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Local adventure racers finish on top at Baja

Rough seas, heat down several teams

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By Andrew Mitchell

Battling high seas, high winds, and top adventure race teams in North America, Team Dart NUUN Northwest Kayaks took the 2007 Baja Travesia Adventure Race title, finishing the 350 km course in 60 gruelling hours and 35 minutes. Squamish’s Jen Segger-Gigg is a member of that team, while Megan Rose of Whistler and Gary Robbins were with the unofficial second place team, Team Helly Hansen/MOMAR.

The race started off with a kayak into massive swells, up to 24 feet, that saw some teams pull out, others wrecked on shore, and still others missing until they could be located by race organizers. Only one team made it to shore in their kayaks at the checkpoint, with most choosing to swim through the surf to the shore.

Team Dart-NUUN was in second place after the kayak stage, but was firmly in the lead after the first mountain bike and trekking stages. There were two more treks on the course, two more mountain bike stages, a long canyoneering section, a short rally car component and a short kayak to the finish.

Second place went to Kayak Lake Mead, almost 10 full hours back of Team Dart-NUUN. Third place Baarbd Wire were close to 14 hours after that.

Team Helly Hansen/MOMAR was unranked after one of their kayaks was smashed up, but were the second team across the finish line and first among the six teams that elected to go on after being disqualified after the kayak stage.

According to Rose’s race report, this is what happened on the opening kayak stage:

“(We) were coming in to checkpoint two in sixth place, before we got into trouble. Todd (Nowack) capsized three times (he was in the single kayak) and then me and Gary capsized in the double kayak, and in the 30 minutes trying to save each other we were unable to bail out our kayak in time with the 15-plus foot waves just dumping water back in our boats. It was cold and me and Gary were going hyperthermic (sic), we were being dragged towards a rocky cliff point. We were in serious trouble so we sent Todd to the bay to get help. Gary and I clung to the capsized boat for 15 minutes, deciding what to do while looking at the waves smashing against the rocks in front of us. We decided to ditch the boat and swim in as we were not sure we would survive the cold any longer. We swam in but were unable to reach the rocks with the current. I then got swept from Gary against some island rocks, and I got smashed in to the rocks, I grabbed on but got pulled back out, then smashed again, then sucked under.”

Finally Rose found her feet and timed a quick run between the waves to a safe spot, where she was helped by local residents who were watching the race. Gary followed a little later.

After a few hours the team felt ready to continue, but were only allowed to race as an unranked team because they technically did not finish the kayak leg.

They were not alone — a total of eight kayaks were destroyed on the first day of the race.

Back on firm land, however, Team Helly Hansen/MOMAR quickly made up for lost time. With borrowed gear, after losing some gear in the lost kayak, they were close to last after the fourth leg, but moved into third place by the end of the second day and were second overall by the time they reached the finish line in 80 hours and 35 minutes.

The hardest section, next to the first kayak, was an 18 km canyon stage that took teams 20 to 30 hours to complete. Team Helly Hansen/MOMAR got lost on the trek to the top of the canyon, but made up for lost time over a series of 15 rappels to the bottom of the canyon, sometimes dropping into pools of frigid water. They did this section at night, passing other teams that decided it was too dangerous in the dark. Robbins, too cold to stay in his wet gear, did several repels naked.

The team got between one and two hours of sleep over the whole three-plus days of racing, but were ecstatic to reach the finish line.

“It was hard to see that $2,000 cheque for second place at presentations the next night, thinking that it should have been ours,” said Rose. “But we were also thrilled to know that our kayak and all our gear got rescued and that saved us well over $2,000, when eight other kayaks got destroyed. So we are content and happy to know we could prove our team is up there. This was no ordinary adventure race. This was like no other, the dangers we put ourselves in, the extremities of temperatures.”

Race reports are posted online at www.sleepmonsters.com . The posted results are not yet final.

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