2013 Ralleye Aicha des Gazelles Attracts Highest Number of U.S. Women Ever-and Nine Canadian Teams
U.S. Pro Surfer and Pro Rally Star Team Up As Female First-Timers And Place 8th!
By Sue Mead
Casablanca to Essaouira, Morocco: It was no surprise that pro navigator and rally driver Chrissie Beavis, 32, of San Diego, was successful at the arduous and difficult navigation required of competitors in the Gazelle Rally that brought her team to an eighth-place finish out of 150 teams from 20 nations. After all, the multi-talented Beavis has guided many celebrated drivers, such as Rhys Millen, Tanner Foust, Ramana Lagamann and Seamus Burke to numerous stage and overall wins, highlighted by a Pikes Peak win in 2005, a United States Rally Championship win in 2006, and Gold and Silver Medals at the X-Games in 2007 and 2008. Beavis started campaigning her own Performance Stock Class car in 2005 in the California Rally Series, and has also had class wins as a driver, with several podium finishes.
The surprise was that pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton, 23, from Kauai, Hawaii, who lost an arm to a shark attack at age 13 and had no professional driving experience, was able to motor the duo’s fairly stock Isuzu D-Max over a rugged and rigorous 2,500 kilometer-long 4WD course for nine days in southern Morocco. The pair did switch duties for a short time, however, placing Beavis behind the wheel for some of the tall and daunting dune fields in the Sahara Desert.
Hamilton is known throughout the world for her tenacity and faith, from when she climbed back on her surf board with one arm a month after the attack; within a year, won her first national title. Since, she’s garnered a long list of wins and awards, now competing in the ASP Qualifying/ Star Series and the ASP Women’s Tour. “The Gazelle Rally was a lot harder than I thought,” said Hamilton, who is an avowed Christian has authored a number of books and is featured in the book and film “Soul Surfer.”
“The navigation on the Gazelles was incredibly tricky, and there were so many hours in the day to keep focus,” explained Beavis, who said her background as an architect and student pilot also helped her to plot the latitude/longitude lines for the rally check points because it’s “similar to drawing house plans.” Beavis grew up in the high desert of southern California and that “helped me learn what you can drive over,” said Beavis who reinforced some of the brief driving training that Hamilton had received from off-road expert Emily Miller prior to the rally.
The Gazelles is the world’s women-only motorsports rally; speed is not a factor; competitors are rewarded for traveling the shortest distance to find checkpoints in the midst of challenging off-road terrain. A compass, ruler and 1:100,000 scale maps are used to plot the dead-reckoning route between checkpoints each day, with penalties assessed for missed checkpoints, and technical assistance during rally stages. GPS, binoculars and cell phones, as these are forbidden. Two, two-day-long, grueling marathon legs cover than 300 kms off-road in total optimum distance, and require teams to camp in the desert alone without overnight mechanical assistance. Vehicle classes are 4 x 4, Quad/Moto and Crossover; proceeds go to provide medical and other aid to Moroccans in need.
The number of U.S teams has grown notably since 2009, when esteemed off-road racer Emily Miller and extreme skiing champion Wendy Fisher competed as the only U.S. team. Following, a dedicated effort grew among women via U.S. based training, support and increased event awareness, led by Miller and U.S. Team Liaison, Kirsten Kuhn. Miller has spearheaded driving and navigation training events, held in southern California.
Other women from the 2013 U.S. line-up for the 23rd edition of Gazelles were 3rd-time returning sister-duo Amy Lerner, a former trader from New Jersey and Tricia Reina, the owner of a floral design firm in San Diego (they placed 32nd). Also returning was Julie Meddows, a social marketing consultant from Las Vegas, who placed 77th, joined by first-time competitor Claire Barone, an ER nurse of Las Vegas. Along with Hamilton and Beavis, other first-timers were automotive journalist Emme Hall, of D.C., and actress/singer/songwriter Sabrina Howells, of Los Angeles, who placed 70th; this duo represented Team Courage Gazelles, dedicated to raising awareness for breast cancer. Also new, restaurant owner Catherine Chiadmi, of St. Pete’s Florida and pharmacy manager Pat Klishevich of Aston, PA; they placed 104th. There were nine teams from Canada.
For further information: Registration is currently underway for 2014 with dates set for March 14th-29th 2014. Contact Kirsten Kuhn (email@example.com)
United States Teams General Standings 2013
8. Team # 136 Hamilton/Beavis
32. Team # 107 Lerner/Reina
70. Team # 178 Hall/Howells
77. Team #185 Meddows/Barone
104. Team # 182 Klishevich/Chiadmi
Class - Quad/Moto
8th - Team # 24 Marie-Michelle St. Pierre/Carole Lamoureux
10th - Team # 23 Véronique Nault/Kasandra Reix (penalty: HC)
Class - 4x4
63rd - Team #103 Bianca Laliberté/Valérie Perron
83rd - Team # 175 Sophie Dubois/Andrée Phaneuf
103rd - Team #183 Lise Robillard/Madone Robinson
109th - Team # 172 Mélanie Bisson/Chantal Maisonneuve
111th - Team # 179 Christiane Ouellette/Véronique Duval
114th - Team # 106 Isabelle Aubut/Julie Aubut
119th - Team # 102 Mireille Pichette/Lisanne Savaria
General Standings 2013
1. # 188 Wade/Pham
2. # 161 James/Borg
3. # 147 Nigido-Amisse/Sanfourche
4. # 110 Foucher/Foucher/Mary
5. # 195 Devico/Mayne
6. # 191 Kohlmann/Ackermann
7. # 101 Fabry/Dubos
8. # 136 Hamilton/Beavis
9. # 149 Blanchet-Perrette/Freches
10. # 187 Montillet/Verdaguer
History of the Ralleye Aicha des Gazelles: Dominique Serra organized the first women’s rally in 1990 as a way to dispel prejudice; it is now one of the world’s top motorsporting events. In 2009, the rally gained the patronage of His Majesty, the Moroccan King Mohammed VI and, as a result, the coat of arms of the Moroccan Royal Guard is attributed to the event, which draws women from all corners of the globe.
Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc: This 2,500-kilometer-long rally that is a held in the deserted parts of southern Morocco is the world’s only motorsports event restricted to women only. The three categories include Quad/Motorbike, 4WD/Truck and Crossover. Participants compete for the shortest distance traveled over one prologue and competitive legs- all off-road- two of which are marathon legs, during which there is no mechanical support; the marathons last two days. The teams are constantly monitored by a satellite tracking system for safety.
Environmental responsibility: The RALLYE AÏCHA DES GAZELLES and its operating agency Maienga are officially certified ISO 14001:2004 since 2010; it is the only rally that has obtained this Environmental Management Certification. This international standard guarantees that MAÏENGA has introduced an Environmental Management System (EMS) to integrate environmental policy into all actions and its global management strategy.
Coeur de Gazelles (Heart of Gazelles): The true “heart” of the Gazelles isn’t about money; in fact, there is no prize money. “The rally isn’t just any other race – it’s a commitment and dedication”, says Dominique Serra, who started the rally. Proceeds generated support teams of doctors providing medical care for the people in the remote regions of Morocco. Annually, the infrastructure of the Rally is used to send out a medical caravan that includes a mobile clinic with 8 doctors; this year 4,582 people received free medical care. Additionally, aid for children’s education has been set up as well as aid for an orphanage for children under six years.
Photo Credits: photos not credited to Maïenga are credited to Dan Campbell-Lloyd.