What is the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles?
The 26th-annual edition of the legendary off-road event began with a prologue day March 23, 2016, in Erfoud, Morocco, and officially concluded 10 days later with a prize-giving ceremony in the coastal city of Essaouira. There were six scored legs of off-road competition, including two marathon legs, that sent teams out on their own for two days at a time overnight alone in the desert in improvised camps, without mechanical support.
Considered the most prestigious and toughest all-women’s motorsport event in the world, eight American teams took the line in 2016 -- all of them in the hotly contested 4x4 division. The unique competition is an off-road test of analog, dead reckoning navigation that this year covered more than 1,000 kilometers of hostile Moroccan desert terrain.
Since its inception, the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles has been creating a new vision of automobile competition: no speed and no GPS, just old fashioned navigation, and off-road terrain: “a return to the roots of adventure,” say the organizers. Competitors are of all ages, social backgrounds, nationalities and levels of 4WD experience. The Rally has been listed by Lonely Planet as one of the TOP 10 must-do Adventures for Women!
• 2nd--Nicole Pitell-Vaughan (Corona, California) / Chrissie Beavis (San Diego, California): #180 Toyota Tacoma
• 3rd--Susanah Hoehn (Del Mar, California) / Jo Hannah Hoehn (DelMar, California): #107 Land Rover LR4
• 9th--Susie Saxten (Encinitas, California) / Ivy Cass (Encinitas, California): #184 Jeep Wrangler
• 5th--Emme Hall (Oakland, California) / Sabrina Howells (Los Angeles, California): #178 Land Rover Defender
• 20th(5thNovice) --Teresa Stewart (Kauai, Hawaii) / Sara Jehn (Oahu, Hawaii): #182 Jeep Wrangler
• 57th--Elaine Newkirk (Rancho Santa Fe, California) / Keely Sellers (Kihei, Hawaii): #188 Jeep Wrangler
• 102nd--Catherine Chadmi (St. Petersburg, Florida) / Cecile Vinson (Vaucluse, France): #127 Jeep Wrangler
• 110th-- Karen Hoehn (Del Mar, California) / Maureen Gibbons (La Jolla, California): #181 Land Rover LR4
"Why not us?" It was question asked by men each year at the start of the Gazelle Rally. The organizers tested the idea in 2010 with professional rally-race motorcycle pilot David Casteu and renowned navigator and explorer Eric Loizeau. Next year will mark the first edition of the Rallye des Gazoux!
***Founded by Dominique Serra, the Gazelle Ralleye espouses women’s empowerment, environmental commitment, and support of the people of Morocco, with visits by medical teams and other specialists during the rally, plus funding and assistance for building schools and other program initiatives. Among the rally’s awards are the United Nations’ Plant for the Planet; it is the only sporting event with ISO 14001 certification for its strict environmental practices. Serra was decorated as an Officer Wissam Al Alaoui in Morocco by King Mohammed VI for the positive impact the rally has on the country.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Nicole Dreon, Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles)