Julian Carnall and Juan Parades like taking travellers on impossible adventures. They’re the men who dreamed up the Lanka and the Cambo Challenges – two wildly popular tuk tuk rallies that take place in Sri Lanka and Cambodia, respectively, and see teams driving thousands of kilometres in locally-made tuk tuks and rickshaws.
For their next trick, Julian and Juan’s adventure travel company, Large Minority, is taking to the high seas. The Philippine high seas, to be precise. The inaugural Philippines Sailing Challenge will see up to 20 teams try and navigate their way around remote, near-deserted islands aboard locally-made Paraw boats and complete challenges (fishing for dinner, climbing coconut trees) to accrue points along the way. It’s like The Amazing Race, minus the annoying TV presenters.
There’s nothing in the world quite like it, they claim. And with the first-ever challenge kicking off on October 20th, we thought it’d be a good time to drop Julian a line and see what it’s all about.
Where did the idea for the Philippines Sailing Challenge come from then?
We've always wanted to do an adventure on the water, the only question was where. There are plenty of islands in the world but after a quick visit to the Philippines, the answer became clear pretty quick. You’ve only got to go there to understand why.
How difficult was it to plan the logistics? How many times did you have to visit to scout out the route? I guess you had to hook up with the locals for help?
Yeah, it was pretty tough but not impossible by any means. I only went to the Philippines once but it was for a decent length of time. I was lucky enough to be introduced to some really awesome people who made the planning a lot easier than it could've been.
The hardest part was explaining the concept because this kind of thing hasn't been done here before - so convincing them to lend us their boats for 10 days to go to places they don’t often sail to was tough. And yeah, having the local crew helping us on the ground is awesome and will make for an amazing trip for our travellers.
So on a day-to-day basis, what will the trip consist of?
It'll be a mixture of sailing and local challenges. There is a local crew on each boat, which means participants will actually have to sell themselves and convince the local skippers they’re up to the job if they wanna get hands-on.
Depending on the wind, teams will be sailing from anywhere between three to six hours a day and after that there’ll be a combination of cultural, physical and culinary challenges for teams to participate in.
It's not as if there's a shortage of things travellers can do these days- what do you think sets this trip apart from others?
I'd say firstly the uniqueness of it - this kind of event has never been done before. I think it gives people the opportunity to experience things they never would've been able to if they just visited on their own. Also, sailing isn't for everybody, but we are trying to give people the opportunity to get out of their comfort and get out on a boat and really discover the place from a different perspective.
What do you think the biggest challenges or dangers are going to be? Are there sharks? Pirates? Octopuses? Giant squid?
Ha! I think the biggest dangers on this kind of trip are going to come from the travellers themselves. Falling overboard is always the biggest worry but hopefully everyone will look after themselves and, as I said before, the local crew are great. Hopefully we won't have to worry about the giant squid having a nibble if they fall in. As for pirates, I’m afraid the boring answer is no. We’re travelling in a very safe part of the Philippines so it's not something we have to worry about.
And why did you pick the Philipppines, out of all the places in the world you could've gone?
Tough question but one made a whole lot easier after visiting. Thousands of beautiful islands, awesome people, a real seafaring culture, super fast local sailboats, topped off with some pretty tasty local cuisine and cheap rum. What's not to like?
It's the first year you've run the Philippines Sailing Challenge - any big concerns or worries?
I suppose when it comes to the sea and Mother Nature in general the biggest concern is always going to be the weather. We picked a time that historically has seen few typhoons, but there's always a chance one might come through. I mean, with technology these days, they can be predicted and tracked weeks in advance so we can definitely see one coming and plan accordingly - but it would be a serious pain in the ass.
Also, as an event organiser, it's always a bit of a worry to know how exactly the challenge is going to go down with everybody. It's pretty hard not to enjoy this kind of thing but there's always a chance that once people get on the boats they’ll think: "Oh shit, what have I done? I've got to be on one of these for the next 10 days, why did I sign up for this?”
OK last one - what advice do you have for this year's challengers?
Bring some fucking suncream! And I'd say be prepared and expect the unexpected. You never really know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you.
Gutted you missed the boat? You can follow the first ever Philippines Sailing Challenge from October 20th on Instagram and Facebook with the #PhilippinesLIVE hashtag. Make sure you follow @LargeMinority while you're at it.