Rapid Ascent’s memories of the last 14 years...
We are very pleased to be celebrating the 14th (and final) anniversary of the iconic Augusta Adventure Fest in 2019.
Over the last 14 years the Augusta Adventure Fest has provided plenty of rewarding adventure challenges in South West Western Australia. Looking back over the years it seems that just about everyone has tackled the celebrated courses at Dunsborough and/or Augusta from Olympic gold medallists and TV celebrities through to first timers and juniors who were still in nappies back when it all started in 2006.
The event has undergone some major changes in that time – including a change of location from Dunsborough to Augusta in 2009 – it has had hot years, rainy years and probably more than our fair share of years that are ‘just perfect’ with the Cape to Cape peninsula at its pristine spring-time best.
Summarised below are a few of our memories of the adventures we’ve all shared down south on the first full weekend in November. So grab a coffee and sit down for some great reminiscing:
2006 - Where it all began
The Anaconda Adventure Race in Western Australia kicked off in Dunsborough one hot and sunny weekend in late September 2006. Rapid Ascent had only just been established – in fact we had only conducted the Anaconda Adventure Races at Lorne and the Gold Coast prior to shipping all our gear over west. We had ‘Big Tom’ Smitheringale running things on the ground for us in WA and he did a massive job by attracting an incredible 850 competitors to the first year event and set the scene for the event successes to come.
The inaugural event was held at Dunsborough on Geographe Bay and gave everyone plenty of surprises not the least because it included a caving leg in the Nigilgi Cave near Yallingup! That’s right, mid-way through the mountain bike leg all competitors had to plunge underground to find 3 checkpoints we’d planted within the cave network before returning to their bikes and riding the remainder of the MTB course. And what a MTB course it was too as it came in at a massive 32 very sandy kilometres when we’d only promoted it as being 20km. Oops. This lead to the now famous term of the “Smitheringscale”!
Back in 2006 the race started with a swim from Quindalup to Dunsborough, then a long and very sandy run to Bunker Bay, a MTB south to Ngilgi Cave and back and then a paddle from Bunkers back to Quindalup and the team run along the beach to Dunsborough. Guy Andrews was our first race winner with Christie Sym showing her prowess on the MTB to take the top spot in the women’s.
All in all it was an epic course and gave everyone an incredible adventure in a beautiful part of the world.
2007 - Revised course giving more smiles
After the surprises of the MTB course in 2006 we made some crucial changes with the run leg now going around Cape Naturaliste and mountain bikers missing the caves and riding a flowing course through a mixture of private and public land back to Dunsborough. The new course was met with a big thumbs-up and the event was starting to roll.
In fact the numbers participating in the 2007 event were through the roof with an astounding 1050 competitors tackling the one day race weekend. We had some issues fitting all the cars into the car parking at the transition areas, so much so that we ran shuttle buses around the TA’s and had some major bottle necks at some course cross-overs. We still had a lot to learn!
Tom Smitheringale was still in charge of the event which allowed John Jacoby to race the Run and MTB legs in a team with Dean Gardner who did the Swim and Paddle legs. Few people could believe it when they saw John powering along the soft sand along the west coast and they did OK by coming in 8th overall.
2007 was also the first year of the Tri Nations Adventure Racing Trophy with the likes of Richard Ussher and Gordon Walker coming over to take on the Aussie team of Guy Andrews, Jarad Kohlar and Christie Sym. Richard Ussher won the men’s race and Christie Sym won the women’s again after a close race with Karla Gilbert. The Aussies won the first Tri Nations title!
2008 - Picture perfect
With many of the bugs ironed out the event was going well with numbers swelling to over 1,300, making the Anaconda Adventure Race at Dunsborough the largest adventure race in Australia.
Many of the features of the ‘old course’ at Dunsborough are still talked about today, including the water jump at Sugarloaf Rock which saw runners jump off a large rock shelf and swim 20m back to shore. Depending upon how you timed it with the swell meant whether you got a wave on the head or not... The other talking point was the MTB single track leading back into the old Dunsborough Boat Ramp with the foundations for the now ‘Brown Street’ MTB trails starting to be rolled in.
We also used to take many of the elite athletes to some local primary schools for some show and tell which was always popular and may have helped build the strong adventure racing culture that still exists in the area.
The racing itself saw a re-run of the results from 2007 with Richard Ussher winning in 3:56.01 just ahead of local boy Sean O’Neil. Christie Sym also repeated her victory in 4:48.03 after a close tussle with former Surf Life Saving heroine Kirsty Holmes and Deanne Blegg started her own campaign with a 3rd.
