The gap between the two front-running teams—two-time champions Adidas Terrex (UK) and GearJunkie (USA)—had shrunk to about two hours at Checkpoint 8, reached near the end of day three of the Patagonian Expedition Race. Adidas Terrex arrived at the checkpoint in time to begin the 58 kms of kayaking, though safety precautions will mean a mandatory break around 10pm (surely a welcome one for a team that has slept under two hours each night since the beginning of the race).
Arriving at Checkpoint eight just before 8 pm, GearJunkie had to take the night there due to safety requirements, but they have nevertheless succeeded in closing what was a 10 hour gap between them and Adidas Terrex only one checkpoint earlier. The four members of GearJunkie managed to cross the difficult 25 km between Checkpoints six and eight in only 13 hours—an impressive feat in terrain where at times, says Fi Spotwsood, a team member with Adidas Terrex, “it’s going to take eight hours to do three kilometers.”
GearJunkie set its amazing pace by cutting sizable chunks of the course, first by trudging over a hill (rather than around it) to cut six kilometers from the course, and later by using their sleeping mats to float down two kilometers of river, thus cutting fully 45 minutes from their time. Straying from the officially suggested path—marked on maps with a red line—has done wonders for GearJunkie, a team with its primary strength in climbing.
“It is interesting having the red line, and we try to pretend it is not there. We looked at the pass and we thought it was doable and we went for it,” says team member Jason Magness, “We made sure we stayed safe and helped each other. It was difficult terrain but we saved 6km of distance – and at the speed you can go here that’s a big difference.”
Two other teams were not so fortunate, failing to make the cut off at Checkpoint six. Brazilian team Selva and the team Four Continents, with members from the US, Australia and New Zealand, were both prevented from going forward, leaving seven teams still in the running behind the front runners out of the UK and the US.