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Support Crews

At the most basic level, a support crew moves the team equipment and food around the course so that it is in place before the team arrives. However, a great support crew will do this and a whole lot more; can make transitions fast, efficient and a moral booster for the competitors."

- Nathan Fa'avae (Adventure Racing Legend)

GZ Support Crews

All GODZone teams (PURE and PURSUIT) are required to bring a support crew. The support crew is there to assist the team in the build up, for pre-race organisation, strategy, navigational advice, map preparation, support during the event and in the aftermath. The support crew will organise, pack, unpack and transport the majority of race equipment for their team between Transition Areas (“TA’s”) strategically placed around the course. They will almost certainly cook, clean, provide mechanical assistance and shelter along with giving moral, emotional and motivational support. Support crew assistance is restricted to TA’s only, with the teams operating independently at all other times whilst on the course.

Support crews were an integral part of most iconic expedition races back in the 1990’s. They fell out of fashion in the 2000’s as expedition races became shorter and faster. Support crews made a noticeable return with the 2019 Eco-Challenge event in Fiji. A combination of factors, together with the desire to keep GODZone evolving in an ever changing world, means that we have reintroduced support crews back to New Zealand expedition racing.

Those who have already experienced a Chapter of GODZone previously unsupported will almost certainly remember a time when things feel like they have hit rock bottom. Imagine the difference when you arrive at the next transition area and your support crew is offering you clean clothes, dry shoes and socks, warm food, hot drinks, somewhere warm and dry to rest and a positive outlook on your progress and race prospects. As long as you can drag yourself out of that oasis of ‘relative’ comfort then you are much more likely to finish GODZone with a good support crew helping you along the way.

Support Crew Requirements

Below are some key guidelines for support crew selection and preparation:

Support Crew Size

The ideal size support crew is 2-4 people. Any more and it may start to add unnecessary logistics and vehicle demands (with knock on effects in TA’s with limited parking spaces). If you elect to bring more than 2 support crew, please note that only two will be permitted to assist the team inside the designated TA. We will allocate 2 support crew bibs to each team which will be numbered as per the team. These numbered bibs must be worn in designated TA’s to allow access and facilitate comms between support crew and TA staff. Support crews of more than 2 people are welcome to switch bibs and substitute in other registered support crew members between TA’s. All support crew members must register their details with the event organisers before the start.

Selecting a Support Crew

Most support crews tend to be family members or partners which can make for some very interesting dynamics. For those out there who are super competitive, a good support team will consist of individuals who are well organised, hard working, level headed, good at making decisions, easy going and able to keep a positive outlook at all hours of the day (and night). A very good support crew will also be able to tap into the emotional and physical state of a team so that they can best apply themselves to helping the team. For example, there is little benefit in being outrageously positive when your team has just made a navigational mistake costing them an extra 24hrs in the wilderness. Be subtle and supportive but don’t be blindly optimistic or unrealistic.

Being a support crew is not always easy. There can be long periods of inactivity interspersed with hectic preparation and gear sorting. There can be long drives and sometimes a lack of sleep.

Important Note: Dogs allowed are not permitted to accompany the support crew on the course. Much of the land, including many TA’s is private or Department of Conservation management, therefore, dogs are not permitted at any time.

If you are looking for or, are keen to be part of a Support Crew, please visit the Team & Support Crew Finder Page or sign up to register your interest.

Support Vehicles

The biggest impact support crews will bring to GODZone (other than a tremendous vibe in transitions) will be the requirement to have significant parking facilities for a lot more vehicles. In some areas this will be fine. In others, not so good. A supported event of this size and scope requires careful planning so as to mitigate the impact it can have on any given TA. At this stage, teams will only be permitted to have one (yes, 1) dedicated official support vehicle to be stationed within TA’s.

We are sometimes constrained by the amount of space available at a particular TA for parking and campsite set up. This may be dictated by a landowner or by the simple reality of available and appropriate space.

A 4×4 vehicle is NOT a necessity for Chapter 10. A campervan may be a preferable & more comfortable option for you, however, please be aware that extremely large vehicles may be required to park further away from optimal TA locations for simple and practical reasons. Indulge yourself but, please don’t bring a mobile mansion.

What does a Support Crew need to bring?

Support Crew will be required to bring provision of their own food and beverages and appropriate clothing and equipment to be able to camp or provide yourselves with shelter at all parts of the course.