2009 - The race moves to Augusta
After three very successful years in Dunsborough and just when we thought we had a course that worked and things weregoing well we were forced to move the race away from Dunsborough. Most of the MTB course and some of the run course crossed over a private landowner’s property and he told us thatenough was enough and asked us to move on. Little did we know then but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to the event as we moved everything to the piece of paradise calledAugusta at the end of the road.
Augusta gave us (and continues to give us) everything we need for a terrific race venue with some magical wilderness to race through, supportive national park rangers, space for transition areas / parking / expo area as well as an in incredibly friendly local community (as was Dunsborough too). Thank you Augusta for making us feel at home. The new race course also proved a winner with everyone giving it the thumbs up – so much so that we have hardly changed it since then.
Sean O’Neil won in 4:08:39 after a very close race with long time series rival Grant Suckling whilst Kim Beckinsale raced one of the best races of her life to win in 5:04:35.
In 2009 we also added the Junior Survivor to the weekend with 600 kids tackling the 4.2km running and obstacle course along the river, beach and bush. The exuberance and energy the kids put into their Junior Survivor event puts a smile on everyone’s face and is always a highlight of the weekend.
2010 - Hitting our straps in front of the camera
The 2010 race was certainly up there with some of the best we’ve ever had. The weather gods delivered one of their finest days and the first race / new location nerves had settled down and the day went like a dream. In fact we were so convinced it was all-good that we added 800m more rock running along the west coast to the run course just to ensure that everyone really took in the surroundings... it sounded good but feedback was that it was too much and we’ve not done it again! Thanks for telling us folks.
We were still conducting course familiarisation days back in 2010 with massive numbers turning out to test the course in a friendly, non-competitive environment in the month or two before the race. These famil days remain some of our fondest memories from the race as it gave us a chance to meet the competitors and go for a ‘run / swim / MTB / paddle’ together and have a chat. Thanks to anyone and everyone who ever attended a familiarisation day.
Familiarisation session aside, 2010 was the year of the Victorian’s with Jarad Kohlar (4:17.28) and Deanna Blegg (4:57.37) capturing victory in the long course adventure race amongst another massive field of participants.
The 2010 race also attracted the attention of the film crews with the race being filmed for a 30 minute episode on the Multisport 7 adventure sports program. This footage shows that little has changed compared to recent years and shows how big and popular the event was back in 2010.
2011 - The kiwis start their dominance
With the event gaining a reputation as the largest and most competitive adventure race in the World, more and more international competitors were lining up to tackle the challenge and 2011 was no exception. In fact the kiwis were in fine form and filled 3 of the top 4 men’s placings and first in the women’s was a real show of strength.
Richard Ussher continued his dominance and won in the first sub 4hr race with a time of 3:55.15 with Sean O’Neil in 2nd, Braden Currie 3rd and Trevor Voyce 4th. Meanwhile the women’s field saw a great battle between Fleur Lattimore and Deanna Blegg with Lattimore ending up the victor in a super solid time of 4:43:31.
We were also joined by British adventurer and TV personality Ben Fogle who filmed the event for a 30 minute segment in his ‘Lonely Planet Year of Adventures’ TV program. Ben was wowed by the landscape and the sheer spectacle of the event, the number of people, the atmosphere and the challenge of the course. The event was once again filmed for the Multisport 7 series meaning that over 1hr of footage was circulated around the world from the race so... you might be famous!
2012 - Hello MINI adventure race; goodbye Anaconda
One of the key objectives of the Adventure Race at Augusta is to grow the sport of adventure racing and allow as many people as possible to experience the wilderness, the challenge, the thrill and the reward that competing in events like these delivers. So in order to allow even more people to catch the adventure racing bug we added the MINI adventure race to the schedule of events in 2012.
The MINI is a half distance race that includes the same disciplines as the ‘premier race’ but is half the length, allowing those with less time to train and newcomers - especially women - who might be tackling something like this for the first time the chance to get in on the off-road action. The MINI was an instant success with a capacity 800 competitors testing themselves on the fun little course on Saturday afternoon.
The Junior Survivor continues to shine at every event with 800+ kids tackling the fun filled adventure course. Combine this with the MINI and the events provide the perfect pathway for competitors to get into adventure racing.
We also said goodbye to our naming rights sponsor Anaconda after the 2012 event following an eight-year relationship. We owe a lot to Anaconda and appreciate the significant contribution they made to adventure racing over that time. They helped and encouraged us to establish the Anaconda Adventure Race National Series and to take adventure racing from an unknown sport for super-freaks into the mainstream.
The racing in 2012 was as competitive as ever. Another Kiwi started his winning streak with Braden Currie taking the top honours in 3:50.59 and Deanna Blegg adding another victory to her win in 2010, with an incredible time of 4:33:11.
