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Dakar 2009: The "Rally-Convoi" is crossing the Sea to America.

While the competitors complete their fitness preparation, the vehicles left the French port town of Le Havre after the "verifications" and are heading to Buenos Aires. Joined by telephone on the "Grand Benelux", Jacque-Henry Couette reported on how the trip is going as it reaches the half-way point.

«I have gained two kilograms since we left », said Jacques-Henry Couette, who is obviously being well looked after by the Italian team with whom he left from Le Havre on the Grand Benelux on December 1st, to make the three week crossing of the Atlantic to Zarata, some 100kms from Buenos Aires. After the technical and administrative verifications were completed, 820 vehicles in all, including organisation and press vehicles, were loaded into the imposing cargo ship. For his first long crossing, Jacques-Henry has been given the mission by the Dakar team of taking care of their precious cargo during this unique voyage.

The first days at sea were the most delicate for this young sailor, who had to confront the swell of the Bay of Biscay: "For four days there was a minimum of four people continuously in the hold to make sure the vehicles were well secured. The swaying of the ship, classic in this zone, required us to pay particular attention." Once he made it through this learning period, which was accompanied by a permanent case of sea-sickness, the daily routine of our floating car park attendant calmed down considerably. "Since, the sea has been beautiful and we’ve only had to make one complete tour of the hold each morning. The only problem we have had to confront is the deflating of the truck tyres, which obliges us to put the trucks on blocks, and then redo the straps so the tyres don’t come off the wheel rims. Now, we’ve got the technique down pat".

After ten days at sea, the Grand Benelux has nearly reached the half-way point and has just crossed the equator. The cargo ship can reach an average speed of 17 knots, but the voyage seems far from over for Jacques-Henry, who during the rally will be in charge of the motorcycle trunks: "I am making good use of my free-time to learn Spanish, I have brought along the Assimil method. As for the rest, I beginning to get a little tired of having to climb the hundred steps to reach the bridge. Paradoxically, while being in the middle of the sea we lack space! I think that when I arrive the first thing I will do is go for a run. And then, I will find myself a terrace and have a nice cold beer. During this time, his friends will take over for the unloading.

2008/12/12 | 17:45 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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