wading through waste deep water, or pushing through jungle. The heat during the day was stifling and even diving into the rivers, which we did at every opportunity, wasn’t always refreshing as they were warm too, or we’d be almost instantly dry once back in the direct sun.
The navigation was exceptionally difficult but it played to our strengths with Chris and Stu intensely tracking our progress through the course. Our speed through the course, whilst slow, was still the fastest and that was largely due to Chris’s ability to know where we were and where we needed to get to, the map scale and lack of details making it an ultimate challenge.
The Pantanal region of Brazil is known for its wildlife and landscape, did you have any encounters?
The Pantanal region is uniquely incredible, but it’s not a place for humans and possibly not a place for racing, hence only five teams crossing the region. It is however, home to millions of animals, insects and marine life. We were regularly in the water with alligators, pirañas, and sting rays. Chris got stung by one on the fourth night and we stopped for a 6-hour rest, he was in immense pain but when we woke he was okay again. We saw many animals we couldn’t name.
The night navigation was close to impossible in places but somehow, miraculously, Chris found passage.
As the world followed your every step on the live map tracking, your team seemed to take the most direct route, but then your times were slower then the predicted stage times?
Because the predicted stage times ended up being so far out from the real times, we found ourselves taking up to three times longer to complete stages which added pressure to our food supplies, often forcing us into tight rations.
You are one who likes to see development in the sport as a top race director (Spring Challenge) and racer. In the past you have compared courses, the enjoyment factor, the technical challenges and the journey it takes teams on, how would you rate the Pantanal ARWC?
The Pantanal stage was outrageously difficult, it felt like we were authentically passing through a place that was trying to kill us, telling us, ‘you don’t belong here’, but with that, meant we saw and felt some magical moments, so in reflection, we feel very lucky to have been able to had the opportunity to be there.
The race has been criticised for being to long, difficult and even dangerous, and while I tend to agree thinking from the perspective of the development of the sport etc.., from a selfish perspective, it served our team well.
It was a course that demanded team work, ingenuity, and a never faltering commitment to put your head down, suck it up and get the job done.
We played what was in front of us.
In summary what did you take away from the 2015 ARWC?
I think we showed the AR World that Kiwi teams when given any scale of challenge, we take it on directly.
It was without a doubt the hardest race I have done, and for many parts I hated it, but some parts were epically sensational, it was the nexus of adventure and expedition, we prevailed, it feels good.
The future of the team, as there are so much experience between Sophie, Chris & Stu?
The future of team is uncertain, although they are keen to defend title next year.
Editors note - any keen sponsors should contact Nath
Congratulations to Nath, Sophie, Chris & Stu for entertaining us for the last week and taking another world title, in a fitting way to celebrate Naths’ retirements.
Nath’s newly released auto biography was now probably written a chapter too early. Well maybe it will the opening chapter for his second autobiography in the future as Nath is one to forge ahead and excel on other projects..
More on Naths Book here
Captains of the first three team. Nathan Fa'avae (Seagate) right, Kiwi captain Aaron Prince (Swedish team Haglofs Silva) John Karlsson (Swedish Armed Forces - SAFAT)
In Adventure racing it takes great thinking the finish a race. Team Godzone - Kiwi Sarah Fairmaid had an axel break and the team used a twig to improvise so she could continue biking.