Commentary

Racer Mechanics: From Voss, Norway to Stockholm, Sweden to Ile de Gorée, Senegal

The third and fourth legs of TAR 6 tested the teams’ ability to deal with locals and taxicabs, and included some task options that affected the arrival order of the teams at the end of the two legs. In Sweden, teams were faced with detour options at an IKEA store (said to be the world’s largest) that required teamwork and communication to be completed successfully. Then the teams were presented with a roadblock task — unrolling bales of hay to find a clue — that required physical stamina, strategy, and luck. In Senegal, the teams had two detour options involving fish, and a roadblock option that involved the harvesting of salt. Along the way, teams had to obtain information and make judgments in order to locate clue boxes. They also had to make decisions about time management and transportation options, as these two legs involved navigation, although they did not have to themselves once they reached the train station in Voss.
Here’s a look at how the teams demonstrated (or didn’t demonstrate) their racer skills in the order of average placement in the two legs...
At the end of four legs, the teams seem to have sorted themselves into three groups; three teams that led the pack, four teams in the middle that appeared to be even in overall strengths and weaknesses, and two teams that trailed, including the eliminated team in leg three and a team that came in last in leg four but avoided elimination. Here’s a look at how the teams demonstrated (or didn’t demonstrate) their racer skills in the order of average placement in the two legs:

Kris and Jon (average placement 1.50; 1.50 overall) — Overall, Kris and Jon continue to show the strongest set of racer skills. They made mistakes (not checking the opening time of the Stockholm Town Hall Town, not identifying the author of La Femme Noir as Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal’s former president, before taking a car in Dakar and randomly checking cemeteries). They made good decisions to make up for their mistakes (taking the train rather than a taxi to the Stockholm airport, encouraging their cab driver to the Gorée Island ferry to find a shortcut out of a traffic jam), making good judgments about task choices, and completing the tasks in Sweden and in Senegal efficiently. The internal team dynamic between Kris and Jon appears to be among the best ever in the history of the Race. They also demonstrated an ability to handle adversity well, especially the setbacks they had after they arrived in Dakar, where they were the last team to reach the Bel Air cemetery. They also demonstrated an ability to work themselves back to the front when Kris efficiently completed the salt harvesting roadblock and they subsequently made a ferry to Gorée Island before all of the other teams.
Their performance for the two legs is just about equal to Kris and Jon, as the fourth place finish in Senegal was only two minutes out of second place behind Kris and Jon.
Hayden and Aaron (average placement 2.50; 2.50 overall) — Hayden and Aaron had a slow start in the Sweden leg, but once they completed the IKEA detour (teams that assembled the desk had a far easier time than the teams that elected to count an inventory of pots, pans, and teddy bears), they appeared to find an even pace to take that leg, especially with the tandem bicycle to and from a farm where the hay roadblock took place. Like Kris and Jon, Hayden and Aaron also had problems getting from clue box to clue box for the first part of the Senegal leg. They were the last team to depart the Bel Air cemetery in Dakar, and seem to arrive at the various locales in Senegal just before or just after Kris and Jon until the final taxicab ride back to Dakar to catch the Gorée Island ferry. Their performance for the two legs is just about equal to Kris and Jon, as the fourth place finish in Senegal was only two minutes out of second place behind Kris and Jon.

Jonathan and Victoria (average placement 3.00; 3.25 overall) — The less said about this team the better. But while they made mistakes, and have self-inflicted communication problems, they have managed to remain in the top half of the pack each leg. In the Sweden leg, they remained in the middle of the pack out of Voss into Stockholm through the IKEA detour and the hay roadblock. However, the team had problems navigating themselves back into Stockholm from the farm, and ended the Sweden leg in fourth place. In the Senegal leg, Jonathan and Victoria did manage to find a flight that departed ten minutes earlier than the remaining teams from Stockholm on the Paris segment of the flight to Dakar, but since it connected to the same flight out of Paris, it had no practical effect. They had good transportation luck from Bel Air Cemetery to Kayar village, being the first team to arrive at the detour. They had problems with the task (teamwork issues) and other teams finished ahead of them. They were unable to make the same ferry as Kris and Jon to Gorée Island, as their taxi was stuck in traffic.

