Why Teams? How does that work?
If there's one thing that turns adventure racing from a cool idea into a life changing adventure, it's the team aspect. Sure, there are some negatives - having participants required to be in teams can be a barrier to entry. As many adventure athletes are solitary types, this can often turn them off to the sport. Before I ever did a race, I wondered why they made it so complicated. I didn't want anyone slowing me down nor did I want to be the one who was slowing someone else down. I just wanted to do it all myself! But later after several races I realized the error in my thinking. Having to have a teammate went from being a hassle to one of the most fun, rewarding aspects of an adventure race, even when my teammates have been significantly faster or slower than me.
As originally conceived, adventure racing wasn't always considered to be a team sport, though many early races did require teams often for safety reasons as they were usually expedition style and in remote areas. But with the modern era of adventure racing starting with the Raid Gauloises in 1989, the team concept was cemented and hasn't changed much since. Those early races required 5 person co-ed teams, whereas the premier expedition races today usually require 4 person co-ed teams, but otherwise the concept is pretty much the same. I'm not sure why Gerard Fusil originally decided to require the co-ed teams, but perhaps it was to lower the barrier for entry for women in what would otherwise have been a mostly male-dominated sport. In either case, mixed-gender teams are a cherished aspect of adventure racing today as there is simply a unique dynamic created by having both men and women on the same team.
It's important to note that many races do not have strict team requirements. For sprint races, it's common to allow anything from 2 to 4 person teams with no co-ed requirement, though the teams generally get put in a separate division based on gender and size. In fact, many races today actually allow solo competitors as well which is a good way to try out the sport but I encourage you to try to find a teammate if possible before attempting a race.
The first question most people have about the team aspect of adventure racing is, "Is it a relay?" The answer is no. You're actually traveling together with all of your teammates at all times. In fact, most races explicitly define how close you must be to your teammates and penalize or disqualify teams that disobey the rules. Sometimes it's a specific distance, like 100 feet. Other race directors just want you to be within sight and earshot of your team members. But the idea is the same, you must travel together. Over the course of a long race, you will get to know your teammates very well!
Of course this rule creates a unique problem for teams that are trying to travel at their maximum speed. There will always be a team member who is slowest at a given discipline, and the others are not allowed to just go on ahead. A common saying is that a team can only travel as fast as its slowest member. For a well oiled adventure racing team, this is not true. A significant part of the strategy of adventure racing is equalizing the speeds of team members, and I'll go into this in depth in another page. Just remember not to be too upset at your teammates if they're slowing you down early in the race because your roles might be reversed at some point!
A good team can be one of the most valuable assets an adventure racer can have, not only for someone who wants to compete at the highest level but for anyone who wants the fullest and most memorable experience. Doing this sort of stuff is just plain not as fun if you are by yourself. In an adventure race, you will do things you never even dreamed you'd ever do, and if there wasn't someone else around to share in the ridiculous awesomeness of it all, the experience would be hollower. And don't forget that you'll need witnesses to back up your stories! People will never believe that you crawled through thigh deep mud holding a canoe above your head to take a shortcut if there wasn't someone there to see it.