Team PwC including Richie McCaw win first adventure race.




Richie McCaw and team PwC kept up an unrelenting pace set by the locals as they took out their first ARC Adventure Race in a gruelling 15 hours 18mins of navigating rain-soaked Coromandel terrain.

Team PwC win ARC24hr

Photos Sportzhub

Thames team Crash Bandicoots placed second, losing time on the transition after a muddy, slippery, rainy trek from the top of the iconic Pinnacles mountain range toward Pauanui.


The event included a short course that was entered by McCaw’s wife Gemma in an all-women team, and a long race that began with kayaking in Hahei before dawn.

A paddle up Whitianga estuary led to a mountain bike and then the start of an epic trek from Rangihau Rd in Coroglen to the iconic Pinnacles mountain range, before a weather-diverted hike down the Hihi Track to Hikuai and mountain bike, eventually, to Pauanui.


PwC team captain Rob Nichol said he and team members Richie and Sarah Fairmaid all had “a bit of a moment” but not so for team member, world champion adventure racer Bob McLachlan.


“It was great,” said Bob, “it was muddy and adventurous, slippery and rooty. It was an awesome time down there and just when you have enough, you get on the bike and get those legs going.”

Former All Black captain Richie McCaw chasing down leaders Crash Bandicoots

Audiences could follow the arduous journey via dots on the live tracking website A1 Adventure, and Richie’s PwC team could be seen tousling for first and second place with Crash Bandicoots, as PwC lost their way and had to backtrack four times.

“They ended up fifteen minutes ahead so we had to keep the hammer down a bit,” said Richie.


They caught them up to take lead position at the transition from trek to ride. From here it was a race “with new legs” to a wait for both teams at the top of a 50m abseil in Pauanui forest.  


“They’re a great team,” Rob said of the Crash Bandicoots competitors Tim Lynch, Darren Donnelly, Jo Donnelly and John White. “At the abseil we shared a snack with them and had a good chat.”


There was still more bush running, mountain biking and rife shooting before the finish line that night, where the exhausted team was full of smiles, seeking only a shower and food.


When asked what he enjoyed the most out of kayaking, trekking, mountain biking, abseiling and rifle shooting, Richie joked: “This last couple of minutes crossing the line.”


He added: “I quite enjoyed the paddle, getting out in the surf and whatnot, it was hard work though. The Pinnacles was awesome, I’ve been up there once before and it’s beautiful.”


High school teams who completed the course added to the Pinnacles experience.


Said PwC team member Sarah Fairmaid: “There were about 30 kids from New Plymouth and near the top of the Pinnacles we could hear a haka going on - they were singing literally the whole way up - and it was awesome. It just epitomises what adventure racing is all about, and it’s what sometimes gets lost when you’re trying to race really hard, they were just having the best time.”

Seventeen high school teams including 33 competitors from New Plymouth entered the ARC event, which is raising money for an outdoor pursuits centre for youth on the Coromandel.


Bob said the youngsters lifted everyone’s spirits just when it was needed most. “There was a mood, it was foggy, drizzly, rainy and that usually means that’s the level you bring yourself to. But the sounds were coming out of the peaks, booming out of the mists, and it was really impressive.


“Adventure racing is all about teamwork and getting along with each other and having fun. That’s what we were out there to do, to really bond our teamwork for Godzone. At Godzone you take yourselves down to quite big lows and the team work is what’s going to pull us through.”


Richie said the pressure from the Thames adventure racers Crash Bandicoots was a great preparation for Godzone in Fiordland. “The bandicoots were a real tousle and made it really fun to race.”


In all, 190 competitors in 58 teams competed in either a short course or long course organised by the Spirit of Coromandel Trust – Keith and Rita Stephenson and Andy Reid – using many volunteers. Photos and videos are on the Adventure Racing Coromandel facebook page and results on


Organiser Andy Reid teams up in March with Crash Bandicoot competitor Jo Donnelly - alongside Blair McKinnon and Andrew McDonald - for an Adventure Racing Coromandel team that will compete in the Godzone in Fiordland, a 10-day expedition where they plan to sleep just 4 hours per night.


“I’ve suggested we just need three hours,” said the 57-year-old Thames emergency nurse Jo, who set the unrelenting pace that almost took out McCaw’s team in the ARC Coromandel adventure.


By Alison Smith