2013 - Welcome to the Act-Belong-Commit Augusta Adventure Fest
Part of the attraction of adventure racing is that you are out amongst the elements; the racing takes you out into the wilderness and out of your comfort zones. Well comfort zones were pushed pretty hard in 2013 with a wet and windy day on Sunday making conditions quite challenging for long course competitors. As a result we shortened the swim course to be a more direct line from Flinders Bay to the River Cutting and the paddle course covered more distance inside the Hardy Inlet before paddling out through the new River Cutting to finish at Flinders Bay. The MINI race was also weather affected with some rough water conditions for the swim and some strong winds making the paddle leg a little demanding.
With 2013 we also welcomed our new naming sponsor being the Healthway mental health campaign called Act-Belong-Commit. Their message resonates very well with the event and the varied health benefits it provides all who are involved with it.
Racing in the premier long course event was once again dominated by the New Zealanders with Braden Currie adding another victory to his list in a phenomenal time of 3:28.51 and Jess Simpson adding her name to the women’s trophy with a time of 4:16.52. Needless to say they also walked (flew) home with the Trans-Tasman Adventure Racing trophy.
2014 - Happy days for everyone
The 2014 event brought another film crew who did a magnificent job capturing the action around the course (as may be seen in the highlights clip below) with some superb vison of everyone bounding across the rocks, paddling across the turquoise water, mountain biking through the bush tracks and kids in the Junior Survivor sprinting down the finish line. So many memories and so much fun...
Once again the Augusta community made us all feel very welcome by basically giving over their township during race weekend. Be it volunteering to help, cooking food and serving coffee in the cafes, renting property to help accommodate the masses or helping out in any other way... their hospitality is always overwhelming and they truly help make the event the giant spectacle it is.
Braden Currie continued his dominance in the long course men’s race securing another victory in a flying fast 3:47.54 over countryman Dougal Allan in 2nd and Ben Allen in 3rd. Elizabeth Dornom from Victoria strung together a superb race to win in 4:40.56, less than a minute ahead of West Australian Kristen Gadson in 04:41:40.
And so we come to the 10th edition of this incredible race in 2015. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter who wins or how fast they go... what matters is that everyone is out enjoying the wilderness, having a go, teaming up with mates and coming ‘down south for another active weekend at Augusta.
2015 - The celebratory 10th edition was all good.
The 10th year of the event in 2015 was another great success with people revelling and reminiscing over the history if the event and their participation in it over the years. So many stories of physical challenge, satisfying reward, family fun and good honest adventure have been established down at Augusta and it was gratifying to see people pause a moment to reflect on all they have achieved.
We made a few small changes to the MTB leg for the long course event with the additional of a long, sandy and very challenging second hill in the hinterland providing a talking point for riders. The response seemed a bit mixed with some athletes enjoying the variety whilst others cursed the fact they had to push their bikes up this sandy monster.
Course changes and challenging climbs did not stop Braden Currie from winning his 4th consecutive title in a storming time of 3hr49.08 over fellow countryman Sam Clark in 3hr59.49 with Jarad Kohlar the best of the Aussies in 4hr07.48. Simone Maier also from New Zealand secured top stop in the women’s with a strong time of 4hr38.44 ahead of Emily Wilson in 4hr51.51 with Jess Huston 3rd in a time of 4hr.53.41. The New Zealanders again secured the Trans Tasman Trophy in a show of strength that couldn’t be topped.
All other events were also conducted without a hitch with 1,100 competitors tackling the MIN Adventure Race amidst some mixed conditions that included a bit of wind, whilst 900 effervescent kids ran, laughed and explored their way around the Junior Survivor.
So all in all the 10th edition of the race was a fitting match to the 9 other races before it, providing a challenging adventure in a spectacular wilderness landscape amidst a fun and inclusive atmosphere for everyone. Thank you to all who took part.
2016 – A new course with a race start to remember
We decided to change things up in 2016 with some major changes to the long course event that took the start away from ocean lookout at Cape Leeuwin and replaced it with the largest mass paddle start ever seen in Australia!
It was with some fear and trepidation that all competitors in the long course race lined up next to their boats on Hardy Inlet ready for an untested experience – starting in the water with 500 of their best paddling mates around them! Truth be told we didn’t know how it would go either with the only guarantee being that it would look fantastic – and it did! At the sound of the starters horn they were off and with minimal incidents the river was a flurry of boats and paddles as they powered upstream towards the turn mark.
A few other changes were enacted in 2016 with another highlight being that all transition areas – for both the long course and mini races – were consolidated into the one area on Albany Terrace. This made race logistics a lot easier and the opportunities for spectators a lot more engaging as competitors came past on multiple occasions. Add in the beats of a DJ and the calls of the MC and the race atmosphere was electric!
