27 MARCH 2014: The Gazelles leave the bivouac for the last day of the competition this morning, for a relatively short loop of 120 km. While the distance is shorter, the landscape is more variable, alternating between wide plains and steep valleys. In the distance the “Grand M’daouer” cliffs creates one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world. Several teams were not on the starting line today due to serious mechanical issues with their vehicles and will have to end the rally as “unranked.”
The final Leg was supposed to be one of the easier days for the Gazelles, combining navigation and driving without any particular difficulty, except around CP1, where some expertise was needed to avoid the large stones along the oued bottom. However, Mother Nature felt otherwise. Serious sandstorms had blasted the bivouac all night long, making it difficult to sleep, and then continued through the morning. The lack of visibility complicated navigation and even veteran teams made unusual mistakes.
The blowing sand draped an opaque veil over normally clear features. The Gazelles were forced to use close landmarks to navigate, magnifying any small heading errors fourfold. Under these conditions –visibility of just 3 km — the peak of Mhaijiba looks much the same as that of Amsailikh: an error that caused many a Gazelle to double the ideal distance of 15 km between CP3 and CP4.
By noon, some teams had already reached CP5, and a few were even on their way to CP7. The route from CP6 to CP7 was also quite challenging, but this time due to difficult terrain: large angular rocks and deeply gullied hills slowed the teams down. Even top teams, who are used to driving “as the crow flies”, were forced to adjust their heading slightly to save time and to spare their vehicles. Top competitors are particularly hard on their trucks, and the challenge is sometimes just to keep the vehicle running so as to make it to the end.
The finish line opened at 2pm, and teams not vying for the top rankings could cut their day short after 3 or 4 checkpoints to get back to the bivouac early. The fastest teams were already crossing the line around 2PM, with all 8 checkpoints complete. Others continued struggling on to find those last CPs.
A long line of Gazelles began to form at the finish by 6PM. Excited chatter and cries of joy could be heard as the teams crossed the line for the last time — successfully completing the rally, no matter what their ranking.
And at the top of the rankings there were some unusual twists. Team 188 (Syndiely Wade and Florence Pham – CONTINENTAL), who won the event in 2013, committed the unprecedented error of incorrectly plotting CP1 on the map, an error that cost them 35 extra kilometres and wasted a lot of time as they spent much of the morning backtracking to find it, thus running out of time before they could reach the final CP.
By 8 o’clock, most teams have reached the bivouac and the suspense is high! The final results will be published tomorrow at noon (March 28th). In the meantime, the Gazelles can relax and enjoy the traditional last evening at the bivouac, with champagne, music and fireworks!
For more live coverage of Today’s event from the official Rally site: English | Français
Gazelles TV profiles some of the work done by the rally’s humanitarian arm, Coeur de Gazelles, during this year’s event. [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 picked up 3 of the 8 checkpoints today, with a total “penalty” of 428.3 for the day (the value of the missed CPs plus the extra kilometers driven over the “ideal” course). The team ranked 79th among First-time Participants and 120th overall for the day.
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 6. Current live tracking in realtime is available from the official Gazelle Rally site here.
WHERE WE ARE
ABOUT TODAY’S COURSE
FOUM ZGUID SOUTH LOOP – Ideal distance 120 km – Estimated time 9:00
And the countdown begins. After 8 days, the teams will cross the starting line one last time. This will be a fairly short leg without any real difficulty but not without interest, because for the past two years, the rally winners were determined on the last day. Today distances will be shorter but the landscape will be more variable — alternating between wide plains, steep valleys and stretches of treacherous driving. Time should not be a problem today, allowing teams to advance with care and precision, because these last kilometres could make all the difference for those vying for the top rankings. At the end of the day, the Gazelles will cross the final finish line filled with pride and emotion.
A CLOSING THOUGHT: “A secret melancholy is associated with things that die when we have loved them well. Of course you have to know how to close the parentheses, to accept that you will be replaced, to know how to quietly tiptoe into the wings..” — THEODORE MONOD
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 !
Detailed weather: Errachida
MORE NOTES FROM THE ROAD:
26 March – Leg 5: 2nd Marathon Day 2
25 March – Leg 5: 2nd Marathon Day 1
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
The stretch of California desert known as Anza Borrego has a lot of similarities with parts of the Sahara and as such is a perfect place to work on the terrain recognition skills that will help us navigate off-road without a GPS during the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles… [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 …