Race the Wild Coast: Much More Than a Beach Ride

350 kilometers of rugged South African coastline. 32 river crossings. Three horses and five days. Are you up to the test? Sign-ups for Race the Wild Coast are open now.

South Africa’s Wild Coast is a remote, lightly-developed stretch of rugged shoreline: yes, there are sections of beach, where the waves lap gently on the sand, but equally so there are cliffs that crash straight down into the sea. Scores of rivers empty into the ocean along this section of coast, some flowing down to the sea while others plunge over rocks. Rolling hills are scarred by gorges and in other sections the rainforest grows thick.

This is the location of a new breed of horse racing: Race the Wild Coast, a 350-kilometer endurance race that pushes the envelope for what is possible on horseback further than ever.

Produced by Joe Dawson and Barry Armitage of Rocket Horse Racing, Race the Wild Coast’s inaugural running took place in October of 2016. (If the name Barry Armitage sounds familiar to anyone who followed this year’s Mongol Derby, Barry tied for the win.) Rocket Horse Racing is gearing up for the second annual running in the fall of 2018 — and sign-ups are officially open.

Sure, there are a few relaxing-looking beach canters thrown in there… but there are also 32 river crossings, involving some deep-water swims; there are treacherous tracks up and down those rugged cliffs. There is no marked trail — just GPS checkpoints and the skill of the individual navigator.

Riders compete with three horses over the course of five days; horses are selected randomly and are swapped out roughly around the 100 km and 200 km mark. Much like the Mongol Derby, mandatory veterinary checkpoints are set up about every 40 km to ensure that the equine partners of the race are healthy and sound. Horses are provided by a South African stud and certainly appear to be game for endurance riding.

What other horse race in the world requires competitors to be strong swimmers? As you can see from the above video, water crossings are no simple wades in the river, but often full-out swims across long distances. Competitors are also encouraged to have excellent horsemanship skills, physical fitness (you’ll be doing a good bit of navigating on foot) and self-sufficient in the wilderness.

The 2018 edition takes place October 16th through the 20th, with pre-race training including practice swims taking place October 14th and 15th. The cost to race is 97,000 ZAR (South African rand) which equates to just over $7,000 USD.

To learn more about Race the Wild Coast and submit your application, visit the race website.

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