Roles in an Adventure Racing Team

TEAM: A group of individuals with complementary skills who generate synergy through a co-ordinated effort to achieve a common goal.

(Adapted from the endless fountain of accurate knowledge, Wikipedia.)

A team in adventure racing is essentially no different to any other type of team in sport, life or business. Each member has a role that is crucial to the success of the team.

Rachel Baker has helped outline the suggested roles to cover your bases for Spring Challenge. Rachel is a member of the Greenhorns Adventure Racing team who finished in 10th place overall in the gruelling GODZone adventure race in Fiordland. She’s also a multi-time Spring Challenger who’s incredibly enthusiastic about the outdoors and is always happy to share advice and learnings from her experiences. She also readily admits that she’s addicted to adventure racing - but we all know there are worse things in life to be addicted to.

The Greenhorns Adventure Racing team set off into the Fiordland wilderness during GODZone 2018.

The suggested roles for your Spring Challenge team are outlined below. As you can see there are more roles than the number of team members - just mix and match so that the responsibilities are spread evenly within the team.

These don’t need to be divvied out straight away as it will likely become apparent during your training time together who is suited to what. But you will want to have it nailed before you get to the start line. However, Rachel does point out that it can still be subject to change. “The team roles might stay the same throughout the whole race but in longer races the roles might switch around depending on how people are feeling - and this is OK.”


The captain is the one who encourages and motivates you to get the best out of your team. She will make sure the team is focused and on task when required. She will take input from the team but ultimately she is your decision maker.


She looks out for the well-being of the whole team by making sure everyone is eating and drinking enough, keeping tabs on niggles and injuries, checking on how you are all feeling, and that you’re all happy with the pace. In the excitement of racing, and as you get tired, it’s easy to forget or gloss over these things - but over a number of hours these small things can become a big problem.

Personally I find this hugely important. Sometimes I get to the point where I realise I’m uncharacteristically grumpy, tired, or unenthused. Normally the solution is food! (Yes this applies to my day-to-day life as well as in the outdoors.) The advantage of having someone reminding you to stay fuelled and hydrated during Spring Challenge is that we can avoid that place of hangry irritability altogether!

Snacks galore to keep a Spring Challenger happy! This is what I packed for a bikepacking adventure over summer.


This is your map boss. She is in charge of the maps and is the most confident navigator. She will work to select the best routes possible to get you through the course as quickly and as easily as possible. You can have a team that is strong and fit, but without a sharp navigator you could easily find yourselves going fast in the wrong direction.


It is important to have a teamie who is also a confident navigator to help your main navigator where needed. It’s helpful to have a second opinion if your main navigator has a tricky decision to make, or if they get tired and start making mistakes.

This is definitely something I once learned the hard way … at Spring Challenge 9 hour 2016 in Golden Bay our team was making good progress to the transition at the end of a long trek. I was the navigator but got carried away daydreaming of all the foodie treats waiting for me in transition, and subsequently missed an easy track junction. This meant an extra 40 minutes on our feet, running to get back on course! Luckily I had forgiving teammates but it could have been avoided had someone else been aware of our intended route.


The packhorse is generally the strongest team member, and this can vary depending on which stage you’re on. They carry the compulsory gear for the team and sometimes their teammate’s gear too. This can be determined before the event when one of you is obviously stronger. But it can change during the event too - if you’re having a bad day, your teammates can help by carrying some of your gear. And Rachel assures us that it’s really no big deal. “There is no shame in having your gear carried if it means the team will move faster.”


This is often the speed bunny in your team and caretaker of the punch card. It’s not a position to be taken lightly as a lost punch card can mean a time penalty or disqualification as it’s what is used to prove you have been to all the controls on course. Having a dedicated control puncher means a quick visit at each control. They can get in, punch, and get out while the navigator confirms the route for the next section. If control punching is a new concept, don’t worry, all will be revealed in the coming weeks.


Always looks on the bright side, full of encouragement, and never short of a cheesy motivational quote to keep you moving.

​​“Knowing what your role is from an early stage can also help with your preparation for the event,” says Rachel. "If you have been tasked to be the main navigator of the team, you know that you need to focus some of your training (or a lot depending on your navigation skill level) on navigation."

Support each other in these roles. Discussion amongst the team is great (we love open communication!) but it is the lady in each of these roles that makes the final relevant decisions. Try to have these discussions on the move if you can and avoid stopping too often – consistent forward progress is the key.

And don’t forget to have fun. Happy adventuring!

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