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Newsletter 2 – Chapter 9

A massive thanks to all of you for supporting Chapter 9, which is hosted by the stunning city of Rotorua and its surrounding area. This Newsletter (No.2 of 3 released) replaces Newsletter 1, which was released prior to event format changes made in light of Covid-19. Rather than rehash Newsletter 1 and cause confusion, we have removed it from the website and consolidated, updated and pertinent information into Newsletter 2. We understand that there will be some questions about support crews and their implications. If you wish to talk to us about support crews or, if you are uncertain about any aspect of the event, please get in touch with us via the Contact Us page or talk directly to Keren. We look forward to seeing you in 2021 for an Adventure Like No Other.

- Warren Bates (Event Creator)

Welcome

Shhh…is that Huey Lewis we can hear singing? Yep, he’s intoning and crooning the “Power of Love”…and what must that mean? It means we are going Back to The Future, with a Covid-19 inspired return to supported adventure racing in New Zealand. (Thankfully, we are not being forced to confront the moral hazards of 70 year old professors hanging out with teenagers and genetic sexual attraction.)

Anyway, moving swiftly on, let us indulge ourselves with an extremely brief history lesson. Support crews were an integral part of the three most iconic, global, expedition races back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s (Eco Challenge, Primal Quest and the Southern Traverse). They fell out of fashion in the late 2000’s as expedition races became shorter and faster. They also lost their appeal as the ARWS came into being and the more elite racing teams were encouraged to do multiple events per year that were, in the main, easier than the older, more hardcore events. Bringing a support crew to a number of races each year was a significant barrier for many teams and as the really iconic events of yesteryear evaporated, so did the supported format.

Fast forward to 2019 and the AR world was cheering (in most quarters) the stunning return of Eco-Challenge; to be hosted, once again, in Fiji. The organisers had no qualms that the optimal way to deliver an excellent experience for competitors and viewers was to focus on an adventurous course, whilst throwing an astonishing amount of media dollars at it. They did not want to fall into the trap that snares most other adventure race organisers which, sees them spend most of their time, effort and energy into being a major logistics company.

These facts have not been lost to us. We had been planning to go down this supported route for Chapter 10, believing that it cemented GODZone as a true expedition experience, like those in the very beginning. At the same time it would remove some of the many course planning restrictions that logistics place on us. As an example; it is far easier to deliver a stunning course design when you are able to dictate the optimal length of a mountain bike stage based on quality, rather than quantity, given how long it takes to recycle 400 bike boxes.

Events have a habit of creeping up on you, don’t they? Covid-19 comes along, out of the blue, and it has accelerated the rate of change in many industries as they adapt to a new operating paradigm. Our recent correspondence with team captains has outlined that a combination of factors, together with the desire to keep GODZone evolving in an ever changing world, means that we have now, officially, reintroduced support crews back to New Zealand expedition racing. We know it might take a bit of getting used to, but we think you will learn to love it. Less faff on the course, less stress beforehand, less worrying about gear placement, better course design and flexibility, more relaxed time cut offs for short coursing, more sharing and caring, more adventure.

General Housekeeping

If you have been to a previous Chapter of GODZone you will know that we like to things to run smoothly (shakes electronic fist at Covid-19). Check out the general housekeeping items below for your attention. We encourage all teams (and in particular, team captains and/or administrators) to ‘action’ any items that require some form of input, in a timely fashion – it will help ensure that you have the best possible event experience.

Maps

Map sets will be based on the 1:50 000 topographic series that is common to New Zealand. Follow this link for an example of a map used at the last event. You may source and download New Zealand topographical maps at 1:50 000 here. All teams will be provided with three (yes, 3) sets of topographical maps for the entire course. This will comprise:

  • Two sets of waterproof maps available for use on the course. Yep, no need for coverseal and a corresponding night of bad dreams, stressing about bad crease running through the most difficult section of navigation). Waterproof maps remove a lot of the hassle and stress related to race preparation and diminishes the worry about how you will keep your maps dry during water sections
  • One additional paper set for Support Crew. The additional 3rd paper set provided will allow your support crew to plan, prep and support you accordingly throughout the race

Team List

A team list was added to the website and released to the media earlier this year. We often receive requests from the media about teams from certain locations or those that have interesting dynamics. Unless we know who you are racing with, we can’t point the media to you.

