Text Rebelle Rally, photo by Paolo Baraldi
America's first all-female navigation rally has come to a close, with ups-and-downs, triumphs and challenges; great days and bad days—the dust has settled and the results are in.
We'd like to congratulate Charlene Bower and Kaleigh Hotchkiss who have won the first-ever Rebelle Rally and with Meli Barrett and Sabrina Howells who won in X-Over class.
Welcome day and tech inspection.
Today marked inspection day, set against the backdrop of stunning Lake Tahoe at the historic Valhalla Estate. The teams were greeted with a warm welcome to make them feel a part of the growing Rebelle Rally community. Two GPS tracking beacons were installed directly by the manufacturer Yellow Brick, who flew over from the UK to ensure these teams had the best, most-accurate tracking available. Additionally teams were instructed on how to use the satellite phones they were provided for emergency information, since cell phones are prohibited due to their navigation capability. The official rally decals were also installed, adding that rally-ready look for the teams. With the arduous, stressful conditions that the teams will encounter in the coming days, it’s important to ensure that the Rebelle Staff has their eyes out for the teams to ensure their vehicles are up-to-spec, and most importantly—safe. Both “indoor” and “outdoor” technical inspections were performed, ensuring teams had everything from the requisite insurance coverage, to proper safety gear, and common sense vehicle safety inspections.
Rally School and arrive in camp 1.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it” – Emily Miller
Navigation rallies aren’t easy. Once you put aside the difficulties of living out of your vehicle in the desert for a week, tackling technical off-road obstacles, and inevitable vehicle issues; you’re still in the middle of nowhere with only a compass and a map. Despite a fire totaling almost 200-acres overtaking the forest nearby Valhalla Estate, forcing us to relocate to a new location only hours before rally school was scheduled to start, things went off with only minimal delay. Which is important, because rally school ensures that everyone has a fair chance, at the same time, to understand the rules of the rally, the format and how things will be run. This isn’t where you learn how to navigate—that’s something done by teams in the weeks prior to prepare. “It’s important to make sure the rally isn’t just challenging, but it’s fair to all teams—and above all, fun for everyone participating.” Said Chrissie Beavis, Head Rally Judge. Scoring is an essential part of this rally, it’s what decides who wins, who loses, and where people place in between. For example—if a team arrives after a deadline, or is caught speeding—points will be taken away from those they’ve earned. The team with the most points at the end of the competition will win the Rebelle Rally in their class.
After the school, teams arrived at Camp 1. With hot showers, a beautifully-decorated main events tent, views of the fantastic Nevada desert, and a wonderful meal prepared by Michelin-star chef Drew Deckman, it would be hard to imagine a better place to start the rally.
Silt beds, deep sand, fast two-track trails—and roads so rocky you’d be sure your vehicle was on the verge of falling apart. Winds so strong that billboards in the closest town, a few hours away by dirt, blew over and blocked traffic. The inaugural Rebelle Rally is making things clear—it isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Teams had over a hundred grueling off-road miles to cover, and over a dozen checkpoints to clear to earn the maximum amount of points. There’s three different checkpoints, green, which everyone must clear to proceed to the next day and are well marked; blue checkpoints are harder to find, but still marked. Black checkpoints must be found solely using the team’s navigation skills and are not marked. They must be within 150 feet of those designated spots in order to earn the points. A super tight points spread is a sign of the intense competition to come—with an incredible four teams competing the course with 97% accuracy; leaving them with a total of 108 points each, a four-way tie for first place. Second place is currently in a five-way tie, with those teams completing the course with 95% accuracy and a total of 106 points. Needless to say, tomorrow is going to be an exciting day that’s sure to separate the field. Check the live scoring link below to see more. Many teams arrived back at basecamp to find their tents and shelter in tatters, with extremely high winds upsetting everything but the most well-secured tents. Luckily a rain storm which had previously shifted course midday towards basecamp just skirted away to the north—as you can imagine, that would make an already difficult day even more challenging. In true Rebelle spirit, some competitors lent a helping hand to those competitors still out on the course, re-securing and repairing tents so they didn’t blow away.
Day 2 A day of shakeups.
