Adventurers battle the elements in Patagonia race

Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:56pm EST
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By Will Gray

PUNTA ARENAS, Chile (Reuters) - Four American adventurers had to live on berries during three days lost in the wilderness, a Briton and the French defending champion suffered hypothermia, the Canadian team fell into an icy river with their equipment and a Spaniard got attacked by mosquitoes.

Welcome to the Patagonia Expedition Race, 2009.

The annual event, regarded as the wildest and toughest adventure race in the world, was won this month by British team Helly Hansen Prunesco in six days after an epic 600 kms of mountain biking, kayaking and trekking to the southern tip of the American continent.

More than half of the 16 four-member teams failed to reach the finish at Cape Froward after battling 100-kph winds, driving rain and snow.

American team Calleva lost their way after deciding to take a short cut because they had run out of food.

"We were exhausted from bushwhacking in the valleys so we tried to go above all the brambles and pop down on the other side but it left us a bad, bad connection to the finish," team member Sarah Percy told Reuters.

"The only way was through the coast but we were two miles from the finish for the last 48 hours and we just couldn't get there, whatever route we tried."

While the British foursome reached the cape to claim the Wenger ice-sculpture trophy, followed home 19 hours later by last year's winners Easy Implant of France and by Team Spirit Canada the following day, the Americans had to feed off the land to stay alive.   Continued...

<p>Members of British Team Helly Hansen Prunesco kayak in the Otway Sound during the fifth stage of the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race in southern Chile, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Will Gray</p>