Team Captains/Administrators can update their team, team member information at any time by following the instructions below (please note: we do require all up to date team member information 2 weeks prior to event formalities begin:

  • Visit the Team Login page
  • Insert your email address and password in the boxes (these will have been provided by email when you first registered – you can change your password, if you require, once you have logged in)
  • Click the Login button
  • Use the <Team Info> tab to update general information about your team (remember to press the Submit button – located at the top and bottom of the form – before you close the page, otherwise your update will not be saved)
  • Click on <Team Members Info> tab to update biographical information about your team of four (remember to press the Submit button – located at the top and bottom of the form – before you close the page, otherwise your update will not be saved)
  • The information collected here will also be used to populate Live Coverage so it is in your interest to do it
  • Teams can update their information and can make changes at any time. Have your team showcased on social media then it would be great if you could input the information at your earliest convenience. Help us to help you.

Team Finder

A reminder to all teams administrators and/or captains that you can Sign Up your team to the Team Finder page, if you are looking to fill a position in your team. You can also look for replacements at the Team Finder Search page. Injuries, substitutions and last minute replacements are commonplace in expedition events and this feature may help you link up with that person you’ve been waiting for all your life (or, at least since you realised that your navigator was utterly out of their depth).

Support Crew Finder

The facility to find support crew and register an interest in becoming a support crew member has now been added to the website. This can be found (and filtered as required) on the Team & Support Crew Finder tab of the main website. If you know someone keen to assist a team, please get them to sign up. You may be thinking of racing GODZone one day or know someone who wants to; what better way to learn than sneaking yourself in to a supporting role of a competent team of experienced racers?

Accommodation

If you haven’t already done so we highly recommend that you firm up your accommodation options and how best to streamline your travel arrangements. Rotorua is hugely popular tourist destination. We strongly recommend you finalise this part of your trip planning as soon as possible to optimise your choices in terms of where you would like to stay and when. The longer you leave it, the fewer options you will have and the price invariably only increases.

As detailed in the Event Schedule you will need to secure accommodation for the Thursday 4rd March, the night prior to Race Start on Friday 5th March.

COURSE UPDATE

Having a support crew at Chapter 9 is going to make it easy, right? Erm, nope. As ever, we will be ‘budgeting’ for a 50% finish rate on the full course for both GZ Pure and GZ Pursuit/Prime. Less, if a majority of you are not very good at navigating. More, if you all train your little toe socks off.

You all know the drill. We won’t reveal anything too specific about the Chapter 9 course until the final moments. However, we can share some snippets of information that might help you plan your training, or at the very least get you speculating wildly about where we are going and what you will be doing.

You won’t be surprised to hear that course planning and reconnaissance is the most (only) enjoyable part of organising GODZone. We spend many months deliberating over the vast amount of route options and your every potential step is carefully deliberated over. This time, we’ve had the pleasure of doing it twice as some areas that were once available in a pre-Covid world are now too risky to use. Never mind, it has just made us think harder and get extremely creative. Support crews have definitely opened up some things that we could never have done before!

This is a course with a very different feel to last year’s Canterbury event. The amount of native forest, forestry, lakes, rivers, and proximity to the coast, mountains and volcanoes make for a tantalising mix of disciplines and experiences. At times it will feel like the closed in bush experience that so dominated Chapter 7 in Fiordland. At other times you will be staggered by the view. If you mis-locate yourself in the native forest at night, you will have a heck of a job getting back on ‘track’. You will have to be smart, careful and be strategic when attacking certain sections.

The GZ Pure course traverses a distance of approximately 680km. The GZ Pursuit/Prime course covers approximately 560km. The current timing estimates indicate that the fastest teams should be able to complete Chapter 9 in approximately 4 and half to 5 days. This will, of course, be dependent on weather conditions, river flows and other factors outside of our control.