Most of the TA’s where you meet your team will have very little, if anything, in the way of facilities, (except for provision of Toilets) so if you plan to cook hot food for your team, dry their clothes, clean their bike, think hard about how you will do that

We also highly recommend that you come with a good smart phone. Make sure the internet browser and operating software on your phone is up to date and as modern as possible. Older operating systems and browsers often have difficulty working with Live Coverage & Tracking, which performs best on the most up to date technology. Support crews are permitted to use mobile phones, computers, tablets, macs and other large computer devices inside designated TA’s. ‘Hotspotting’ your phone to your computer/mac will give you a good Live Tracking experience and keep you up to date with where your team is at…as long as you have good mobile phone reception. However, please remember that the above ‘devices’ are prohibited items for teams and must be kept away from teams when they are in TA. Any information shared between a support crew and their team must be done by oral communication or scribbles on topo maps. No electronic sharing of data or imagery.

PRE RACE FORMALITIES

A general overview of what is provided for and and support crew tasks is outlined below. This is not exhaustive but a simple guide to what support crews can do to make a team have a better race:

Race Registration

Support Crew details will be required to be registered online prior to Race Registration. Specific requirements will be detailed in Newsletter 3. At minimum, one of your official support crew will be required to attend the Competitor Race Briefing to be held the day before the race starts and any additional Support Crew Briefings.

Support Crew will be provided with the following at the same time of Team Map Hand Out (after Registration and Briefing):

  • One full set of Race Maps (100gsm Paper)
  • Support Crew Handbook detailing all TA Information & instructions, timing and other relevant support crew information including driving directions
  • Copy of Team Handbook
  • Support Crew Identification
  • 2x Support Crew Bibs

General

You are permitted to help your team prepare their equipment and maps before the race starts. Once the race has started, you are only permitted to ‘support’ (i.e., feed, water, provide shelter, give advice, etc) in a designated Transition Area (this will be strictly enforced and penalties for breaching support rules will be harsh and strictly enforced).

Pack all gear containers, food boxes and drinking water, equipment, spares, paddles, bikes, etc into your support crew vehicle. Try to have a system that is consistent so you can always find things at short notice. It is well worth having good lighting available to hand at all times.

DURING THE RACE

General

  • Only registered support crew are allowed to assist the team during the race. Identification will be supplied at Race Registration and must be worn at designated TA sites
  • Support Crew are responsible for transporting all team race equipment, food and drinking water
  • You are also responsible for all of your teams waste/litter and removal to a suitable disposal or, ideally, recycling location
  • You may also assist your team with any maintenance on mountain bikes or other race equipment if required
  • Communication by radio, cell phone or satellite phone with the team during the race is strictly forbidden
  • Teams and Support Crew are not allowed to make provision for airborne assistance. Similarly no dropping or prior siting of food or equipment is allowed
  • Support crews are not permitted to assist other teams who remain ‘Fully Ranked’. Yes, we want teams to have the best chance of finishing but sharing support crews will open up a can of worms.

Transition Areas

  • Locate the next transition area on your support crew maps and follow any driving directions laid out in the handbook. Where possible remember to fill up with fuel and other supplies when the opportunity presents itself – you don’t know when you might get another opportunity. It is also worth considering the power of Live Coverage to give you and your team vital information. Many transition areas do not have mobile or internet so remember to get as much information as you can before you enter a comms black out area
  • Support Crews must also officially check in to a TA on arrival and again prior to departing
  • Support crews are not obligated to go directly to the next TA. For example, if your team is predicting that they will take 30hrs to complete a trek, you are welcome to go and find some luxurious accommodation elsewhere (remembering not to tell your team that’s what you are up to). Just keep an eye on timings and ensure you arrive at the next TA to have everything set up and ready for your team’s arrival
  • On arrival at the TA, Support Crews must check in with Transition Area Staff (our amazing volunteers). Staff will then direct you to your allocated area for set up.
  • Keep in mind the desires of the team. If they have previously indicated the need to sleep in the transition then perhaps select a spot offering peace and quiet. If they are racing hard then the fastest way in and out is usually best
  • Unpack all the equipment and set up tents (see below for some tips about a fast and efficient transition design)
  • Ideally you will start preparing food first as this will be the thing most teams will want as soon as they arrive. Then organise drinks (hot and cold) and then all the equipment/supplies needed for the next stage. Give your team some clothing options but don’t swamp them with a range of fashionable outfits, it will just confuse them and make them dither. Set out food bags for the next stage with some choices for additional items, should the team decide they will take longer than previously expected
  • Converse with the TA staff and establish any map changes, route concerns or amended instructions and find out about any timing issues, such as penalties or dark zones. Make sure you are totally clear on any changes to those outlined in the route book as offering misleading or unclear information to your team will not be appreciated. Keep it basic and factual. It is highly likely your team will have the cumulative brain power of a mushroom by Day 3 so simple is best. If in doubt, write instructions down (directly on to relevant maps is very handy) and give it to the team captain or navigator
  • NOTE: AT TA’s there will be a notice board that will be updated with any new information. It will be based at the official TA tent. It is the Support Crew’s responsibility to relay any new information posted on the board to the team. This may include change of course, timing or other such details
  • Check out the favoured route and times taken of the leading teams on the stage ahead via Live Coverage. Mark this down on the relevant topo map and keep it ready for the team to browse and consider
  • Scout the entry and exit points for the transition so that you can ensure the team leaves in the right direction (it is surprisingly common for teams to go off track within a couple of hundred metres of at TA – focus focus focus)
  • Once the team arrives, direct them to their gear and then give the team an overview of the upcoming stage. Details about how teams ahead are getting on can be useful but don’t be too negative – “Oh, Chris Forne was lost for hours…they’re calling this stage the Widow Maker”  – will not exactly boost confidence levels
  • Explain any course changes to the team and give key maps and route info to the navigators. Make sure you find team plans for the stage before they depart – will they sleep, push on hard, etc. You will be better prepared at the next TA if you know how they are planning to approach the current stage
  • Keep a couple of laminated equipment lists to hand which outline mandatory gear. Before the team departs, read out the list and ensure that the team has everything required. Then make sure all food bags and drinks have been collected
  • Final check to team before they depart – “Do you have your YB Tracker and is it in the top of your pack”
  • Once the teams depart, get everything organised, clean things where possible (particular attention to bikes), check out with TA Staff and then depart for the next TA
  • Repeat the above steps until your team finishes GZ and offers you one thousand words of thanks for your major part in their success

