A new breed of horseracing
October 2016 saw the launch of Race the Wild Coast: an exciting new breed of horse racing. The race, which set out to challenge the endurance of any horseback adventurer, saw riders from all over the globe signing up to attempt this massive feat. The event kicked off on Saturday, 22 October 2016, just south of the small town of Port Edward on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, and was the highlight of many horse riders’ careers.
Riders, each with teams of three horses, competed for victory over 350km of rugged paradise on the remote and unspoiled east coast of South Africa; their goal – to navigate through this challenging wilderness, swim rivers and keep their horses fit for vet checks in this complex multi stage race. During the 5-day race, there were two horse changes at 123km and 209km respectively and vet checks at the end of each of the 12 stages. 13 international and local competitors entered this year’s inaugural event embracing the challenge of being the very first riders to take on Race the Wild Coast.
The Rockethorse Racing team spent months planning the race down to the smallest detail – from the complex logistics of transporting the 45 horses involved to and from their stages, co-ordinating the support, vet and film crews (a total of 61 people, mostly volunteers from South Africa and abroad) to the compiling the GPS tracks that would ensure that riders would be able to navigate the complex terrain.
Day one kicked off with the riders facing some of the most remote coastline on the race with a tough 75 kilometers to the first overnight stop at Mbotyi. Katja Joachim (Germany) led the first 23km, with Sam Jones (Australia) and Sarah Cuthbertson (Canada) quickly closing in on her at the 55km mark. At the end of day one, Monde Khanyana (South Africa) caught up to second position.
Monde (34), the event’s only South African born rider, has been riding horses since he was a young boy, growing up in KwaZulu-Natal on a farm near Kokstad. He has experience in endurance riding, polocrosse and is currently involved with horse training in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. In 2013 he competed in the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest horse race, finishing in sixth place and winning the Horsemanship Award for best care of horses.
Day two saw Sam, Sarah and Monde neck and neck with Damyan Serovic (Guatamala) unfortunately having to drop out due to a knee injury. Malcolm Hozack (Ireland/ South Africa), bringing up the rear of the field, spent the night at The Kraal checkpoint after he had lost his way.
By day three, the race was split into three clear groups, with Sarah, Monde and Sam bunched together at the top of the leaderboard. The next group was Louise Crosbie (Australia), Stevie Murray (USA), Rose Sandler (USA) and Jamey Altman (USA), who were closely followed by Chris Maude (UK), Brent Albuino (Australia) and Katja. Malcolm was grimly determined to continue riding, although a long way back, and spent the night at Hole-in-the-wall.
Day four was where the nerves, excitement and adrenaline really kicked in, with Monde leading across the Mbashe River early on the 26th with Sarah and Sam very close behind. In a sad turn of events, Louise’s horse failed the morning pre-race vet check due to being unsound and she was out of the race. Just before the leaders reached Kob Inn, another disaster struck when both Sam and Monde’s horses each lost a front shoe. In a show of true sportsmanship, they elected to wait together for the farrier to arrive by helicopter allowing Sarah to head out alone in the lead.
By the time Sam and Monde left Kob Inn, Sarah had a 33-minute lead, but working together Sam on Madonna and Monde on Kadar were able to catch Sarah on a long stretch of beach before the Wavecrest vet check; all caught on camera from the helicopter for a film sequence of pure gold! Sam won the scramble to the Wavecrest vet check just seconds ahead of Sarah and Monde.
The trio stayed together for the final 20km stage with Sam pushing the pace in an attempt to outrun Monde and Sarah but they were able to stick to her heels and it came down to a gallop to the finish line on the beach at the mouth of the Great Kei River. Monde took the win with the crew cheering him on across the finish line. After a tense wait for the horses to pass the final vet check, the results were in: Monde first, Sam second and Sarah third, with just seconds between them.
It was almost a three and a half hour wait to the next group of Jamey and Rose and another hour before Stevie, Katja, Chris and Brent crossed at the close of four days of racing. Malcolm bravely pushed on and completed the race on day five.
The race was incredibly successful and all the riders thoroughly enjoyed the adventurous experience of racing the Wild Coast, and being able to tick it off their bucket list. The entire race was ‘commentated’ via social media and via the live feed on the Rockethorse website allowing people to follow along from all over the world. Sponsors of the event included Epol, Striped Horse, KwikBeet and Spot GPS Trackers by RentX. The extremely capable horses were provided by Moolmanshoek Endurance and Amra Arabians. Rockethorse Racing co-founder, Barry Armitage had this to say of the event: “Race the Wild Coast will be an annual event, and we hope to grow the field significantly next year. We are currently looking at doing another race in Southern Africa, with a view to franchising the concept worldwide.”
If you’d like to catch all the race action in a 52 minute film look out for Rockethorse’s Indigogo crowd-funding campaign raising funds for the post-production costs. And if you think you have what it takes to compete in the next Race the Wild Coast adventure, contact Rockethorse Racing to apply on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website: http://rockethorseracing.co.za.