There will be three trekking sections. All quite unique. One of them will be a navigators dream. Another will be long and stunning, with abundant route choices.  The other….well, you’ll just have to wait and find out.

Rotorua is world famous for its extensive mountain biking trails and for attracting some of the world’s best mountain bikers to its annual Crankworx summer Festival. This will be the very best mountain biking we have ever done at GODZone. By some margin. Expect some epic backcountry rides and the odd team getting lost in remote forestry blocks (ho ho ho, it’s not our fault if they don’t update the maps). Good bike skills are going to be extremely handy and will make for a safer and more enjoyable experience. We highly recommend that all riders are comfortable riding Grade IV bike trails. Hardtail or full suspension bike? For Chapter 9, definitely full suspension, if you have the luxury of choice.

The water sections will play a significant part in the event and we, as ever, highly recommend that all our participants ‘skill up’ and ensure that they are capable of coping with open water paddling and white water. The course covers sections of open water for both GZ Pure and GZ Pursuit/Prime events that may or may not be exposed to wind and waves, depending on conditions. The river canoeing could be up to Grade III.

All GZ Pure teams should take their packraft training seriously. There is a lot of packrafting. Almost as much as Fiordland. Those little rafts will be your best friends at some points of the race. If you don’t optimise your use of them, learn how to pack them up and down quickly and efficiently, making sure you have ample carrying capacity between the four of you, you are going to have the odd relationship breakdown. Get out in those rafts and use the backpack (probably 40-50litre+) you intend to use during the event for moving it about. Time spent preparing for packrafting will not be wasted.

Registration & Welcome

All registration, pre event administration, gear check, media interviews, official welcome and race and support crew briefings will take place at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre on Thursday 4th March 2021. Double kayaks, inflatable canoes and any other race equipment provided by the organisers will be available for observation. Be prepared for an early start on Thursday morning. Specific times will be promulgated inNewsletter 3. For a general overview of event timing please check out the event Schedule.

Travel

New Zealand – Aotearoa – The land of the long white cloud is one of the most isolated countries and one of the great tourist destinations of the world. Within its small compass it has an amazing range of scenery and a complete portfolio of every sport and adventure activity.New Zealand is a long way from home for some international teams. However, visiting this country and sporting paradise is one of the most exciting things about entering GODZone. Despite the large distances this small island, surrounded by ocean, has never been easier to get to. The proliferation of air travel means there are daily domestic flights that arrive directly into the host city, Rotorua, and the event hub in the city centre is just 15 minutes away by vehicle.

There are a variety of ways to get to Rotorua via air, coach or self drive. The most convenient option will be to fly direct to Rotorua airport. From there teams may elect to self drive, catch a cab and international teams can make use of the free transfer option – see below. If you are looking to make more of your stay in New Zealand, or heaps of international and national flight options, you could also fly to Auckland, making your own way to the event hub as your itinerary allows. The Bay of Plenty and coast is just a 45 minute drive away from Rotorua, providing a great way to spend a few days relaxing before your arrival in the adventure and cultural paradise that will be GODZone’s base for almost two weeks.

Rotorua Airport is serviced by Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand is the national airline and flag carrier of New Zealand, offering regular domestic services to Rotorua from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Auckland Airport is a major domestic and international airport catering for most international airlines. Tauranga Airport is another option and is only 55 minutes away by car to Rotorua, throwing up some great beach options too!

Rotorua Airport Auckland Airport
Drive time to host venue – 15mins Drive time to host venue – 2hrs 45mins
Domestic flights by Air New Zealand from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington Domestic flights by Air New Zealand, Jetstar , Qantas and Singapore Airlines
No international flights International Flights by Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas Airways, Virgin, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, China Airlines, Finnair, Emirates and American Airlines
Rotorua Airport flight information Auckland Airport flight information

Important: Travel and the border

All up to date information on travel within and to New Zealand and current Border restrictions is available here: https://covid19.govt.nz/travel-and-the-border/

Free Transfers

Should we see border restrictions ease , we remain committed to offer International teams a complimentary transfer and return service from Rotorua Airport to their Rotorua accommodation. A transfer service will be available Tuesday 2nd March to allow teams plenty of time to get organised before the start. With a return transfer on Sunday 14th March, the morning after the event has closed. Please get in touch with Keren directly if you require a transfer and we will work through specific details and options available for you.

