23 MARCH 2014: 320 km of complete autonomy, without extra fuel, and 12 checkpoints to find over 2 days. The first marathon leg has an aura of adventure for the novice Gazelles! The first day will have relatively straightforward terrain until CP3, but navigating may be difficult due to the map of the area, which is somewhat hard to interpret. Things get easier after CP4, giving the Gazelles a good chance to reach the 6th checkpoint by nightfall. Though CP6 does not open until 6 o’clock tomorrow morning.
The second part of the marathon (tomorrow) will bring the Gazelles into more challenging terrain. The small dunes of Oued Bou Haiara can be tricky. Although less impressive than Merzouga, they still require skilled driving.
“Take care of your vehicle. You are getting more confident, which is normal after 3 days, and that can lead to mistakes if you don’t evaluate obstacles properly. Don’t break anything,” reminds Ludovic Taché, the rally sporting director.
The morning begins with a rocky plain interspersed with stretches of well-defined terrain. The first teams reach CP1 around 7:45 and stop to take stock and carefully plot their next heading. Having experienced the frustration of driving in circles following a small navigation error, they are beginning to appreciate the importance of constantly checking their headings.
A faint track winds across the rocky plain, disappearing into the foot of the majestic rocky hills on the horizon. The landscapes are breathtaking, but evaluating distances in this seemingly endless environment is far from easy! Visual distances can be misleading. Another potential mistake: letting yourself be distracted by the headings of the other teams, who may not be looking for the same checkpoints (there are a total of 5 different routes).
By mid-afternoon the Gazelles begin to think about where they will pitch their tents for the night. Some teams have even planned where to meet ahead of time! The colours become vibrant as the sun dips in the sky; ochre dunes stand out against the base of dark rocky hills. Some of the Gazelles set up camp near the location of CP6, which will open at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning.
For more live coverage of Today’s event from the official Rally site: English | Français
TEAM 171 – US NOMADS TRACK
The team’s track (white line) compared to the “straight line” course, at the end of Day One of the First Marathon (Leg 4)(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 4: MECH IRDANE/TINFOU MARATHON – Ideal distance 325 km – Estimated time for total Marathong distance 20:00
After a tiring day in the sand, it is time for the first marathon leg of the rally. The marathon consists of more than 320 kilometres in complete autonomy, with no mechanical assistance in the evening, no refuelling, a makeshift camp and 12 CPs to check off over the course of two days. The difficulties will start early on the first day. The Gazelles will need to navigate with precision, avoid rushing ahead blindly and choose their route wisely. Until the third CP, the landscape is rugged, the map is difficult to read, and the terrain extremely difficult to cross. Navigation is the key, as the slightest error in trajectory could prove very costly. Things get easier after CP4 as green plains stretch out as far as the eye can see, though there are greater distances to cover between checkpoints. The night will be spent out in the desert under a starry sky far from the bustle of the bivouac, a well-deserved good night’s sleep awaits…
The second day of the marathon will take the Gazelles across the sandy plains of Oued Bou Haiara. While the sand may not be as majestic as Erg Chebbi, it is not necessarily less treacherous — the reconnaissance team took almost 3 hours to drive across a sandy zone no more than 150 m wide. Once again it will be essential to choose the right path; absolute trust required between navigator and driver. After two days out in the desert, it will be good to be back at the bivouac tonite.
Detailed weather: Errachida
MORE NOTES FROM THE ROAD:
22 March – Leg 3: Merzouga
21 March – Leg 2: Nejakh North
20 March – Leg 1: Nejakh South
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
I could read a road map without a problem, but a topographical map seemed more complicated, and the old black and white line drawn maps of Morocco that we would have to use for the Gazelle Rally seemed more like modern art than accurate indications of terrain… [read]