|Aicha des Gazelles: Excitement grows as US-Teams begin with performance|
As teams lined up for Leg 1 of the rally "Aïcha des Gazelles", driving conditions were less than ideal with poor visibility resulting from strong winds that began after midnight. In a competition based on dead reckoning navigation and the importance of reading terrain features, the hazy skies added a significant challenge.
The competition leg's ideal distance was 130 kilometers consisting of seven checkpoints. Although the weather was difficult, it did not stop competitors from bringing their A-game.
First-time competitors Chrissie Beavis and Bethany Hamilton showed an effective array of both speed and navigation, hitting all seven checkpoints in an impressive time. The duo is the first-time team to watch as the competitive drive of both women led the team to drive incredibly straight with dead accurate navigating from Beavis and Hamilton driving at a smooth pace throughout.
Beavis's background and skill sets are notable. She is a highly respected and winning rally navigator in the US but her ability to tackle the first day could be attributed to her profession and hobbies. Her experience as a student pilot, understanding headings in the air and depth of experience in map reading aid her in understanding the competition's nuances.
"I know how to draw on a map very, very well and accurately from architecture" she said. "If you have any chance of being dead-on, you need to plot perfectly. I've had five years of education in this, leading me to instinctively take care and precision when using rulers."
Emily Miller, Gazelle Rally podium finisher and driving instructor, remarked "This is basically a game of angles and accuracy for Chrissie. She has experience with the the desert terrain which is similar to Southern California and trained in Morocco last year. She is one of the smartest and well-prepared people I know in racing."
Third time competitors Team Lerner Reina hit every check point except the final one due to the time closure. Despite having their AEV built Jeep replaced last minute due to shipping issues, Lerner adapted to the new, vehicle quite well.
"The vehicle was heavier with a different angle but I was able to adjust fairly quickly" she said. When asked what she was looking forward to as an experienced competitor, Lerner replied "The Erg Chebbi dunes. It's beautiful out there, and the flow is very much like a dance."
Most competitors agreed the leg presented numerous terrain difficulties with weeds and camel grass leaving many teams stuck at least once during the day. Checkpoint 2 had only two options - the oued (dry river bed) or mini dunes on the other side. To get to CP 3, teams could go directly through the sand or all the way around.
Julie Meddows, returning competitor and navigator for Team 185 stated they had a few problems during the day, the biggest challenge being navigating through some significant rocky terrain.
Emme Hall and Sabrina Howells, Team 178, were able to hit 5 out of 7 check points in their Isuzu D-Max. Emme, who has been preparing for the rally for two years, admits it was more than she expected.
"There are moments you feel you will never find the check point. It's way more difficult than I thought emotionally. The feeling of not knowing where I am is a bit unsettling, but Sabrina is wholeheartedly committed to this experience as well as myself. We're happy making the 5 checkpoints."
Team 182 Chiadmi/Klishevich had a rocky start, but was able to make three checkpoints while assisting other international teams along the way. With seven more days of competition, it's still anyone's game.
2013/03/22 | 13:33 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/KUHN