Bike Boxes, Gear Boxes, Bags & Support Crews

GODZone, as already indicated previously, is now a supported race. This means that all teams are required to bring a support crew to Chapter 9, Rotorua. The support crews will be responsible for transporting the lions share of team equipment around the course and to various transition areas. Therefore, bike boxes and gear boxes are no longer a mandatory requirement for GODZone (though your support crew may still wish to use them to keep things safe and organised). This is the case for both GZ Pure and the amalgamated GZ Pursuit and GZ Prime categories.

A storage area is available that can be used for personal bags while you are out on the course, if you prefer to keep items out of your support crew vehicle. It is essential that all items are well marked and we recommend that any items of significant value or personal worth are left at home. As with all items of your race equipment and surplus luggage, we do not provide insurance cover for items that go missing or that break so if you are in any doubt, do not bring the item or arrange suitable personal insurance. At the very least, encourage your support crew not to be clumsy.

For a more comprehensive discussion about support crews, please visit the Support Crew webpage.

Important: the information below is provided as a preliminary guide only, but is a good start point for planning:

  • Support crews are responsible for transporting team bikes. Given that your support crew has access access to bikes throughout the race, we recommend that they have some knowledge on how to service, clean and fix them
  • Support crews are responsible for transporting team clothing, food, water and supplies
  • Support crews are responsible for removing team waste and recycling from transition areas
  • Support crews are responsible for transporting other team equipment
  • In some instances, GZ Pure support crews will be responsible for transporting packraft equipment and paddles
  • In some instances, GZ Pursuit/Prime support crews will be responsible for transporting inflatable canoes (provided by organisers) and paddles
  • A logistics planner, that outlines the stage character, length and different disciplines, will be released to team captains one week before the race starts. This will allow teams and support crews an opportunity to get their heads around the adventure and begin equipment planning. It will not reveal the location of checkpoints, transition areas, start or finish line. These will be kept secret until right up until the last moment.

Duffle Bags

GZ Pure teams only (NOT GZ Pursuit/Prime), must bring 2x (yes, two) 100 litre duffle bags for use during the race. The bags must be robust, made of waterproof fabric and have strong carrying handles. An example of what type of duffle bag is required can be viewed by following this link. Duffle bags must weigh no more than 20kg when loaded, be correctly marked up (details on how to do this will be released in later Newsletters) and have a strong, fully operational zip. We can’t guarantee that your bags will be stored indoors during the event so opt for the most ‘waterproof’ material and zips that you can find. Please contact Keren if you have any questions about the suitability of your bags.

What does this mean? It means that GZ Pure teams may not have access to their support crews at every transition. An example: A GZ Pure team treks for 2 days into a remote location, finds their Duffle Bags at a distant and small TA, dropped by the race organisers. They have no access to their support crew and carry on their way, once they have transitioned. The organisers remove Duffle Bags and return to support crew at some other location. Or, a GZ Pure team kayaks into a remote location, carrying their Duffle Bags. On finishing that stage, they pack up their water equipment into the bags and continue onwards on foot, leaving the organisers to transfer the bags to support crews. You get the gist. Most stages will be supported but be prepared for at least a couple of humdinger ‘sections’ with more than one stage rolled together.

All transitions for GZ Pursuit/Prime teams will be serviced by support crew.

