Victory in Rally Orinoco 2004
It was just a vague hope that we could be equally successful after this sensational 3rd place in Rally Orinoco 2001. Knowing that this result would be hard to beat we started in the 31st edition of Rally Orinoco, titled “Nuestros Rios Son Navegables” (www.nuestrosrios.com). The longest and hardest boat race in the world is held in Venezuelan waters every August and that attracts more boats and spectators every year.
As in 2001, Andy Leemann of Majorca based Yachtcenter Palma/Rib Expedition & Adventure and Ivor Heyer, director of the manufacturer of rigid inflatable boats AB Inflatables in Venezuela, equipped a boat and built a team to participate in the race. They used a Rib Oceanus 25 of the brand AB (Artigiana Bartelli), with two outboard engines Mercury-Optimax, 250 hp each. Besides the skippers Andy Leemann and Ivor Heyer as well as supermechanic Esteban González, Carles Perez, Luisa Almiñana and Siggi Stamm joined the team. After the Majorcan flag had been handed over by the President of the Island Council, Maria Antonia Munar in July, they started as official representative of the island of Majorca.
The rally began on August, 28th, in San Fernando de Apure. A total of 127 boats were participating in this adventure, heading for Puerto Ordaz, 2.000 kilometres downriver. Not even half of them reached the finishing line. The conditions of the race that can be described as the nautical counterpart of the Rally Paris-Dakar are taking their toll year by year. Heat, extreme humidity, mosquitos, rapids and shoals are exhausting for men and machines. As everybody else, we also had some minor technical problems but luckily these were solved before the start. Here the experience of the rally 2001 proofed very helpful: All you need is strong nerves to keep tuning and optimizing till the very last minute… Then, after the starting signal everything went smooth, the material was excellent, the team at its best, the support never failed. We mastered rapids and shoals, mile by mile, by mile.
The impressions of the endless landscapes of the jungle will remain unforgettable – very often nothing was to be seen of the competitors, they were just swallowed by the jungle to only reappear in the next sequence of narrow bends in the river. Then again the sharp contrast of big crowds on the pit stops, boats, boats, boats and enthusiastic spectators hanging in the tress like apes to get the best view… A gigantic funfair.
It was impossible to estimate exact positions because the boats started in different classes and at different times so that the rally was sheer excitement till the very end. Would we really be good enough for a position among the first three boats of our class? Andy Leemann describes what happened in Puerto Ordaz when they proclaimed the winners – after eight days, little sleep and a lot of miles: “They did not call us for the third position and we really had to control our disappointment. O.k, apparently we had landed on the ungrateful fourth or fifth position. To our surprise they then announced that we had won – it was overwhelming.”
The boat that was considered somewhat “exotic” – the only European boat and the only Rib in the whole competition – really made it and triumphed over the rest.
Two Excursions after the Rally
After the physically and psychologically challenging experience of the rally we dedicated ourselves to completely different tasks in the Orinoco Delta:
Ciudad Bolivar – Jesús Soto
In Ciudad Bolívar we followed the footsteps of the Venzuelan painter and sculptor Jesús Soto. He became world famous for his kinetic art, his very special sculptures and objects. Museums like the Guggenheim in New York or the Jeu de Paume in Paris dedicated single exhibitions to this exceptional artist. Soto is a true son of the river, born in Ciudad Bolívar in 1923. Because of the narrowness of the river in this section the city was formerly called Angostura to be renamed and made the provisional capital by Simon Bolívar in 1818. Today the town`s biggest attraction is the Museum of Modern Art Jesús Soto, founded in 1973. It is a futuristic building with a bizarre garden full of giant moving objects and mobiles you can walk through. Soto himself emphasizes that his work is closely related to his native landscape, the river and the jungle. The everchanging river, always on the move – a dynamic that is reflected in his art. Soto left his mark all over the place – we visited his museum, spoke to friends and relatives, flipped through old photos. The artist, a man in his eighties, is now living in Paris. He already gave his consent to a personal interview and we will meet him there shortly to round up our film documentary about his life and work.
Orinoco-Delta – The Warao Indians
The delta of the river Orinoco is a vast and sparsely populated region – as a result of that communication between the mainly indian population is very difficult. Videos are ideal to develop and sustain a constant flow of information between the different communities concerning health, culture and traditions. In cooperation with the organization “Tierra Viva” we supported a project that helps young Warao Indians to produce their own videos. Our team joined in on a video workshop and we put our manpower and know-how as well as the whole technical equipment at the Warao`s disposal. For several days we were living in a Warao community, learned about their every day life and their culture. Experts fear that very soon they might loose their customs and traditions. Our ribs were used to distribute teaching materials, books and documentary videos even in the remotest areas of the delta.
Film documentaries about the rally, about Jesús Soto and about our visit to the Warao Indians are in preparation.