David Lowe, Clerk of the Course and Chairman of the Rhino Charge 2017 Organising Committee, reveals some of the planning that goes into organising the Rhino Charge.
How do you choose the course each year for the event?
It’s quite a time-consuming and tasking process that draws on a combination of technology, physical look-and-see and gut instinct.
Sometimes we get invited by local communities to assess their community land for suitability and at other times we simply fly or drive over areas looking for topography which lends itself to a Rhino Charge.
Of critical importance is the community’s agreement, and considerable time is spent sitting under trees, paying for and eating goat, and talking the event through with the elders and community leadership. Once agreements are signed off, we begin the course design.
The “gut instinct” will already have picked up where half the checkpoints are likely to be. Using unmodified Land Rovers, we drive through the bush to get to areas identified and marked on our GPS. Where we can’t drive, we walk.
Often we will end up walking a round trip of 10 km or more to get to a possible checkpoint. Of course, it’s important that we have some action for our spectators to watch so identifying the three checkpoints that make up the Gauntlet is essential.
We try to select a location that has reasonable access while also being as spectacular as possible with spectators’ safety in mind as well. It’s not an easy combination of ingredients as they all pull against each other.
This year’s Gauntlet has the potential to be one of the toughest we’ve seen and I think the spectators will appreciate the courage of man and his machine when they see it.
What are the main features or challenges you require in a course?
Clearly it must be challenging enough to be called a Rhino Charge – so we let the venue give us inspiration and, believe me, they are usually full of surprises.
Every year, we get new entrants who have little or no experience. There are also chargers who want a challenge but are not extreme off-roaders. Then we have the extreme teams who are also highly competitive.
So we have to balance the course design to cater for a very wide cross-section of entrant so that everyone can be challenged and enjoy themselves.
We love a Charge that has a lot of water, usually a rare occurrence – this year could be one, if the rains decide to come late.
Why all the secrecy?
It wouldn’t be a challenge if the competitors had ample time and information to scout the course. It has also become a bit of a game between the competitors and the organisers, which makes for good banter.
Which are some of your most memorable courses?
My most memorable is probably 2013 in Ol Doinyo Nyokie which will always be special to me as it was my first one at the helm and it was a really fun event.
The event was enjoyed by almost everyone and had one of the closest finishes ever, only metres separating the top five.
Tell us about a memorable Rhino Charge
The 2005 Ol Kinyei Charge in the Masai Mara, where over 100 cars including Charge cars were stuck trying to get to the venue.
It had rained so much that the access to the venue was basically a swamp; and that was a legendary charge by all accounts.
Can anyone take part in Rhino Charge 2017?
As long as you’re over 16 years old (driver has to be over 18), medically fit and have the spirit then yes! Very importantly, your team also has to be able to meet their minimum pledge (sliding scale over time).
We opened entries for Rhino Charge 2017 at the Ksh 1.5 million pledge level this year on July 1st, and were overwhelmed as all 65 entries were taken within one and a half hours.
Demand to participate has been very high in recent years and nobody wants to gamble their first-come-first-served slot by taking the chance of waiting for a lower pledge to open on August 1st.
Can you tell us anything about Rhino Charge 2017 to tantalise the spectators?
The kids will love the Rhino Charge 2017. There’s going to be a lot for them to get their hands dirty with.
We’ve have also brought the spectators’ camping right next to the competitors and if all goes to plan (and it doesn’t rain), then they’ll be within walking distance to the HQ and bar area.
Additionally, the sunset views from the bar area are to die for, and the course for Rhino Charge 2017 makes for some great action, not just at the Gauntlet.
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