Mandatory Gear Update

At this time, there are no changes to the Mandatory Gear List. However, we draw your attention to the following key bits of information:

  • All GZ Pure teams must bring split double bladed paddles. No full length/non-split paddles can be accepted. These can be split into 2 or 4 pieces. GZ Pure teams will use these paddles for kayaking and packrafting.
  • GZ Pursuit/Prime teams require double bladed paddles but these may be split or ‘one-piece’. Teams will not be expected to carry them any great distance
  • Spraydecks, if required, will be provided by the organisers and not hired out and do not need to be provided by teams
  • Packrafting equipment has been separated out from canoeing and kayaking to give you a clearer picture of what needs to be carried on packrafting stages
  • We frequently get questions about the wetsuit requirement. Some competitors prefer to use ‘sharkskin’-style tops and bottoms as an alternative for better heat performance. However, teams should understand that the wetsuit requirement is not just about warmth. Wetsuits provide good warmth but also better protection against impacts, abrasion and they also assist with buoyancy. For these reasons, ALL teams must bring a wetsuit to Chapter 9 (farmer john-style is a great option). Teams are welcome to bring sharkskin-style clothing for use when the wetsuit is not a mandatory requirement. Wearing a wetsuit and sharkskin might not be a bad idea at times

Packrafting (GZ Pure teams only)

We have received a lot of questions about packrafts and related equipment. It is our intention to give you some guidance below, but the reality is that the optimal packraft for this event may not be the best one for your personal travels, the next Chapter of GODZone, or any other race you may do around the globe. If you are going to buy a packraft then we would advise that you get the best quality that you can afford and one that is good for most water conditions, rather than a rather ‘specialist’ version. Packrafts with sprayskirts have some advantages in terms of water ingress and warmth. Those advantages are offset by cost and weight. A sprayskirt or cover is not a mandatory requirement but if it is cold, you may be thankful of having one. There are pros and cons of single versus double packrafts. The latter can be lighter overall for a team of four and possibly a bit quicker. However, those benefits are offset by the reduced flexibility of the rafts afterwards – in the sense that 4 singles could go home with 4 different people. Teams should definitely ensure that their rafts are big enough to carry not only people but plenty of equipment too. That equipment needs to be stored on the rafts in a way that it does not impede access out of the raft in the case of a capsize. Rafts need to be capable of coping with white water up to Grade II+.

Like most things at GODZone, skills go a long way to ensuring a safe and enjoyable adventure. We thoroughly recommend that teams spend a good deal of time in their rafts prior to the race to understand their strengths and, more importantly, their limitations. Teams wishing to skill-up or expedite their learning should definitely look into some of the training courses on offer.

Remember, it is our job to lay on a great adventure race and make sure that it operates smoothly with plenty of information. It is your job to ensure you turn up with the requisite skills. It will only add to your enjoyment and piece of mind.

Final Thoughts

Once again, we would like to repeat that we are sorry that the recent changes at GODZone that have caused frustration and annoyance for a small number of competitors. The Covid-19 situation has been a major cause of stress for some time, and the announcements would not have helped. The intention was to create a few more certainties in a very uncertain world. However, on reflection, we should have provided greater clarity, context and transparency on why these changes and decisions have been made.

And a very brief word of thanks too. The vast majority of teams that have communicated with Keren have done so with a mixture of relief, stoic acceptance and humble appreciation of our predicament. A number have even been in touch to celebrate the format change and express their understanding of why things have progressed the way they have. Thank you for trusting our judgement and not shooting the messenger (Keren is too nice for that).

Our vision at GODZone is to keep every team happy and push them to their limits in the spirit of exploration and adventure. We wish we could reverse the impact of Covid-19 for many reasons. We have successfully delivered 8 Chapters and helped rekindle the Kiwi love affair with adventure racing. Alas, this pandemic really is a headache Like No Other. Once again, we’re sorry for the frustration caused by the changes we have had to make. Trust us, they were not taken lightly.

We will look after every team, as best as we can, within the parameters of our available resources. Those that can make it to Chapter 9 in Rotorua are in for a truly amazing experience. Adam, Neil and I have worked tirelessly on the course and Adam maintains the view that this course could be the best ever. For those ready and able to make it to GODZone we look forward to seeing you in March for the ’ultimate’ or, perhaps the penultimate event, within an amazing book of Chapters.