Expert Advice

Below are some practical support crew guidelines that were put together by Nathan Fa’avae. We have edited slightly to reflect the nuances of the GZ event. These guidelines will help your crew set up an efficient system that will give a racing team the best opportunity of finishing well. Nathan has competed all over the world, had the opportunity to race with the very best support crews and we advise you to take heed of these words of wisdom.

TRANSITION AREAS (“TA”)

Some people perceive transitions as a rest area. It is advised to move through the TA with speed and efficiency, taking rests on the course when they feel most needed. While it may seem a bit serious, practicing transitions with your support crew is extremely worthwhile. That way the support crew are confident and know what to expect, it also gives them time to think of ways they can be better.

TRANSITION EQUIPMENT

To set up a TA begin with an area about the size of a car park. Lay down a ground sheet and place 4 chairs or stools in 4 corners. It is important the team members can see each other and communicate. I suggest you have 2 bins either side of each chair. One contains the things the athlete may require for the next stage. This bin is often pre-packed by the athlete and well named. The other, or empty bin, is for all the equipment that is discarded from the previous stage. The last thing you should do before leaving the TA is check that the gear you’ve just discarded is correct to ensure that you have not left any compulsory gear or food behind.

TRANSITION FOOD

It is a good opportunity to fuel up in a TA with some drinks and food. Real food is definitely the key here as teams are invariably pretty sick of the sweet/sugary/high energy foods that they often consume on the course.

TRANSITION PROTOCOLS

Try to keep the TA as simple as possible. Going to extravagant lengths to make the TA comfortable only encourages teams to spend more time than they need in the TA. Have some spares handy but try to avoid clutter. A fast TA should take the team a few minutes. A slow TA is reaching 10-minutes (OK, we know those teams aiming to just complete their respective course are going to take longer than that – but the point still stands for all teams: Fast is good; slow just drags everything out). In longer races sleep is best taken in the TA and is ideally between 1am-6am – easier to sleep and it’s much better not to have to navigate in the dark.

BICYCLES AND OTHER EQUIPMENT

The support crew should assemble the bikes as soon as possible once they arrive in the appropriate TA. They should check the tires, the brakes and that all the tools are with the bikes. It is also wise to make sure the team has the correct maps and course notes for the stage to follow. It’s probably worth looking over the bikes before you depart a transition following a stage where they have been used. You will get cross with yourselves if you spot a major mechanical issue at the next TA (one that you can’t fix) and you drove past a bike shop a couple of hours ago.

TA EXTRAS

Insect spray, sun block, spare compulsory gear items, extra maps, variety of food and drink options, something comfy to sleep on and in, ear plugs (these can really make a difference to getting off to sleep – the team, not the support crew) and a decent array of medical items for patching feet, blisters, cuts, sprains, etc. Remember there is likely to be medical assistance provided by the organisers – take advice where you need it.

RACE BRIEFING

Make sure that at least one person from the support crew attends the race briefing with the team to get all the vital information. Go to the briefing with a pen and paper and note down anything that is unclear or open to interpretation. Once the briefing is over you can clarify anything you need with race management and you will have the route book and maps of the course to work with. It is well worth using the support crew to make this task as easy and clear as possible.