ELF ADVENTURE TEAMS OVERWHELMED
BY WARAY HOSPITALITY
Samar-Leyte Hinterlands, April 24, 1999 - Just days away from the finish line, teams from more than 22 nations continue to run through thick green jungles, kayak in mighty rivers, sail the native subirans in crystal-blue seas, pothole and swim through unexplored caves, and rollerblade through villages in and around the beautiful Philippine islands of Samar and Leyte.
As they compete in this eight- to 10-day, 350-mile-plus event, teams must navigate themselves through the course by routes that were provided to them just 24 hours before the start of the race.
The Elf Authentic Adventure, the brainchild of French journalist/ explorer Gerard Fusil -- father of the sport of expedition competitions -- has added a cultural-exchange program to this, the fastest-growing sport of the new millennium. Competitive teams have created exchange programs within the Philippine culture, and these exchange projects must be implemented in order to officially finish the race.
Top U.S. team Epinephrine/Pharmanex has joined efforts with an elementary school in Big Bear, Calif., and, along with the Mabuhay Desert Foundation of the Philippines, has designed and will distribute coloring books for children awaiting reconstructive surgery for cleft lips/palates, burns, crossed eyes, clubfeet, cornea transplants and much, much more.
Title sponsor Elf Aquitaine, one of the world's largest oil and gas groups, which employs more than 85,000 people worldwide, has backed this event with its ecology-minded philosophy set in place and added attention being paid to the environment and the gentle people of the Philippines, who are renowned for their love of nature and highly developed sense of hospitality.
As they enter villages throughout the mapped course, teams are welcomed with meals of rice and hot tea, which they quickly consume before grabbing one, two or maybe three hours of sleep before pushing on.
Team Spie, an international team of elite, experienced racers, currently leads the race, holding a slim lead over Team Pharmanex/ Epinephrine. The four-member Team Spie, consisting of American Cathy Sassin, New Zealander John Howard, Italian Matteo Pellin and Frenchman Jeff Robin, continue to show formidable strength and humor as they head into Day 7 of this gruelling competition.
Team Epinephrine/Pharmanex, buttressed by the very experienced Ian Adamson and Ike Wilson, share the sentiments of Team Spie, laughing, joking and reading e-mail messages through the Elf Authentic Adventure Web site at one of the checkpoints. They, along with teammates Paul Romero and Karen Lundgren, have been happily amazed at their treatment throughout the race.
``We even received a 25-person escort into one village, where we were given dry clothes and then fed rice and tea in an 8-by-10-foot hut filled with 50 people. It was amazing,'' Romero said.
Currently in third place in the Extreme class is Team Elf Oil Deutschland Eurosport (Germany). Although showing some signs of early difficulty, the team has progressed well and follows Team Pharmanex/ Epinephrine by about seven hours.
Expedition-competition racing has grown in leaps and bounds since more than a decade ago, growing increasingly in popularity both in the United States and abroad. Each team in the Elf Authentic Adventure must start together and finish together, travelling under extreme conditions that challenge the mind as well as the body.
As experienced expedition-competition participants, their journey through bat-filled caves, slippery terrain and dense foliage has proved to be an experience like no other. Logistics, which promised to play a major role in this race, have put a premium on the adaptive abilities and skilfullness of the teams' support crews.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
© Copyright, 1999 by PHILIPPINE
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