Lori and Bolo (average placement 5.00; 5.25 overall) — Lori and Bolo had their ups and downs in the Sweden and Senegal legs. They had navigation problems in Stockholm. They had problems finding the detour clue box inside the IKEA store, and then made a poor choice in electing the count option; after a number of attempts, Lori and Bolo ended up switching to the build option but were the second to last team to complete the detour. They apparently had few problems for the remainder of the Sweden leg, but it left them in seventh place. In the Senegal leg, their fortunes improved once teams arrived in Dakar. They were the first team to find the clue at Senghor’s grave site. They were a middle-of-the-pack team through the fish detour and the salt roadblock, and made the second ferry that carried teams to the Gorée Island pit stop.
It did suggest that Gus may have physical limitations that, at some point, could lead to the team’s elimination.
Gus and Hera (average placement 5.00; 5.50 overall) — Overall, these were two good legs for the father-daughter team. It appeared that this team had fewer communication and teamwork problems in these two legs than in the first two legs. However, the problems that Gus had with the fishing detour and the salt harvesting roadblock in Senegal led the team to slip toward the bottom of the placement order. This was an instance where the new rule that limits team members to no more than six roadblocks during the Race may have been a factor, because Gus became seasick during the fishing task and struggled to collect the salt in the roadblock. They were not in danger of elimination, however, because they had a nearly two-hour lead over the last place team. It did suggest that Gus may have physical limitations that, at some point, could lead to the team’s elimination.

Freddy and Kendra (average placement 5.50; 5.75 overall) — Freddy and Kendra were another team that struggled during these two legs. They were another team that also made the less effective detour choice at the IKEA store in Stockholm, which prevented them from improving their relative placement during the Sweden leg. Because of miscues by other teams, they were one of the first teams to enter the tower at Stockholm City Hall at the beginning of the Senegal leg. It’s not exactly clear what factors were at play, but Freddy and Kendra had problems in some aspect of the Senegal leg, and work well at other points during the leg. For example, they were one of the last teams to find the clue at the cemetery and to arrive at Kayar village, but were the third team to complete the stacking detour. They were the second team to arrive at the salt roadblock task, but were the sixth team to complete it. But they were one of four teams to make the second ferry to Gorée Island, and as a result, they were one of the teams that were virtually tied behind the lead team of Kris and Jon at the end of the leg.
They will have to kick their competitiveness, teamwork, and communication skills up a notch if they hope to remain in the Race.
Adam and Rebecca (average placement 5.50; 6.00 overall) — This team basically stood in place in the middle to lower half of the placement throughout the two legs. They continued to demonstrate problems in communication; the team showed some problems in their ability to evaluate and make the most efficient task choices, as they were one of the teams that spent a lot of time on the IKEA counting detour in Sweden, and Adam had problems with the salt harvesting roadblock in Senegal. Adam and Rebecca certainly aren’t the weakest remaining team, but they are a middle-of-the-pack team at best. They will have to kick their competitiveness, teamwork, and communication skills up a notch if they hope to remain in the Race.

Don and Mary Jean (average placement 8.00; 8.00 overall) — Undoubtedly Don and Mary Jean are seasoned travelers, but they seemed outside their element in the Race. They started the Sweden leg with a penalty for a rule violation the previous leg, and they struggled to complete almost all of the tasks in the two legs. That they avoided elimination in Sweden was due to the bad luck of another team at the hay roadblock. They avoided elimination in Senegal only because it was a non-elimination leg. Don and Mary Jean had problems with the IKEA counting detour, elected to catch fish rather than stack fish in the detour in Senegal, and in general were the last team to complete almost all of the tasks in the two legs. Of the teams that remained in the Race at the end of the Senegal leg, Don and Mary Jean were clearly the most likely to be eliminated next.

Lena and Kristy (average placement 9.00 [eliminated leg 3]; 7.00 overall) — This team had the worse misfortune in a task I’ve ever seen in the Race. Simply put, the odds caught up with them and caused their elimination in the hay rolling roadblock leg. They are the best exemplar of the adage that luck does play a role in the Race. According to the information provided about the task, there were 20 clues hidden in 270 bales of rolled hay, which works out to about one in every 13.5 bales. We’re told at one point that after unrolling more than 100 bales, and eight hours, they had not found a clue envelope that directed them to the pit stop. They were eliminated before they could complete the tasks because all of the other teams had checked in.

The outcome of these two legs did not provide us with major insights about most of the teams. For the most part, teams basically kept themselves sorted in the same general groupings that emerged after the legs in Iceland and Norway. Historically, as there are fewer teams remaining, the tasks require a greater demonstration of the various skills racers require to be successful, and the mental pressure and fatigue emerge as more important factors. It’s still early enough in the Race for a poorly-performing team to improve their level of performance, and for a strong early team to make a major mistake, or otherwise self-destruct, and incur elimination. At the end of four legs, then, the top three teams are Kris and Jon, Hayden and Aaron, and Jonathan and Victoria. The two weakest teams in terms of skills seem to be Don and Mary Jean, and Adam and Rebecca, and the other three teams are in the middle of the pack. As the Race moves into its middle legs, it will be easier to evaluate how each team is racing, given the smaller number of teams and the likelihood that each team will have more air time. This will provide more information as to how well or how poorly each team is competing.