|Rainforest Challenge: Come rain and high water - the wettest RFC editon.|
The legendary Rainforest Challenge (RFC) 2013 in Malaysia would best be described in superlatives - the wettest and most unrelenting monsoonal rains ever seen in RFC in 16 years, the most massive flooding in the East Coast region of peninsula Malaysia in 10 years and the most maneuvers and detours to escape from the widespread inundation – both on-road and off-road. In some areas, it was, literally, a water world.
The continuous downpours from light, medium to heavy, rained down on the participants the moment the participants reached Kuala Terengganu on 29 Nov at Permai Hotel. It was no surprise that D-Day on 30 Nov started off with a monsoon storm blowing across Pulau Warisan, facing the Terengganu River, situated next to the 200-year old Chinatown.
It was the first “face-off” for the 35 off-road race teams together with their support crew, media and event officials that would last till the end of the event on 9 Dec and beyond! In fact, there was no sunshine at all throughout the 10 days. Everyone and everything brought into the event had to endure the constant rain, dampness, high humidity, soggy, muddy grounds and perpetually wet conditions.
However, prior to the tempest from the North East Monsoon, it was razzmatazz time at RFC Presentation Day of the competitors at Publika, a lifestyle shopping, living and entertainment venue in Kuala Lumpur on 28 Nov. This year, both the scrutineering and public days are held in the capital of Malaysia under bright sunshine.
Prologue SS Showtime
Once in Terengganu, the scene changed from sunny to stormy. After the flagging off, come rain or shine, the show must go on. And so it did at the Prologue Special Stages (SS) at Kg Gong Chempedak, Marang. The wet soggy grounds raised the level of difficulty of the SS a few notches but there was no let up in the action by the competitor teams from Europe to Asia Among them were the 5-time Russian off-road champion (Team 111), the reigning RFC champion (Team 104 also from Russia) and the ex-RFC 2005 & 2006 champion (Team 117 from Malaysia). The rest of the contenders, including Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Korea, Austria/Australia, came from a mix of seasoned and newcomers including an American Korean actor Ricky Kim from the Dream Team survival TV series (KBS). Altogether a total of 25 different nationalities ranging from participants and media members to officials were recorded in this 17th edition of the mother event RFC.
By the time the event moved to Campsite I (Predator) at Merchang, the heavens opened up with more showers, in some areas pouring down 900mm of water. 2 Dec night was a tempest which nearly blew most of the tents away. By 3 Dec, the deluge had begun. Certain sections of the off-road sector to Campsite II were already under water. The 100% precipitation had resulted in massive flooding not only in Terengganu state but also throughout the east coast region of peninsula Malaysia (Kelantan, Pahang & Johor).
Escaping the Entrapment
When even the tarmac road got inundated, it means trouble ahead. The waiting was long and the rains were unrelenting. The route into Campsite II (Terminator) was at last cancelled with confirmation by the authorities in the late afternoon. Therefore, an impromptu detour had to be activated to escape the water entrapment as both off-road and on-road will be encircled by the flood waters.
The Longest Night
That detour to Padang Kubu through the plantations turned out to the “longest night” with different groups having their own adventure getting in and out; and making their own camps along the way between intermittent rain and rising waters. It was only by 4 Dec that that the re-grouping was completed and ready to tackle the next stage.
The Elusive Twilight Zone
By 5 Dec, that next stage was the dreaded Twilight Zone (TZ). The order was given for marshals/officials/medics and 8 groups of competitor teams (3 cars in each group) to proceed. The going in was a full blown battle for man, machine and winches working overtime. But after only 7 kms inside, they came face to face with the “mother of all landslides” which would take days to clear even with heavy machinery.
The massive downpour had also devastated the unstable slopes along some sections resulting in landslides of glutinous mud. After weighing the pros and cons, the consensus was to keep the event intact and resumed the competitive sections. Thus, the TZ was cancelled.
Twilight Zone turns into Battle Zone
Getting out of the 7 kms was equally a daunting task which were turned into SS and then more SS upon returning to Campsite II with SS 19-24. With the expedition stage in the TZ cancelled the focus was now on the competitive stages by 6 & 7 Dec.
The regrouping at Bandar Almultafi Billah Shah (BABS) was the key to the movement in and out of impromptu campsite II (Padang Kubu) and to Campsite III (Pasir Raja). The finale competitive stages – SS 25-30 took place at Pasir Raja (the exit of the TZ) on 8 Dec. By now, out of the 35 teams at the start, only 25 teams were left to complete the event.
Rain is certainly the king in the RFC as we always say, but never in the history of our 16 years have we come across such unrelenting downpour throughout the 10 days of the event. Mother Nature triumphed of course, but for all the adventurers who had survived through this epic year, it was also a satisfying triumph of the human spirit to endure and preserver through such a messy tough time in the rain and high water – this is the stuff that champions are made of!
The official closing ceremony was graced by the attendance of HM the Sultan of Terengganu accompanied by the Right Honourable Chief Minister of the state and his executive committee for Tourism.
Results of Top Three
Team 117 (Johor, MALAYSIA): Tan Eng Joo / Tan Choon Hong.
Vehicle: Suzuki Jimny; Scores: 3,024 points.
Team 104 (Vladivostok, RUSSIA): Kulbak Roman / Kovalenko Evgenii
Vehicle: Suzuki Jimny Wide: Scores: 2,902
Team 111 (Moscow, RUSSIA): Alexander Nikolaev / Dmitry Kalinin.
Vehicle: Toyota Landcruiser II; Scores: 2,685 points.
More informations, all standings and pictures about the 2013 Rainforest Challenge you can find [ HERE ].
2013/12/24 | 02:09 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/WEE