25 MARCH 2014: The Gazelles got to “sleep in” this morning, with starting time pushed an hour later than usual to 7am. During the morning briefing, sporting director Ludovic Taché encouraged the teams: “You did very well on the first marathon leg. The lines were straight and those who had problems were able to react quickly. Keep it up, because it’s not over yet!” This second marathon leg will pass through the Cheggaga dunes.
The second marathon leg got off to a promising start. After about fifty kilometres of road and the village of Tagounite, the Gazelles reached the Tizi pass where they leave the road for a real labyrinth of small dunes. These little dunes are scattered around, making for extremely difficult navigation and uneven driving. It is hard to see more than 50 meters ahead, with a strong wind blowing up sand to make visibility even worse.
CP3 was hidden at the bottom of a trough, and many teams were driving in circles looking for it, as the wind got even stronger. Gazelles were donning ski masks and goggles to protect their eyes from the sand. By 11:30, the heat was already oppressive and the sand was getting softer and softer. The Gazelles were starting to show signs of cumulative fatigue. They needed to get out of the small dunes which are so short and close together that there is no space to get a run-up. Even the top teams were having trouble: Team 187 (Carole Montillet and Chris Mayne – SAINT-HONORE) got themselves stuck at a slant on the crest dune. “You just need to spend one day following the Rallye des Gazelles to understand that’s it a real competition, not just a bunch of chicks out for a joyride!!” commented Montillet to a reporter.
The ochre dunes are followed by long stretches of scattered mounds of sand topped with vegetation — different, but not necessarily easier!! Tossed about in every direction, the Gazelles struggle to find their way. The sector around CP4 proved extremely challenging for many teams. Navigation errors, slow progress and difficult terrain combined to increase the pressure as the day wore on.
As afternoon turns to evening, the fatigue of the 6th day of competition becomes almost tangible. With perseverance, some teams finally reach CP6 and set up camp. A few teams were able to move more quickly and stopped for the night around CP7 while others moved in near 8X to camp at the foot of the dunes.
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, as of the end of the first day of the second marathon leg. Current live tracking in realtime is available from the official Gazelle Rally site here.
WHERE WE ARE
ABOUT TODAY’S COURSE
TINFOU / FOUM-ZGUID – Ideal distance 300 km – Estimated time 20:00
Today is the second two-day marathon, perhaps the most difficult stretch of the Rally. The Gazelles will confront the region of Chegaga with its fine sand, its hills, the Oued Draa and its sand storms! The wind will be the enemy for the next two days. The navigation is not easy to begin with, and when the weather doesn’t cooperate, things become that much more complicated. Perfect teamwork will be required in the vehicle. The navigator will need to be alert and keep an unflagging eye on her landmarks. The driver will have to constantly adjust her heading, as she is forced to place the wheels where she can rather than where she wants to. An endless series of small dunes makes it next to impossible to stick to a straight heading. At sea this phenomenon is known as “drift”, but there is no undertow here, just small piles of sand no more than two metres high that push, push, push. The distance between points is a question of time rather than kilometres. The strongest teams will attack the dunes towards the end of this first day. Chegaga is less impressive than Merzouga, but you shouldn’t trust appearances alone. In any case, everyone will be spending the night in the sands of Chegaga: a lovely evening guaranteed. The Gazelles will make the most of the profound calm of the desert and, of course, the brilliant canopy of stars. This will be their last night spent alone in the desert.
The following morning will be spent in the sand. Whichever route they choose, the Gazelles will have to cross the Erg, a relatively difficult task. If they are luck they may spot some real gazelles! Then the route will take them across the dried lake bed of Iriqui kilometer after kilometer of smooth flat terrain where you can almost see the curvature of the earth. The mountains in the distance appear baseless, seeming to rise directly out of an immense watery plain. The Gazelles will be battling the heat all day to keep their heads clear. The grandiose cliffs of M’daouer, set alight by the evening sun, will accompany them as they approach the final bivouac. It’s time for the Gazelles to rest and recharge their batteries for the final leg and the end of the adventure.
Detailed weather: Errachida
MORE NOTES FROM THE ROAD:
24 March – Leg 4: 1st Marathon Day 2
23 March – Leg 4: 1st Marathon Day 1
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
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