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Picton woman wins international Rebelle Rally

Michelle Laframboise and Elise Racette

Prince Edward County’s Michelle Laframboise and her co-driver Elise Racette have taken first place in the 2018 Rebelle Rally in a thrilling tie finish.

After last year’s win the in the International Cup class – this year they set out to take top honours – and succeeded with a come-from-behind upset on Oct. 19. They also bring home the International Cup again, with another $2,500 donation to Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Driver Laframboise, co-owner of ClearWater Design Canoes and Kayaks, and navigator Elise Racette of Mirabel, Quebec, representing ClearWater Design Racing, spent a grueling week in the mountains and deserts of Nevada and California.

The Rebelle Rally is the longest competitive off-road rally in the United States, spanning 1,600 miles over eight days of competition.

Teams sleep in tents each night, sometimes unsupported by race crew. The competition requires teams to navigate up to 10 hours a day, using only map and compass to find a series of hidden and sometimes only virtual checkpoints in some of the most demanding terrain the wilderness has to offer. The rules are strict: teams are not allowed to use cellphones, GPS, GPS-equipped cameras, or even powerful binoculars.

This year 41 teams drove everything from off-road prepared Jeep Rubicons – like the one ClearWater Design rented from Barlow Adventures – to stock pickup trucks and even small crossovers.

Over the eight days of driving the ClearWater Design team was always in the top four teams, but by the end of the penultimate day they lagged the leaders by 36 points – a significant differential.

But on the final day the Canadians made no mistakes, and put everything they have learned over their respective past three and two years of competing in the Rebelle Rally to work. They put together perfect course plotting and precise, daring driving to make up their points deficit.

The catch is they didn’t know just how good their results were until it was all over thanks to the electronics ban onboard.

In a thrilling ending that only spectators and online fans witnessed, at the end of the day team ClearWater Design was in a dead heat with another team. They had made up a 36-point deficit.

“Going into day seven in 4th place, we hoped to make up enough ground to reach the podium,” Michelle said. “We knew our day was going well but we were thrilled when we found out we tied for first place.”

The pair recounts coming over a giant dune in the Imperial Sand Dunes at Glamis, California, only to nearly run over one of the checkpoint flags because their navigational reckoning had been literally spot on.

“We screamed when we saw that flag,” Elise said. “It was just such an incredible feeling to be navigating and driving perfectly through the massive dunes.

The team found out the next morning that the results were official – the Canadian team mounted the podium in first place, tied with another team.

“We have already registered for 2019,” said Michelle. “We know we left a lot of points on the table this year and we want to come back and finish with a clear and distinctive win.”

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  1. Congratulations Michelle and Elise….. What a wonderful accomplishment and what a fantastic adventure, Good luck for next year!

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