Know before you go - AdventureSmart

Chris Forne and Jo WilliamsChris Forne and Jo Williams
(Photo: Chris Radcliffe; click to enlarge)

Two ultra-tough adventure racing team mates, who have a total of 11 world championship titles between them, have joined forces for the 2018 Red Bull Defiance.

Wanaka’s Jo Williams and Queenstown-based Chris Forne are members of the four-person, ultra-successful Team Seagate and will race together for the first time as a two-person team in the mixed elite category.

Both Williams and Forne have just returned from winning the Adventure Racing World Championships in Wyoming, United States, earlier this month. It was Williams’ second world champs win with Team Seagate, while navigator Forne notched up his impressive and unequalled sixth global victory. One of the world’s most formidable navigators, Forne also has three World Rogaining Championships titles to his name as well.

Williams is no stranger to Red Bull Defiance, which is a unique, two-day race format combining running, kayaking and mountain biking - mixed with special stage elements, abseiling and clay bird shooting. She won the women’s category in 2016 and 2017 with fellow adventure racer Sia Svendsen and is pumped about putting it all on the line, in her backyard, again next year.

"To race locally is a real privilege. It is an opportunity to venture into areas which are otherwise hard to access," Williams says, of the race which takes athletes across eight iconic high country stations, set amongst the South Island’s most wild and spectacular terrain.

Forne is relishing the challenge of competing in the ‘shorter’ form of racing that Red Bull Defiance offers. At a total of 150km, separated into two days of three stages each, it is definitely different to the 700km-plus non-stop adventure races he competes in, where he might get a maximum of three hours of sleep over nearly 80 hours of racing.

“Red Bull Defiance is certainly shorter than adventure races but it is a fun-sounding course. Doing it in a two-person team adds an element of adventure racing as you can make use of the teamwork aspect that you don’t get in individual multisport races,” Forne says.

He has experienced first-hand just how strong and capable Williams is, as the pair raced together in Team Seagate to comprehensively win the last three international events they have entered.

“Jo is really speedy and consistent mentally. We have a similar focus out there when we are racing.”

Williams and Forne will have a Trans-Tasman challenge on their hands from Australian adventure racers Bernadette Dornom and Leo Theoharis. They finished second in Expedition Africa earlier this year in a four-person team and won Australia’s 2017 Geoquest race.

In the men’s category, Queenstown local Hamish Fleming and Te Puke’s Bobby Dean will pool a multitude of multisport racing success into one elite men’s team.

Wanaka’s Kristy Jennings is fresh from an age group silver and fourth overall female in the Cross-Tri World Championships in Canada this month. She teams up again with Ironman-distance athlete Julia Grant, of Christchurch. The fit duo finished second last year in the women’s category but “this year we are hoping to improve our paddling skills and put some pressure on the leaders,” Jennings says.

Red Bull Defiance Event Director Sally Currie is looking forward to the second consecutive year of operating the event at full capacity, with 85 teams competing.

“It’s both impressive and inspiring to see so many teams committing to the training load required to prepare for this event. We now only have five team spots left in the two-person teams category and I expect these last remaining spots will be gone in the next week or so,” she says.

For those athletes wanting to sample some of the finest sections of Red Bull Defiance without committing to the full race, there are still entries available in the single stage events.

The Minaret Burn MTB will challenge riders over a scenic 43km race and the Skyline Traverse will offer mountain runners a stunning 28km course – both are packed with some of Wanaka’s most stunning scenery.