By:Elizabeth Darwen

SAND, SUN, AND GAZELLES

sand-sun-and-gazellesSince its inception in the early 1990s the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc has been a pioneer, never ceasing to grow, constantly developing and evolving with the times and always faithful to its founding values: courage, the desire to push one’s limits, loyalty, solidarity and social commitment.

2017 marks the 27th annual desert rallye, which takes place between March 17 and April 1, 2017 in the unspoiled beauty of the Moroccan desert. The Rallye respects both the scenery of the host country as well as its people through the actions of the Rallye’s non-profit, Cœur de Gazelles, as well as the environment: the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is the only motor Rallye in the world with ISO 14001 certification.

The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Firstly, it is the only international off-road Rallye race for women only. Since 1990 the Rallye has been bringing together women of all ages from more than 30 different countries, who embark on an adventure of a lifetime from the French city of Nice on March 18th, 2017 and onward to the start of the Rallye in the Moroccan desert. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is developing a new vision of automobile competition: not based on excessive speed nor technology (no GPS), just old-fashioned map based navigation and completely off-road.
All Rallye participants, known as “Gazelles” leave this adventure marked changed by the experience: they push their limits, have to face themselves, far from their stressful daily lives as women; there is also a strong element of sharing and mutual aid with their teammate as well as with the other “Gazelles”. But while the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a return to the roots of adventure, it is also, with its satellite system for tracking the teams, on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to ensuring participant safety. This duality is one of the strengths of this unusual competition. With its unique concept, the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc is changing the way people view competitive automobile use.

 

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The goal for the participating Gazelles is to drive the shortest possible distance to reach a series of predefined checkpoints. Free to choose their own route, they face a challenge every day: to study the map and the day’s geographical coordinates, analyze the risks and difficulties of the terrain and choose the shortest path. They have the choice of driving around a mountain or crossing over it, driving through the dunes or avoiding them…

 

Every morning the Gazelles receive a document which contains only the geographic coordinates or headings and distances of the day’s checkpoints and finish line. Forget about GPS, phones and other modern communication tools: using a compass, a navigational plotter and maps, they have to plot their route and plan their itinerary. The Gazelle’s competitive rankings are determined by calculating the extra kilometers driven (distance driven between check points minus crow flies distance) and penalty kilometers for any check points not reached. The winning team is the one that finds the greatest number of checkpoints while driving the least number of kilometers.

 

sand-sun-and-gazelles-1Morocco has played the key role as the host country of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles since its inception. Gazelles in search of nature and the great outdoors will find themselves seduced by the magnificent and varied landscapes of Morocco, with its sand dunes, rocky mountains, green valleys, fertile plains, arid plateaus and lush oases. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc takes place under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, who has authorized the use of the Royal Coat of Arms on the Gazelles’ vests. This is the only event that has ever been granted this honor.

Rallyeaichadesgazelles.com

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