“The venue is upside-down”

It’s that time of year again – my mind is shifting gear into Rhino Charge mode with a multitude of information coming in and decisions being made as the event draws nearer. Soon I will be eating and sleeping RC2017. Admittedly I’m late with my writing this year as I haven’t been involved with the course design like I was last year. It’s harder to write about things that are less exciting like risk mitigation and due diligence and the maintenance of our radio equipment – things that are all necessary to ensure successful events year on year with minimal glitches. Radio equipment servicing started in August, due diligence activities began in October – we now operate all year round!

So I am not on the course design team this year – and boy am I glad about that! Let me explain…I met Clerk of the Course and Chairman of the Rhino Charge Committee, David Lowe for lunch some weeks back and asked him how the course design was coming along. “The venue is upside-down”, he said as he picked his injured leg with both hands from one side of the table leg to the other. His knee was heavily bandaged under the trouser and he was trying to hide the pain. I did not expect to hear such a stupid description of a Rhino Charge venue and assumed that he was on some weird painkillers that Doc Pramod must have put him on for the knee. He repeated, “the whole f****g thing is upside down. Things aren’t where they’re supposed to be and the wildlife is … different. Some of those animals are supersized.”

Now I remember from last year how deceiving the bush was and how we would find animals and trees and plants… and Masai… where we least expected them to be. So this was starting to make sense. Until he said, “each bush has its own cloud, and they all join up and become one big cloud so you can’t see anything! In 29 years of the Rhino Charge even Anton hasn’t dealt with a micro-climate like this.”

We discussed the details of this pineapple cake venue, of which I cannot write about (because that would just be giving it away) and then came to talk about his knee. A super aggressive plant that he did not fall onto had speared his knee while on recce. Whatever the poison of this plant was, it was nasty and painful. His knee had swelled to twice its size so that he had just a long cane the diameter of an elephant’s leg attached to his body… I digress. I had dodged a bullet or a poisonous plant shall we say by not being on the course design team this year.

The course design is taking longer than planned because every recce involves nail-biting challenges that only experienced competitors will resonate with. There are apparently no words to describe these experiences – they are telepathically acknowledged after a section is completed incident-free. And then many whiskeys are had to calm the nerves before they do it all over again the next day. Kudos to David and his team of risk-takers because without them it would not be the memorable challenge that all competitors look back to and think “what kind of an idiot does the Rhino Charge?”

Since 2016 we’ve been busy professionalizing the event further with signed agreements now in place with all major sponsors much earlier than previous years. We continue to focus on the families that come to the Rhino Charge and we’re trying to put more on offer for our very young spectators – they are our future competitors and fundraisers so we’re laying the foundations for the future. The Committee is hoping to have a dinky Rhino Charge (with prizes!) for the children this year so if you’re reading this and you’ve got an idea of how to make it happen please get in touch with us!

We also took onboard a lot of the feedback from the last two years and decided to make it more affordable for the spectators and make them part of the Rhino Charge with some obviousness. Spectators will now be camping closer to the competitors and subject to the same camping rules as the competitors have been for a number of years (lights out at 10pm the night before the Charge!). There are special packages for families and the small ‘after party’ will be at the HQ bar – all the entertainment in one area. We know the competitors miss the cheering crowds and we want that back.

In February the Search and Rescue team underwent a 2-day first aid training course designed specifically for the Rhino Charge. I cannot emphasize enough how much resource we put towards risk mitigation and safety, ensuring procedures are in place to utilize skills we hope we don’t have to ever use. This activity will now go into over-drive as the course design gets finalized and we start to position the critical members of the S&R team across the venue. These teams will need to know their section of the venue well enough to communicate with the aircraft with the knowledge of what visibility the fixed-wing has versus the helicopter and the nearest extraction points should we need to medevac. Our response times to panic buttons in the last two years have been very good. This goes down to our faith in the GPS tracking and experience at the HQ on when to start worrying about a car. Our mobile app this year will give you a similar view to what we see when monitoring the 65 cars during Charge day.

With 10 weeks to go a lot needs to be done in a short space of time. If you’re a competitor we hope you’re close to hitting your pledge or have already managed. The funds we raise for the Rhino Ark through this unique event are so crucial towards our country’s water catchment areas and nobody can argue that they’ve not been affected by the current drought situation – it puts things into perspective for all of us and reminds me of my purpose as “I Rhino Charge”.

Asim Shah is the youngest serving member of the Rhino Charge Organising Committee and has been listed by the Business Daily as one of Kenya’s Top 40 under 40 men, for two years running.

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