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Prologue: a good warmup leg before getting down to (more) serious business


At the start line, the Gazelles’ emotions run the gamut from excited to stressed. Today is like part of our training, it will allow us to apply the theory in practice”, reasons Patricia of Team 175 (Patricia JOLY / Sylvie GALLIOU - Didier Cisilotto). It’s going to be fun, inch’allah as they say here, laughs Gaëlle of Team 198 (Margot PICCHIONI / Gaëlle PUGLIESE - Centre Cardio Thoracique de Monaco). Lamia and Sylvie, Team 210 (Lamia SBAI / Sylvie BENBRIK DUTREMEE - MAYMANA), are “serene” and feel that the Prologue will let them “get to know the terrain”. “We’re so happy to be here! We can’t wait to get in the sandbox, exclaims Nathalie of Team 131 (Hélène FABRE / Nathalie LECHAT - Aux bains de Cel), a smile on her lips as she crosses the start line.

A few metres past the start line, the compasses are already out. The Gazelles don’t want to take a wrong heading right off the bat. The first camel grass makes some of the teams sweat, including Isabelle and Sandrine of Team 104 (Sandrine GIÉ / Isabelle FABUREAU - SCOPELEC), who try to go around it. Others attack it head on, sometimes at the cost of getting stuck. “It’s to make the first day more interesting and find out what it’s like to get stuck”, “We’ve had our dune initiation! We had to get the shovels and traction plates out, laughs Sandra of Team 100 (SANDRA BENTOLILA / JULIE LE DU - Dental 3D), on reaching the first checkpoint.

“Gaining confidence and having fun”

The first checkpoint they find is a victory for the Gazelles, who jump into each other’s arms, shout with joy and take photos to immortalize the moment. “We’re happy, we did better than two years ago. At that time, we messed up the Prologue”, recalls Danielle of Team 117 (Nathalie DRAPEAU / Danielle BRIDIER - BRIDIER FRERES TOP GARAGE ET SARL BRIDIER LEVEQUE MENUISERIE). Sophie decided to create a little ritual for each checkpoint: hit each checkpoint we find”. “If I don’t hit it, I can’t be sure of finding the next one, I’m afraid it will bring me bad luck”, admits the Gazelle. Others have doubts on reaching the red flag. “Please tell me it’s the right checkpoint”, exclaims Coralie of Team 197 (Coralie LAVOIL / Marlène PEYRILLOUS - GMV Industrie).

At checkpoint 2, Annie of Team 126 (Annie DOUCET / Marie-Pier CHAMPAGNE - Famille et amis) isn’t really sure she’s in the right place, but plays it down: “A Gazelle is never lost, she’s just visiting”. Haley and Helen of Team 110 (Helen TAIT WRIGHT / Haley BENNETT - DaisyVie/Landypoint), are starting to “gain confidence and have fun”. “For the moment, what we want is to hone our navigation”, remark Laurence and Marie of Team 123 (Laurence HOURTICQ / Marie DE TAYRAC) before hugging Audrey and Virginie of Team 120 (Virginie GRIZON-SAMIT / Audrey ANTECH). The checkpoint official is also a centre of attention: “Thank you Monsieur, I am so happy to see you!” exclaims Juliette of team 116. Valérie of Team 223 (Aicha Ahourri / Nadia ATLASSI), performs a short belly dance, laughing.

“A superb playground”

The competition hasn’t started yet, but solidarity can already be felt between teams who get stuck and those who help them out, as well as a few teams who get lost and have to find their bearings on the ground and the map with the help of other participants.

Most teams are positive on reaching the finish line. “We found the first two checkpoints easily but not the third; we’ll take more time tomorrow to do certain things like preparing the maps and stopping regularly to check our heading”, explains Françoise of Team 143 (Françoise MOURGUES-DELHAYE / Sofia TIQUET - Fibre Verte et Symbiooz). It was a superb playground. We saw so many things: camel grass, small dunes. For a first day, it was spectacular!” enthuse Isabelle and Adriane of Team 195 (Isabelle DURAND / Adriane PLANTIN VERDIER - CRIT). “We found all the checkpoints; we’re really happy”, declares Audrey of Team 153 (Audrey FONDANAUX / Angélique LASPOUGEAS - Saturne Services), while her teammate Angélique is reassured after “testing the difficulties today”. Now we know what to expect”, she concludes.




Dominique Serra has dedicated this 29th edition to Nasrin Sotoudeh – prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate – who has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for “inciting corruption and prostitution” by defending women who took off their headscarves in public.

I encourage everyone to sign the petition for her release.