ADVENDURE - Norcha 2021 - A unique Adventure Race in Portugal: Interview with Mr Pedro Pinto, General Director of the race!

Norcha 2021 - A unique Adventure Race in Portugal: Interview with Mr Pedro Pinto, General Director of the race!

Από 22 Νοε 2021

Adventure Races were a unique and exciting page of outdoor sports in our country several years ago, just before the boom of mountain running. They slowly died out in Greece, but abroad they continue to exist, offering multi-day adventure and racing experiences. One of the most interesting events takes place every two years in Portugal and is the Norcha Adventure Race (NORCHA) which for 2021 took place between 21 & 27 September, in the north-east of the country, in the Tras - Os - Montes National Park. Running (mountain and road), kayaking, swimming, mountain biking, orienteering, rope climbing and other surprises awaited the 18 multinational teams of 4 (or 3) people, on a beautiful and exciting 450-500Km route, without signalling, in 4 consecutive days! The winner was the Alpha Dental team from Sweden and second was the Uruguay Ultra Sports team from Uruguay (the first 2 teams are awarded). The organization plans to expand to other outdoor activities in the future, including mountain running, as part of the Portugal Adventure Program. Advendure is a partner and communication sponsor of the event and in this context we are publishing today a full interview with Mr. Pedro Pinto, General Manager of NORCHA, to get to know the organization better, moving towards a wider future collaboration in outdoor events.


[Advendure]: Adventure racing is a sport that has old roots, but it will hardly become popular as it requires a lot of skills, a lot of training hours in different sports, equipment and is expensive overall. In Greece, for example, it peaked about two decades ago and then disappeared, as mountain running rose rapidly. What inspired you to deal with this type of racing and Norcha in particular? Is there interest in your country but also in a European level?

[Pedro Pinto]: Basically I love demanding and unique projects that provide an intense experience. With over 21 years in the area of events (of all types), I was looking for something in the world that could touch people beyond the sporting component, inspiring people to excel in their daily lives. I realized that the adventure races/expeditions would effectively be true tests of overcoming difficulties that combine sport, tourism, nature, peace and friendship between peoples. Behind this, the fact of being in a team, mixed, the need for constant adaptation, the creativity possible in the creation of the route, the non-stop, the resilience and all the preparation behind it, would undoubtedly be an event that I liked to embrace and hope that Portugal would have the capacity and competence to create incredible moments, telling unrepeatable stories. In our country, like others, the Orienteering Federations were those that somehow accepted the challenge of advancing with a championship with competitions in various parts of the country, and even became part of the ARWS circuit. However, as in other sports, the lack of sponsorship, the competitive framework of the federation's main discipline, and the great demand for time in organizing this type of events (besides sport) does not result in a financial advantage, forcing huge sacrifices and commitments. Right now we can say that there is nothing within what we are trying to do.



[Advendure]: Tell us a few things about your team, so we can get to know you better. Do you organize other racing events? Do you consider expanding your races to mountain running and other outdoor sports in the future?

[Pedro Pinto]: We are a nano and family company (me and my wife) that aims to develop branded events, seeking to create new concepts, seeking to offer moments in which people enjoy their lives more, feel special. We have projects and brand events within the area of sport and nature exploration, but we also create other bespoke events such as festivals, guiness records, openings, etc, etc. If after this 3rd edition, in this context of such a crazy pandemic, we obtain good results, we can try, for example, to proceed with a national adventure miniseries with tests between 6h-48h, while we prepare the 4th edition until 2023. And of course, if there is more capabilities other projects can be implemented to start in parallel. Within the outdoor activities, we have some projects under the Portugal Adventure Program.



[Advendure]: Norcha is an adventure race. Key elements of an adventure are the unpredictable ending and the surprise in the elements that characterize the event. Is Norcha built on these "materials"?

