21 MARCH 2014: Gusts of wind up to 80 km/h rocked the bivouac throughout the night, and some teams’ tents were blown away. It had been a difficult night! Today’s briefing began 10 minutes behind schedule.
“Watch where you drive, or the cauliflowers will make you suffer,” explained sporting director Ludovic Taché. He was warning the teams about a unique feature of today’s terrain — the “cauliflowers” are strange clumps of vegetation that are as hard as rock. Today’s leg will be longer than yesterday’s, with a minimum distance of 192 km and estimated time of 10:40. It will also be more difficult. Though it starts with two easy checkpoints along the road leading to Errachidia, there are a total of eight CPs.
The region is characterized by a wide flat plain with clear features, straightforward to navigate when visibility is good, however today there are 25 – 30 km/h winds lifting dust into the air and obscuring the horizon. Taché reminds the teams, “Mark everything you do on your map; for example, a heading of 105° for 2 km, then 125° for 800 m… That’s the only way to know where you are on the map, especially when visibility is poor!”
As teams prepared to load up, Taché gave them a few final words of caution: “Drive slowly, be careful, look after your vehicle. You are a team of 3, make sure all 3 of you make it to the end!”
The Gazelles headed off as the sun began to rise, advancing easily through the first two checkpoints. After reaching CP3, things got more difficult, as the terrain got rougher with deep oueds and “cauliflowers”, in the region of Rhâ Rouchâne. The 4th checkpoint is on the other side of a notorious pass through a 1100-m high rocky cliff blocking their route. To find this magic door, teams could chose to cross a dry oued bordered by sand, which would be a source of problems for some, but would reward them with a magnificent “Grand Canyonesque” landscape. Visibility had improved and a cloudless blue sky with seasonally warm temperatures made for ideal conditions.
By 2:30pm, 30 teams had past CP 5 but the majority of the Gazelles were still working their way from CP3 to CP4. Half of them seemed to be having problems getting through a strip of dunes. Some of the others chose a route to reach the 4th checkpoint by the road from the north. This option would add about 20 extra kilometres but will save in time, improving their chances to get the last checkpoints before closing time. Once they made it to CP4 in the north-east, they would have to go back down to the southern edge of the plateau to reach CP5. Between the two: rocks, more rocks, steep oueds, rocks, steep oueds…
CP5 is hidden by an acacia in the heart of some small dunes. The Gazelles who arrive in the early afternoon pause to enjoy the scenery, but not for too long because they still have a long way to go. There are still three more checkpoints to find before nightfall. A few more kilometres of rocky terrain, some dromedaries wander past in the distance, a few donkeys appear from nowhere, and there it is: the 6th red flag. Thirty teams had reached CP6 by 4:15.
The first Gazelles to return to the bivouac started arriving around 5pm. For most of them, the day proved less productive than they had hoped, because they did not manage to reach all of their checkpoints. Still, with an early return to base, they can be well rested to do better tomorrow. The rest of the teams continued to trickle in through the evening, though ten teams decided to camp in place and return to the bivouac in the morning.
Gazelles TV presents the second leg of the competition — The Nejakh North Loop. [Sorry for the obligatory advertisement at the start of this clip, it comes as part of the embedded resource, not our site.]
M6 highlights from the second leg of the competition [Sorry for the obligatory advertisement at the start of this clip, it comes as part of the embedded resource, not our site.]
Team 171 USnomads hit 4 of the 8 checkpoints today, with a total “penalty” of 381.74 for the day (the value of the missed CPs plus the extra kilometers driven over the “ideal” course). The team ranked 72nd among First-time Participants and 114th overall.
Here’s the top ten 4×4 teams in today’s leg of the competition:
TEAM 171 – US NOMADS TRACK
The team’s track (white line) compared to the “straight line” course for Leg 2 (click the image for a larger view). Current live tracking in realtime is available from the official Gazelle Rally site here.
WHERE WE ARE
ABOUT THE DAY’S COURSE
LEG 2: NEJAKH/NEJAKH – Ideal distance 192 km – Estimated time 10:40 (loop)
The first two CPs should pose no problems. They lie along the road to one of the classic challenges of the Rallye: the “cauliflowers”… those strange desert plants that look like giant grey-green cauliflowers and which, in addition to being inedible, are as hard as rock. The Gazelles will need to avoid them or suffer the consequences. In addition, the zone is riddled with lots of different depths and various levels of difficulty to cross. The driver will be put to the test: place the wheels with care, press on the gas at just the right moment… But if only that were the only thing to worry about… In addition to the challenging terrain, this zone requires flawless navigation. There are few clear features, and those are often so far away as to be easily lost in the heat haze. Points of reference will be uncertain at best, and frequently nonexistent. A good night’s sleep at the bivouac will be more than welcome after a long hard day, especially in light of the fact that tomorrow’s leg may require some intensive shoveling… But tomorrow is another day!