We walked into the second official day of the Rebelle Rally with a four-way tie for first place—and we exited it with a significant points spread between the leaders. Some teams gained multiple positions in the standings—and some fell from the top to the bottom. Every checkpoint, every turn, every second, everything counts in the Rebelle Rally. Emme Hall and Rebecca Donaghe moved into first place thanks to a strong second day result, leaving the team with 228 points, completing the course to date with 93-percent accuracy. The fourth and fifth place race is sure to be highly contested, with Nena Barlow and Kande Jacobsen of the Squirrel Girls leading Rhonda Cahill and Rachelle Croft of the X Elles by only two points. In the crossover class, Team Quail-Hoehn from Hoehn leads in their 2017 Honda Ridgeline, with an impressive 209 points, completing the course with 81% accuracy, over Lisa Woldord and Sandy Conner’s Porsche with 190 points. The course today started out with a dry lake bed crossing that turned into a series of soft dunes before reaching the day’s first green checkpoint; which all teams must clear. It proceeded through a set of fast gravel dirt trails before hitting a rugged, remote and almost invisible trail that left several teams unsure of where the road ahead was. The course continued to become more and more difficult, traveling a wash which had recently run, removing any sign of the trail and leaving several teams stranded and forced to take alternate routes. The top teams persevered, reaching and finding the final blue checkpoints, relying on their navigation skills alone, several of these teams moved up in the standings. Despite the food truck getting stuck in a pit of deep stand on the transit route (luckily, they had a set of MAXTRAX aboard, saving dinner) everything went off with a hitch thanks to the efforts of Drew Deckman; who definitely is putting in some overtime right now to catch up. Hey, it’s not every day you take a 30-foot Hollywood catering truck into the desert. We’re excited to see what adventures our Rebelles get up to on tomorrow’s course.
Day 3, the Marathon Leg,
Starting in Blair Junction, Nevada and running all the way to California’s Johnson Valley the Rebelles had to navigate over 746 kilometres (463 miles) on the marathon leg, traversing some of the most-remote terrain the Southwest has to offer. Even though it didn’t revolve around a checkpoint, one of the highlights of the marathon leg was the still-surviving mining town of Goldpoint, Nevada, including Walt Kremin’s period-correct saloon—where he lives with the town’s other ten residents. Teams also learned that while there might have been a lot of sightseeing to do in Goldpoint and other destinations along the route, they still signed up for America’s first all-female navigation rally—and that this is a competition. Undoubtably many teams rolled into camp late after spending too much time there. With an incredibly long, tiring day of driving and navigation, many teams arrived at the self-camp location in Dumont Dunes just before sunset, meaning they had to find the last checkpoints of the day with fading-or-no light. That means other than your compass, there’s no way to orient yourself to landmarks: pure navigation skills required. If you’ve ever spent time driving in the dunes, you’ll surely appreciate the difficulty of that task. Luckily, teams were careful and aside from a litter of vehicles getting stuck in the soft sand, requiring use of their MAXTRAX, there were no major incidents. Since Michelin-star winning Chef Drew Deckman can’t get his food truck into the middle of the dunes, teams were distributed MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) as a basic provision. However, rumor has it that a bunch of Rebelles banded together and shared a few charcuterie boards and enjoyed a glass of fantastic wine to celebrate the occasion—after driving was done of course.
No matter if you’re one of the most-experienced female four-wheel drivers in the country, or an enthusiast team doing something like this for the first time—the course can bite you equally. Both Team Sugar High (#126) of Michelle Davis and Andrea Shaffer; and the Squirrel Girls (#129) of Nena Barlow and Kande Jacobsen experienced a wreck in the sand dunes that resulted in damage to the vehicles. Sugar High lost control over the vehicle over a dune, resulting in a minor case of whiplash, attended to by the Team 5 Foundation, and a bent front axle. The Squirrel Girls were able to repair their vehicle on-course, and continue for the rest of the day—finishing the day and still in the running at the top of the leaderboard. Nena got to work at the closest checkpoint, repairing the Rebel and finishing the day’s course which ended in Johnson Valley. Team Sugar High and their Jeep Wrangler TJ needed to be trailered to a local town, where a body shop was able to straighten the Dana 30 front axle—allowing the vehicle to be driven to the next basecamp afterwards. Emily Miller was quoted as saying “The course was designed to offer a sliding scale of difficulty to keep things challenging for everyone, including seasoned competitors and drivers in a modified four-wheel drive, to women new to the sport.” It goes to show that the Rebelle Rally is no walk-in-the-park, and that it’s bringing a new level of difficulty to the sport in America. The Mojave Road is an iconic, rugged, four-wheel drive trail in Mojave Desert, and teams were lucky enough to travel the last section of it on their route before arriving at Rasor Dunes OHV Area. It’s known for soft washes, and dunes with steep, sharp razor backs that can be a game-changer for teams that end up on the wrong end. This lead to a few difficult-to-acquire checkpoints. Once teams entered this region, extra care had to be given due to the desert tortoise a threatened species native to the area. The Rebelle Rally has two on-staff biologists roaming the course to ensure there are no negative impacts with the desert tortoises which can live to 50 to 80 years. After a thirty mile drive down a rutted powerline road that left some teams feeling exhausted after an already long day with plenty of activity, teams were thrown into the backside of Johnson Valley OHV Area. From here Rebelles had to navigate through open areas which had presented plenty of opportunities for mistakes due to the plethora of routes that could potentially lead to a insane obstacle—including those used in Johnson Valley’s famous King Of The Hammers event. Precision navigation will become paramount in this section of the event, which is expected to put a larger points spread between the competitors.