[Pedro Pinto]: Yes, totally. For us, living a real adventure means constant adaptation. NORCHA resides in mystery and information containment. And so we are gradually releasing information until the beginning of the race. Maps are provided step by step.



[Advendure]: The race took place in the north of Portugal, in the region of Tras - Os - Montes. Tell us a few things about this area, the natural environment and the reasons chosen as the route of the race.

[Pedro Pinto]: Terras de Trás-os-Montes (TTM) is currently a destination in northeastern Portugal to be taken into account. As a registered trademark, it has a large number of attractions in terms of its cultural (traditions, gastronomy) and natural heritage, with valleys, plateaus and mountains, Natural Parks and Reserves and several rivers, in a challenging climate due to its thermal amplitude at this time of the year. In 2019 we managed to establish a partnership with the TTM Intermunicipal Community in order to promote the potential of nature tourism, thus organizing the 3rd edition of this event in 2020 in this framework. However, due to highly volatile pandemic issues, we postponed it to 2021.



[Advendure]: How many teams participated in the 2021 edition of the race? What experience you required from them in order to be accepted? What equipment does Norcha provide and what should they bring with them?

[Pedro Pinto]: 18 teams (out of 30 registered / 24nationalities) from around the world managed to reach Portugal in this adverse context of pandemic and travel restrictions, to defy themselves on a truthful survival and self-sufficient test. To be part of this event, they must form a team of 4 elements (mixed). However, we accept other 3-element formats. Our mission is to offer the possibility to enjoy everything, without wanting to limit it, complying with safety regulations. Team members must have experience in outdoor activities, ability to withstand an uninterrupted challenge for 4 days, about 500km, namely the entire length of the course; topography with high and low altitudes, climate, sleep deprivation, self-sufficiency, adaptation to rapidly changing situations, orientation at certain times, constant change between different sports, team spirit, and the desire to enjoy an unrepeatable experience. The organization guarantees all the logistics during the race, provides 2 boxes of 50l, kayaks, 1 set of waterproof maps, and GPS live tracking, in addition to everything that includes the entry (hotel, food, activity insurance, official equipment, airport transfers, ceremonies, among others other surprises). The mandatory equipment by team and individual is based on the A EuroSeries and AR World Seires, being adapted to each edition, depending on the creativity of the route built.



[Advendure]: About 500 kilometers, groups of 4 people who will cross in 4 racing days the distance by running, cycling, kayaking, swimming, trekking, but also by using ropes and orientation skills in some places. What are the elements that lead each team to the finish line and which to the first place of the podium, based on your experience? Are there any cash prizes?

[Pedro Pinto]: The main goal of the team is enjoy the experience and discovery Portugal, and of course, also was to cross the finishing line.  We have just symbolic prizes for the first and second teams.  Aspects favorable to finishing the race and finishing in an interesting position will always be the team spirit and its experience, combined with the ability to withstand adversity, sleep deprivation, and of course, a good navigation through maps is essential to make decisions in the right time.



[Advendure]: I imagine safety is one of the key issues in this type of races. How do you manage any emergencies? Are team members also required to have basic knowledge of first aid (Basic Life Support)?

[Pedro Pinto]: Yes, teams must have BLS knowledge. At the same time, they must commit to several items before the start of the event. The organization is trying to perfect an operations control system based on a triangle between regional and local civil protection organization, with field support from several collaborators and the GPS live tracking tool.



[Advendure]: Is Norcha supported by the state of Portugal? Can you tell us about your main sponsors? How does the local community view the event? What about voluntary support, since events of such scale require a large number of people to help in the organizational part.

[Pedro Pinto]: Norcha is a registered trademark that tries to respond to needs and causes that we identify as having great potential for development for the community, of interest to public and private entities. We seek to create medium and long-term strategic partnerships, establishing identity ties, and together we create unique moments for people's lives. For the 2021 edition, we can say that our main public partner was the Intermunicipal Community of Terras de Trás-os-Montes, which received European funds to promote the territory and its potential for nature tourism. In addition to these, we can say that at public level around 24 public entities were involved. At the private level, we have Merrel as the initial partner of the project, among other brands that we have been conquering to be with us (AUTEL, Minerva, Delta, Vitalis, GoPro, Fnac, Viarco, etc.), being transversally in other ongoing projects, within the line that defines us: living life to the fullest.