In recognition of the efforts of teams as well as individuals we placed equal emphasis on teams in 2016 and incorporated a State of Origin Teams Trophy with selected teams from VIC, QLD and WA racign head for head to secure the win. It was the local team from WA that took home the trophy ahead of QLD with VIC placing third.
Clean racing unfolded in all events with new winners Brody Baker 1st in 4:12.03 ahead of Matt Duncan and Kelby Murray in the men’s and Kristen Gadsdon 1st female home in 4:40.57 ahead of Arian Huston in 2nd and Jess Reynolds in 3rd.
2017 – Sublime sunshine and smiles on dials for number 12
What a weekend it was for the 12th edition – a sparkling Hardy Inlet welcomed almost 3,000 competitors across an action-packed weekend of racing - the half distance Act-Belong-Commit Augusta Mini Adventure Race (27km) the Act-Belong-Commit Augusta Junior Survivor, and the Augusta Adventure Race 57km off-road adventure.
Some slight course modifications were made for the water based legs, but being blessed with beautiful sunny weather all weekend meant there were great vibes all around and everyone happy with the new course tweaks.
The racing was fast and close at the front, but after race leader Bing Pasco missed markers Perth’s Brody Baker took the win for the second year in a row in 4:15:45, ahead of Tom Chadbourne and Bart Hollemans. Kristen Gadston also made it two in a row winning in 4:37:56, ahead of Elizabeth Dornom and Ariarn Huston.
We also saw the return of the State of Origin Championship Trophy, a battle between All-Stars teams from Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.
The racing was close at the start, but Team WA, 2017 defending overall champions (Reece Baker, Reece Tucknott, Mike Lori and Simon Huitenga) were able to put some distance between them, keeping the trophy in the west with a time of 3:26:28. With Team Victoria 2nd and Team Queensland settling for 3rd.
2018 – New formats and race ideas
Being a company that likes to try new ideas and pursue new challenges rather than just sit on our hands from one year to the next – we changed the format for the 2018 event to provide something new.
The traditional ‘main’ adventure race was traded for different stand-alone races in each discipline and was conducted on Saturday (rather than the usual Sunday). Competitors were able to enter all events or just their favourites over an action packed day of racing that included: 2km Ocean Swim, 15km Ocean Paddle, 15km Trail Run and a 35km Mountain Bike race. Tackle all races as an individual or a team and you contested the Adventure Warrior category with kiwi Dougal Allan and local girl Kristen Gadsdon winning the male and female titles respectively, while Team Ski and Me won the teams category.
Sunday saw a return to ‘normal’ with the MINI adventure race being the headline act being held over a slightly longer course than normal that included a 1km swim, 6.6km trail run, 15km MTB and 6km paddle in the traditional non stop format. Weather showcased the south west at its best with sunny skies and light winds, allowing New Zealander Dougal Allan to double up on his success from Saturday by winning the Adventure Race whilst Dunsborough local and long time supporter of the event Jess Reynolds won the women’s.
The weekend’s new format was certainly a talking point amongst competitors and spectators with a variety of opinions expressed, some saying they liked the new standalone format as it was more social because you could chat to fellow competitors in between races. Meanwhile other competitors said they preferred the non-stop nature of a traditional adventure race and close-nit team environment.
Either way, all the 1,600 attending competitors experienced another incredible weekend of adventures in Australia’s south west.
Thank you to anyone who has been part of the action over the last 14 years
We thank everyone who has ever competed in, support crewed or watched from the side lines at any of the Anaconda Adventure Races / Augusta Adventure Fest events... it has been one hell of a journey over the last 14 years that we’ve all enjoyed through and through.
It was a very difficult decision to announce 2019 as our final ever Augusta Adventure Fest but as great as this event has been for such a long time, we felt it was time for a change. It cannot be denied that participant numbers have dropping for a few years so we thought it better to go out with a BANG rather than just fade away.
This event deserves a massive celebration to wind things up and by announcing this as the grand finale we hope to inspire people into action one last time for huge last stand before we move on to other objectives. We truly hope you can join us for an Augusta Au Revoir.
Rob Lim has seen it all
There is now just one person who has started and finished all the (Anaconda) Adventure Races in Western Australia (at Dunsborough and now Augusta) as an INDIVIDUAL and acknowledge the fact he has now completed all 13 events over the event's history. We praise and acknowledge Rob Lim as a true Adventure Hero and we are sure he is only getting fitter and stronger as the years go by (that’s what he tells us anyway!).
We look forward to seeing them in action 'down south again in 2019.