California’s Johnson Valley OHV Area hosts some of the toughest, most-grueling four-wheel drive events in the world—including the famous King of the Hammers each year in early February. With terrain varying from dry lake beds, to river washes with plenty of whoops, to the premier rock-crawling terrain in the world; there’s plenty of challenges to be had around every corner. Rebelles can drive almost anywhere in the open OHV area, meaning that there are no set roads, they plot a direction and follow it. This might sound easy, but with the amount of users Johnson Valley sees, there are so many trail options it becomes insanely easy to get lost, or end up at a dead-end obstacle that only a dedicated rock crawler could tackle. The goal for today’s checkpoints was simple, according to Jimmy Lewis, Course Director of the Rebelle Rally “There’s no way they’re going to be able to get them all, even if the teams have an in-depth local knowledge of Johnson Valley—which could be a hinderance as much as it could help them. They’ll have to develop a strategy and execute it, which will definitely ruffle a few team’s feathers.” One-hundred and ninety points are on the line today in Johnson Valley, split between 23 checkpoints. Team Hoehn Avocado, consisting of Jo Hannah Hoehn and Susie Saxten, and team 128 of Angela Terry and Susan Saxten completed today’s stage with a tie for the highest accuracy at an impressive 86%, adding 164 points to their total score. This puts the Avocados at 574 points, tied for fifth place, and team 128 at 563 points, tied for 7th place. The crossover class continues to be dominated by Team Hoehn Quail of Meli Barrett and Sabrina Howells—they completed the course with an impressive 80% accuracy. The Squirrel Girls, team 129, despite a crash yesterday in the Dumont dunes, recovered impressively at Johnson Valley, securing their tie in third place by gathering 151 points, completing the course with 79% accuracy. Team Sugar High (#126), who were up until nearly two AM fixing their broken front axle from the Dumont Dunes accident, hit their goal of meeting all of the green checkpoints, and even managed to snag a hard-to-find blue checkpoint. Despite being able to repair the axle at a body shop, it was a pesky axle seal which lead them to be awake up until the late, Rebelle rules state that team members must stay with the vehicle at all times when it’s out of impound.
Competition Tight As Rebelle Enters Final Day of Competition.Our Rebelles are out in the expansive dunes of Glamis as we speak battling it out for their top spot in the Rebelle Rally, America’s first all-female navigation rally. With less than 30 points separating the top five competitors and with only three points between the top two deals, it will only be clear who’s won once the dust settles tonight as basecamp. Team 125, Charlene Bower and Kaleigh Hotchkiss, first-time navigation rally competitors currently lead the field over Gazelle Rally competitor Emme Hall and Rebecca Donaghe. Yesterday was a transit stage interrupted by a desert tortoise on the rally route—which means some competitiors had to wait. Rebecca Donaghe plots their team’s location enroute to Glamis Dunes. Valerie Crockett and Ashley Lee take their Toyota 4Runner down a fast gravel road. Angela Terry and Sarah Saxten change a flat tire on their Land Rover LR4. Rescue 3’s motorcycle rapid response team meets with Karen Hoehn and Dana Saxten, who experienced a temporary vehicle failure.
America's first all-female navigation rally has come to a close, with ups-and-downs, triumphs and challenges; great days and bad days—the dust has settled and the results are in. Finishing in the Glamis Sand Dunes, with few distinguishable landmarks and difficult terrain to traverse, you could easily call this the most technical day of the Rebelle Rally. Few, if any, competitors didn't get stuck in the steep, unpredictable sand dunes. But that didn't stop every. single. Rebelle. from finishing the landmark event. We're proud of everyone and the challenges they've overcome to get to the finish line, but we'd especially like to congratulate Charlene Bower and Kaleigh Hotchkiss who have won the first-ever Rebelle Rally.
125 - Charlene Bower / Kaleigh Hotchkiss — 815 points — 80%
119 Taylor Pawley / Micaela Windham — 785 points — 77%
129 Nena Barlow / Kande Jacobsen — 2016 Ram Rebel — 772 points — 76%
134 Shelby Hall / Amy Lerner — 763 — 75%
104 Cora Jokinen / Sarah Saxten — 762 — 75%