Triple Peaks Challenge


Most people in Hawke’s Bay seem to have heard of the Iconic Havelock North event the Triple Peaks Challenge and thousands of people have participated in in it over its twenty nine year history. But is this event really iconic? Race Director David Tait tackles that question “The phrase Iconic is possibly used a little bit freely these days when describing events, but I truly believe it is iconic”.  To be an icon means to be a very famous person or thing considered as representing a set of beliefs or a way of life and to be Iconic relates to the nature of this someone or something as being very famous or popular, especially something that is considered to represent particular opinions or a particular time. So is the Triple Peaks Challenge really an Iconic Event? The answer to the question is best answered by people’s opinions, lives or the way that the event features in popular culture. This article will delve into what the Triple Peaks Challenge is, who is involved and what we can expect from this year’s event and into the future. 

Former race director Steve Drake credits a Havelock North based general practitioner by the name of Stuart Foote as coming up with the concept of the Triple Peaks Challenge. Along with Drake Dr Foote belonged to the Dawn Breakers, a group of runners who adopted the name more than three decades ago to enable them to compete in endurance events around the country. The Dawn Breakers themselves were Iconic in the New Zealand running world and current Triple Peaks Challenge Race Director David Tait remembers as a young runner being given the chance to run in the Round the Mountain Relay with the team. “It was well known that you didn't just roll up to join the Dawn Breakers, I remember Steve saying that you had to earn that badge - it was almost like getting a gang patch. But somehow I was there, this sixteen year old running around Ruapahu in the middle of the night with these guys.” Core members of the group were Dr Stuart Foote, Steve Drake, Paul McIntosh, Rodney Sudfelt, Peter Bailey, Mike van Workum, Malcolm Eves, Les Cunningham and Dave Perry. The men ran at dawn for many years and in the mid-1980s they collectively came up with the name Dawn Breakers.

The Dawn Breakers organised the Peaks Challenge for years, then Drake took over for three years before Bridget Robertshawe took over the baton for three years then in 2007 the current race director Mr Tait became the Race Director. The event is now one of three major events that Mr Tait is involved in with the Trust that he manages. The two other events are the Staples Rodway Challenge and the GO-4-12 (NZSS Adventure Racing Championships).  “It is very interesting how our lives are like a tree with all these different branches and connections, as I credit Steve Drake for being the person that watered my interest in the outdoors. He used to organise this Kayaking camp at Christmas time and that is where I really fell in love with the Outdoors, I then got into racing and had done six individual Triple Peak Challenge races before our Trust bought the event from Bridget Robertshawe.” Mr Tait said. This year’s event is expected to attract around 700 participants from around New Zealand and the World, but ‘The Peaks’ as it is often known locally has stilled retained that local event feel with so many participants knowing each other and the finish line is a buzz of conversations about the days adventure.


Havelock North has changed a lot in the last thirty years and on the site of old Happy Tav which was the venue for the events prize giving for many years is the new 5 Star Hotel the Porters. But if you go into the $25 million dollar complex and make your way to their 90 seat conference room you will see a very familiar name, Triple Peaks.  Perhaps that is how we can measure how iconic this event is by how it has threaded its self into the culture of the area.  But the truth is that the event exists because of those three majestic Mountains of Mt Erin, Kahuranaki and Te Mata Peak which dominate the beautiful landscape. It could be said that the real competition or challenge that participants are in is that of pitching themselves against the hills, with each peak having its own character and personality. The area is rich in legends and mythology and has a huge amount of spiritual significance to the local people.  “I think by taking part in the Triple Peaks Challenge people become part of the story of the event and not trying to be too spiritual here I think they connect with the land and those who have gone before them.” Mr Tait says.


With the event a month away entries are now flowing in, and with past winners like Gary Hall and Josh Page already entered in the mountain biking event race, the race up the front will surely be hot.  An exciting entry is that of Gordon McCauley who is trying his hand at Mountain Biking after an amazing carrier on the road.  "Gordon is 5 times New Zealand Elite Road Cycling Champion, 3 times New Zealand Elite Time Trial Champion, 2 times Oceania Elite Time Trial Champion, Oceania Elite Road race Champion, New Zealand Elite Criterium Champion, Commonwealth Games Time Trial Bronze medallist (Melbourne 2006) and he won the 2005 Oceania Pro Tour winner, so he knows how to race hard and I am sure he won't be sitting back and eating cake." Mr Tait said. There has been a huge amount of conversations about the event this year on social media with one is post heading towards 20,000 views and some friendly banter between friends. The local community is also really getting behind the event with local businesses and organisations supporting the idea of having mini race finishes at the end of the Mt Erin and Kahuranaki legs. “The idea is to create a really fun place to be, with music, food and crazy cats in 1970’s clothing, ‘peace out brother’. Yes I am excited as the teams behind these finishes are really getting into the spirit.” Mr Tait said.


“One of the things that really make this event what it is the people who help us pull it together and we are grateful to  all of our sponsors, land owners and volunteers. I think what happens is those who put effort and support into the event become part of this story, part of Iconic’ness of it all.” Mr Tait said. If you want to be a marshal our support the event or one of the two Trusts in any way, contact the race director through the event website   The 2017 Triple Peaks Challenge event will be held on the 11th March and the event supports the work of the Kiwi Adventure Trust and Youth Development Hawke’s Bay (who deliver the Dingle Foundation programmes) who are involved in youth development programmes such as the Project K programme. There will be students from the Project K programme and many of their mentors will also be taking part in the event as a core belief of the both trusts is that adventures and challenges grow people. The Triple Peaks Challenge is one of the vehicles that the Kiwi Adventure Trust use to grow  people. they also do heaps of other safe, fun and educational outdoor programmes and activates with everyone from youth at risk to corporates and have an exciting and social climbing wall in Hastings, If you want to know more about the Kiwi Adventure Trust take a look at their website