Team USnomads is proud to support the work of MothersToMothers, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that recognizes the ability of mothers to change their destiny. MothersToMothers, founded by Pamela Parlapiano, partners with local women to create community supported day care and learning centers that change lives. Their model project in Amacho Wato Kebele, Ethiopia, has shown how with just a little help, the mothers in the community can improve the lives of a whole village. Please join us in supporting their efforts to take this successful model to more villages: Donate to MothersToMothers here. (Note that all donations go 100% directly to MothersToMothers).
TEAM 171 PRESENTATION
USnomads, c’est l’histoire d’une amitié de plus de 20 ans, qui s’est construite à travers le temps, les cultures, les expériences de la vie et des voyages. Seule l’union de deux caractères forts et respectueux l’un de l’autre explique que nous soyons arrivées à nos fins dans chacun de nos défis.
Ceci est notre première participation au Rallye des gazelles et nous ne sommes pas des professionels, mais JoMarie a une certaine expérience de l’Afrique et des situations d’urgence. D’autre part, elle s’est totalement investie dans la préparation de cette course et Isabelle s’est récemment mise à la navigation.
Le Rallye des gazelles dans le désert marocain sera le théâtre d’une nouvelle épreuve pour nous : une Jeep, une boussole, une carte et tout le pouvoir de notre volonté d’y parvenir fera le reste.
Ce défi sportif s’inscrit dans un projet humain plus large, celui de traverser le désert du Sahara d’Ouest en Est dans l’espoir d’accompagner les équipes d’ONG dans leurs micro-projets d’aide aux peuplades nomades locales. JoMarie en produira un film documentaire qui donnera à mieux connaitre les hommes de cette partie du monde.
L’équipe 171 prendra fièrement son envol le 15 mars 2014 avec toutes les autres participantes ! Et que les meilleures gagnent !
Mais quelle valeur et quelle portée aurait cette leçon de vie, si nous n’étions pas soutenues par l’amour de nos proches, de nos amis et de tous ceux qui nous entourent. Merci !
ABOUT THE RACE
The Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a grueling nine-day off-road race across the Moroccan sahara, is one of the toughest motorsport events in the world. Using only a map and compass to navigate (GPS or electronic navigational aids are NOT allowed), the two-women teams must reach a series of checkpoints spread over the harshest desert terrain. The competition is a challenge of endurance and strategy, as teams must decide whether to go over obstacles or around them in an effort to complete the course with the least possible mileage. The winners are the team that reaches all the checkpoints via the shortest total distance. Learn more about the race…
Detailed weather: Errachida
MORE NOTES FROM THE ROAD:
20 March – Leg 1
19 March – Prologue
18 March – To Erfoud
17 March – Ferry to Tangiers
16 March – To Barcelona
15 March – Paris Presentation
14 March – Technical Verification day
8 to 13 Mar 2014 – Paris: Preparations
Team US Nomads will be driving a lighly modified Jeep Wrangler during the 2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. While the choice of vehicle for a desert crossing is based on capabilities and technical considerations, we can’t help but take a moment to reflect on the esthetics… [read]
There is something mysterious about the vast seas of sand, the great ergs, of the Sahara. They stand intimidating in their magnificence, and the idea of even trying to drive across them seems pure folly. Yet that is exactly what we will have to do during the Gazelle Rally… [read]
> Team US Nomads is training hard to face the challenges of a Sahara crossing like no other. The first step in their journey is the 2014 Rally Aicha des Gazelles. Find out more about the team and their inspiration …
> A true test of endurance, the Gazelle rally pushes teams to their limits in a struggle to overcome the harshest terrain in the Moroccan Sahara. The key to success is a seamless combination of off-road driving abiility, land navigation skills and strategic thinking. Learn more about this unique race …
> Team US Nomads is working to connect people across borders and cultures in a true exchange. This includes a series of humanitarian efforts to assist communities in the region undertaken with the rally organization and other NGO partners. Discover how we are doing good as we go …
> Team US Nomads needs your support. Whether you represent a corporate organization interested in sponsoring the team, a humanitarian group that would like to find out more about working with us in the Sahara, or if you would just like to follow along with the adventure, we want to hear from you. Find out how to get involved …
160 TEAMS FOR THE 2014 RALLY
This year there will be 160 teams competing in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles: 320 women from 24 countries ranging in age from 19 to 64. Nations represented include: France, Canada, USA, Morocco, Norway, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Italy, Colombia, Switzerland, Belgium, Egypt, Germany, Angola, Congo, Nigeria, Gabon, Portugal, UK, Vietnam, Yeman, South Africa, Senegal and French Polynesia.