Race preview: 10th Patagonia Expedition Race 'The last wild race' - February14, 2012
Two teams of British eco-adventurers will head into the Patagonian wilderness on Tuesday (Feb 14th) in an extreme environmental multisport race designed to protect one of the most remote parts of the planet.
The racers will compete non-stop over 360 miles through a region highlighted by Frozen Planet’s Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the world’s great wildernesses’ – but the kayak, bike and foot race is so challenging fewer than half the teams are likely to make the finish.
The 10th anniversary race – which will involve competitors from 19 different countries – begins on Valentine’s Day but Londoner Nick Gracie is more than happy to trade a romantic meal for two for a backpack full of energy bars as he heads off into the Chilean wilderness.
Gracie, whose AdidasTERREX-Prunesco team of four won last year, said: “I am going back to try to retain the title, because if I win a race I want to go back and win it again. We’re going to a different part of Patagonia this year and it’s going to be tough.
“We’re going further south, so it will probably be colder and it can snow down there quite a lot, so that can be quite challenging – but the weather in the UK in last two weeks has been pretty cold and snowy so that’s been perfect for me. That’s ideal training!”
The race will begin in Punta Arenas and travel through the flat wind-swept plains of Tierra del Fuego before rising into the awesome unnamed mountains of the Cordillera Darwin – with a finish in front of a 200m-high glacier.
Race founder and director Stjepan Pavicic said: “This year we are celebrating the 10th edition of this fantastic event and we have created a spectacular course that will certainly test the competitors to their limits.
“The route will lead teams through many natural marvels that have remained pristine and untouched by mankind – but it is also important to understand, as we enjoy its beauty, that we must conserve it and protect it so we don’t lose it.”
This year’s race will inaugurate a trail built by organisers NIGSA as part of a drive to generate eco-tourism in the region.
The event showcases the importance of protecting this stunning wilderness – but it also highlights the changeable conditions of such extreme environments. In 2009, an American team got lost for three days and had survive on wild berries. This year’s route is set to be the most remote ever.
British teams have won the three most recent editions of the competition, which runs for a maximum of eight days but is usually completed by the top teams in five or six. This year Gracie will contest the race with two New Zealanders and a Spaniard.
British cavers Chris Jones and Dave Powlesland - who have explored some of the world’s longest caves together – will join London-based New Zealander Richard Bramley and Auckland-based Irish woman Clare Dallimore to make their race debut as the only other British team.
For live race updates (where communications allow) check out: