By Helene Clemenson
By Helene Clemenson
Morocco World News
Erfoud, Morocco, March 22, 2013
MWN special correspondent of the Rally Aicha des Gazelles, Helene Clemenson, is on site following the Gazelles participating in this 2013 two week raid in the Moroccan desert. As they embark on this life changing adventure, Ms. Clemenson will report stage information, rankings, conduct interviews and take photos to bring the whole experience to MWN readers.
This is the legendary wakeup call the gazelles got for their first day of racing in the desert. For
the ones who know Dominique Serra it is no longer a surprise, for others, it was their first time being woken up by the founder of the rally and will become their morning routine through the race. The sun has not yet risen on the bivouac and gazelles were already crawling on the camping area to get ready.
Only a few hours of sleep and they are heading for the briefing scheduled at 5 am to discuss the events of the previous day and the next stages. Between morning wash, vehicle preparation, map reading and breakfast, the day got off to a flying start for our gazelles. They will have to get used to this rhythm for the entire race in the desert.
As it was expected, Thursday’s race was far from the ease of the prologue. Despite their original confidence, Moroccan gazelles were quickly overtaken by the harsh reality of this rally.
Despite the spirit of sisterhood and fair play, it is a real competition in every sense of the word. The route crossed the B’ega Plain, which on some sections was 15km wide, enough to test the navigation techniques and strategies of Moroccan crews.
One of the biggest crossing challenges of the day was to get through the dunes on the edge of the Erg, the dry river of B’ega. At 8 am, crew number 119 got stuck on camel grass, a formidable enemy for any racer. They could dig and restart all they wanted, they stalled even more.
Naima and Caroline had to wait for the other gazelles to tow their car. The same scenario for teams 315 and 193 who both had the same problem. It took almost 3 hours for Adelaide and Fabienne (193) to get out of two consecutive traps in less than 5 km. The simple reflex of deflating the tires before approaching the dunes could have made it easier, but in vain.
Another highlight for all Moroccan crews was the very approximate location of the beacons. It must be said that with wind, dust and heat, the weather made it hard to trace the race. But this alone cannot explain the excessive delays registered all along the race. It took Géraldine and Sophie, from crew number 224 over 4 hours from the 1st to the 2nd beacon.
It must be said that they were not easy to find, very often well hidden between mountainsides or behind small trees. Small miracle for crew 176 (Jamila and Bénédicte) also known as the “smiley gazelles,” for whom it is “the first time they get to find all the beacons”.
Crew number 224 did so to, but did not forget to mention that it was “much harder than the day before”. Crew 227 was at ease throughout the whole race, except for a “tankage” at the beginning of course: they validated all their beacons and returned to the bivouac before dusk.
Adelaide and Fabienne weren’t so lucky and had to navigate in the dark to get back to bivouac.
Edited by Louise Riondel