“None of us are that strong a sailor”
With a $200,000 cash purse on the line, elite adventure racing teams from around the world, including Team Salomon/Crested Butte, are headed to the Middle East to compete in the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge December 9 through December 14.
“All the heavies will be there,” says Team Salomon/Crested Butte member Bryan Wickenhauser. “This kind of purse attracts the top teams.”
The idea came to Team Salomon/Crested Butte following their win at the Adventure Xstream Series over the summer. The team took in $8,000 for the win and decided to use that money to help fund their trip to race in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Unfortunately, the team—consisting of Wickenhauser, Eric Sullivan, Jon Brown and Jari Kirkland—must compete without Brown, who is staying home to work.
As a result, the team called upon Dave Mackey to fill Brown’s shoes. Mackey hails from Boulder and raced for years as part of Team Spyder on the adventure racing circuit. In addition, Mackey has a list of accomplishments in ultra-running.
“He’s stellar on foot,” says Wickenhauser. “We know he’s super-fit.”
While Wickenhauser is confident of the team’s fitness level, the race poses two new and unfamiliar challenges: sailing and camels.
The race includes long stretches of paddling in the Persian Gulf on kayaks rigged with sails and two masts.
“None of us are that strong a sailor,” says Wickenhauser.
In fact, the first day and a half could make or break it for several teams, as it opens with an orienteering section in Abu Dhabi before teams head out on the water.
“We’ll roll the dice the first day and a half,” says Wickenhauser. “If we can get through that in the top five we could work up to top three.”
Later in the race, teams will be required to trek through the desert for 24 hours, accompanied by a camel. While Team Salomon/Crested Butte has worked with a horse in an adventure race before, camels can be quite a different story.
“Camels can be five times as stubborn as a horse,” explains Wickenhauser. “They’re tall and unpredictable. We have no way of knowing what to expect. None of us are too excited about it.”
Yet, Wickenhauser also found out that camels have an innate sense of route-finding over dunes.
“Supposedly, you just have to follow the camel,” says Wickenhauser. “So, Jari might just give the map to the camel.”
The race starts on Sunday, December 9. Fans and friends of Team Salomon/Crested Butte can follow their progress on www.abudhabi-adventure.com.