Behind the Challenge Wānaka move

Challenge Wānaka: “We are all trying our best”

Challenge Wānaka is one of the world's most scenic triathlons, but on July 22 it was announced that the event would have a new home this coming February; the 15th three day festival will be hosted at Glendhu Bay, rather than around the centre of town.

Bill Roxburgh, Race Director said he was “thrilled” to announce the move, but the response from the Wānaka community has been less positive. 69 per cent of 64 polled Wānaka Sun readers said they felt negative about the news, with 16 per cent believing it was “fair enough,” and 8 per cent responding positively. 

Feedback given to Challenge Wānaka has included shared reservations about, among other things, the inconvenience of travelling to Glendhu, the potential loss of business that the famous event usually brings to town, and a lapping bike course replacing the usual cycle to Hāwea.

Challenge Wānaka have defended their decision as “future-proofing” the event, explaining that using existing infrastructure at Bike Glendhu Bike Park and avoiding road closures in town would reduce costs - which was particularly important given that it was unlikely international competitors would be able to participate. 

Their team added that parts of the course - in particular the swim - would be safer at Glendhu Bay, which was more sheltered than the current course. “The road from Glendhu Bay to the bottom of Treble Cone Ski Field will be lapped, making for a safe and secure road ride without the dangers of traffic,” they added. The Bike Glendhu Bike Park would host the run.

Finally, event organisers said the change “should be seen as a refresh,” which “might entice people back who have already competed a number of times.”

Sharing her personal observations, Sally Currie - Event Director Junior Challenge Wānaka and wife of endurance athlete Braden Currie - said she suspected that it had been hard to “meet the financial burden of the event on an annual basis for many consecutive years.”

“The event is ultimately owned by a charitable trust [the Challenge Wānaka Sports Trust] and the books are visible to the public. It is a huge undertaking and this can clearly be seen by anyone who wishes to look further into it.”

She added that, as the popularity of Wānaka has grown, she had noticed increasing animosity towards events held in town - particularly in the busiest months of the year - and believed this could have contributed to the move.

“In many ways, the timing couldn’t be worse,” she acknowledged. “As now more than ever most of our residents and businesses are relying financially on domestic tourism to support their livelihoods, I think there would naturally be a lot more support for the event to stay in the town centre. But, at the end of the day, it all has to add up.”

Challenge Wānaka thanked those who had responded positively to the change, and said: “We are all trying our best, so if you choose not to participate in 2021 then we just hope that you can keep an open mind and watch out for feedback and content coming out of the 2021 event, which we are confident will show competitors loving racing out in Glendhu Bay.”

Full course details are being finalised and will be available soon on:

Read edition 990 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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