Never run out of water!
With temperatures way above 45o.C, dehydration and sunstroke problems are real threats on riders and their teams. Supplying contenders with water is something major for the organizers.
As the rally is going north and exploring the Atacama desert
up to Iquique, contenders will have their fair share of sand dunes that will most certainly be accompanied by a rise in temperatures riders and drivers already had a taste of during the two stages before entering Chile. Temperatures easily passed the 45o.C marker and the first sand dunes are calling for efforts that can quickly become unbearable in the heat. Ludovic Boinard, who is aware of the absolute need to hydrate all the time, is amongst those who suffered between La Rioja and Fiambala: "First I had problems with my bike and that's how I started getting bad. I was only able to ride in first or second gear until my bike stopped for good. I sat under a tree and I did all I could to avoid the sun but I had to push the bike for a long while. It was so hard. I think I drank six liters of water asking people by the road to give me some water; but I did feel I was fading", says Ludo.
Upon arrival in Fiambala, pale-faced and unsure on his feet, the biker went straight to the medic tent where a series of bunk beds were ready to accommodate those struck by the heat. "For two days the symptoms of dehydration are clear: headaches, vomitting, diarrhea, etc. Actually people generally have the impression they drink enough - e.g. 5 or 6 liters - but in reality they would need to take in at least 8 liters a day, explains Zeferino Campos, one of the doctors of the organization. Today, we had about 60 cases; it was 50% of our work. It is my fourth Dakar and so far I had not had such a bad day for heatstrokes. Sometimes dehydration can lead to immediate withdrawal. A biker falls - no big deal - but he is too weak to put his bike back up and he cannot see straight and be lucid!"
In order to avoid such extreme problems the issue of water transport and distribution is essential for the rally raid organizers. At time control (TC) and at check points (CP) or - if need be - anywhere on the trail it has to be possible to help a contender with water. With more than 350 vehicles and contenders that drink an average of 5 liters per day, you have to be flexible and proactive. Marc Phily, in charge of the raid's logistical operations, therefore had to anticipate upon those cases where strategic supply points would run out of water: "whether it is the medics, the tv vehicles, the CPs, all vehicles present on trail take about 100 liters each. At the bivouac our caterer has to have the needed quantities of water at all times. And we keep a reserve of about 3,000 liters in the freight trucks. Of course these quantities are resupplied on a permanent basis when we are close to towns." On a stage like the Fiambala one, the emergency redeployment designed by Marc proved useful: "With the water consumption there was, we had to move to plan B so that water would be redistributed at some additional points. E.g. the choppers were used each time they would land at the bivouac and would take water to the check points. What matters is that the need for water is communicated to us as early as possible. Then we find a solution to deliver."