Regarding volunteering, we are basically open to receiving and training people who identify with these intentions, and who wish to be part of intense, demanding events, which will certainly be unique and that strengthen positive relationships with the Board and other members. We usually try to attract volunteers (national and international) from friends, through our website, and also from universities. Volunteers generally accept the challenge well, and some of them even want to be part of these types of events again. In the case of NORCHA, there is space for positions such as logistical support, control of transition zones, parallel events such as ceremonies and briefings, transport accommodation, sports supervision, safety and health, communication, secretariat, support for volunteers, etc



[Advendure]: Did you include any cultural events along with the race? Do you believe that Norcha can significantly contribute to the outdoor sports tourism in Portugal?

[Pedro Pinto]: Yes, during the event we offer other moments. For example, we have prepared with great care, which is the welcome ceremony , which consists of dignifying everyone involved through musical and cultural entertainment, presenting the region, the teams and your nationalities, thanking everyone for taking part from NORCHA's history.

In addition, we prepared educational activities to promote the event in high schools Bragança and Bragança Polytechnic Institute in Mirandela; with the main goal to promote  the teams and the territory, with the participation of some athletes to expose their origins, experiences and motivations in the practice of this type of sport, which is so demanding, and which in the end is above all a lifestyle , way beyond the Sport.



[Advendure]: What is it that will give you the most satisfaction after the end of this year's event? What is your vision for the future?

[Pedro Pinto]: Such a good question and one that guides us every day. For us the objective is to build something unique and different, a meeting point for teams and nations to celebrate peace and friendship through an adventure that discovers Portugal in a completely exclusive and unrepeatable way. Success is the result of various conditions of balance and criteria that we have defined, and this year in such a crazy pandemic context, such as the maximum number of countries, having competent and motivated staff for the various positions, having the best partners who provide us with the essential conditions for such a complex event, obviously having funding for cover expenses and can capitalize on the project for the future. And of course, that the teams feel part of something special, a young legend that, if we meet the right conditions, we can continue to advance and evolve every two years - without obligation. First we have to be able to. Knowing how to do it or wanting to do it is not enough. The first editions of NORCHA correspond to its birth and the need to test different ways of working. We humbly believe that we are already prepared and the main learnings have been acquired. We identified a lot of potential in the concept, but a new generation must emerge if we build the 4th edition and expand Portugal in the world of adventure as a destination of choice.



View this photo set on Flickr


Dimitrios Troupis

Δημήτρης Τρουπής

Κατάγεται από το Ξυλόκαστρο Κορινθίας και ζει μόνιμα στην Πάτρα. Συμμετείχε στην συντακτική ομάδα του Adventure Zone από το 2009, ενώ μαζί με τον Τάκη Τσογκαράκη ίδρυσαν και "τρέχουν" το Advendure.  Το τρέξιμο στα μονοπάτια των βουνών και η μεταφορά εικόνων και συναισθημάτων μέσα από τα άρθρα του αποτελεί αναπόσπαστο κομμάτι της ζωής του. Παθιάζεται με τους αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος, υπεραντοχής και  περιπέτειας. Έχει πολλές συμμετοχές και διακρίσεις σε αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος όλων των αποστάσεων, με έμφαση στους αγώνες ultra trail.  Θεωρεί ότι το τρέξιμο και η πεζοπορία στη φύση είναι μια εσωτερική ανάγκη του ανθρώπου, μας φέρνει πιο κοντά σε αυτήν και μας κάνει να αγαπήσουμε περισσότερο το περιβάλλον.



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