Coordinator Simon Chitnis gives us the scoop on the upcoming Race2 Prague
What is it about Race2 that you think makes it such a success?
How unique the event is. It’s the sort of event where people do it for the adventure. People come to university to do something different, something new, to go out of their comfort zone – and this is a way for them to do that. And the people who are involved are really passionate about raising money, so it comes across to the racers that they are so passionate.
Are there ever any fears about security, having a bunch of students spread out across Europe relatively disconnected from things?
No, we have two safety teams, one U.K. and one Europe based. We have training before we go out, so we know how it works. We have people to translate as well as support from the Student’s Association and the University if it is needed. But racers do it for the fun – they know there are some risks and they’re not stupid, they won’t put themselves in a dangerous situation.
Why Prague this year?
It’s a great city – we wanted to choose a place where students would want to go to. Barcelona definitely had that, and so does Prague. It’s not just about hitchhiking and coming home, you want to relax and enjoy it once you get there. Prague has loads of stuff to do during the day, and also the biggest nightclub in Europe. We’ll be staying at the Plus Prague hostel, which has 500 beds, a swimming pool, sauna, and sports facilities. We really just want to give people a chance to enjoy it.
What has been the most successful Race2 and to where?
Barcelona. Last year we raised over 34,000 from Race2 Barcelona. With jailbreak, we reached a total of almost 36,000. We had the most participants we’ve ever had.
Is there a limit to how many people can do Race2?
We do have a limit. We look at how many people we think we can take responsibility for, how many in order for it to be safe, and how many it would be practical to race with. The UK isn’t a very big place so with so many racers it can get difficult. You have to put a limit somewhere. With 200 there have been waiting lists, and that’s nice because if someone pulls out we can give other people an opportunity. Also it means that if people get on they’re quite lucky to have done so, so they fundraise more. At the end of the day it is for charity.
Will the change of dates have an effect on numbers or success?
We put it at the end of the holiday so students can go home and then come back for Race2 and still have time to enjoy Prague after. With the turnout from our information night it looks like numbers shouldn’t be an issue, as well as with the number of emails and the turnout at fresher’s fair. Interest is as high as it’s ever been. If you want to sign up, come along on Tuesday night because it might sell out fast.
How did Race2 get started?
The first one was in 2006, Race2 Paris. It wasn’t as regimented, they weren’t sure how it would work. Since then it’s gotten bigger and bigger, and continues to do so.
Have there ever been any major problems or unfortunate events with previous races?
Not that we haven’t been able to handle. If there were major issues, we wouldn’t be able to continue doing it. We’re more than capable of handling it.
What is the best story from previous Race2 events?
There was a team last year that got stranded in northern Spain for a while with a Polish lorry driver, and were playing golf with a makeshift club. It sounded pretty funny.
Do other universities do anything similar or is St. Andrews unique in that way?
There are other universities that do similar things, but most of them just do a jailbreak and make it longer, for around 54 hours.
What are your goals for this year? What is the expected outcome?
Firstly, we want to sell out. After that, we want a successful, safe race and to raise a lot of money. We’ve been reading about other hitchhike races to Prague and we know people have done it in two days before, going extremely fast. We’ve given the same five days as last year, because we have a lot of racers. We want to raise more money than last year. We’re hoping we can push 40,000 for sponsorship with Race2 and jailbreak. I think that’s a realistic goal.
How was the information night? Was there a good turnout rate?
Excellent – we had twice the number of people as last year. Last year we sold out in 48 hours so we’re hoping to sell out even quicker this year.
Have you done Race2 and what was your experience with it?
I did Race 2 Barcelona last year. The highlight was after being stranded at Dover, a man in a white van stopped and asked us about what we were doing, and he said we could go across the channel in his van. When he found out where we were going, he said we could come with him to Toulouse. We were in the car for 14 hours, and he went two hours out of his way to drop us off in a better position. It was such a huge chunk of the journey. We got so lucky. People are so nice and so generous. You don’t really think about it, you think about how you feel and how you’re doing. If you think about it from their perspective, they’ve picked up two strangers, so they’re probably nervous as well. He didn’t have to, but he chose to. That’s one of the best things about Race2.
Image by Mike G.K.