Information on this blog is raw and sometimes unverified reporting straight from the road by teams. The event will issue a media release for any events requiring an official notification.

Note that links in blog entries are not maintained, so while a link may be verified to work on the day of publishing, this is not guaranteed beyond that day.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Leeming SHS: Leeming's last few days

We near the end.

Saturday 27 October: A small team, Morgan, Curtis, Ryan, Cavenagh and Doug, are up early to get the car out to the start position 57 Km south of Coober Pedy. The plan is to charge some more, before we head off to the Glendambo Control Stop. We got quite a good charge Friday afternoon as we stopped early.

The drivers head out to the car for an 8:00AM start. On the way we all notice the cloudy sky, its clear to the west and there are a few breaks further south but it appears to be getting thicker behind us. We get to the car and the strong northerly wind that accompanied us yesterday is stronger today and we consider how it will affect the car. As the wind is pretty much behind us we figure it will be okay and head out.

The clouds get thicker as we progress toward Gendambo, we notice the sky becoming hazy in the distance and the wind is getting stronger. Our goal for the day was firstly to make Glendambo. This would mean that we will have solared the whole way from Alice through two control stops and should see us reach the 1000km mark about 50 k's before Glendambo. Once we made the control stop we hoped to proceed on and clock up some more solar Kilometres, hopefully another 150 to 200 beyond Glendambo. The clouds are still thickening but we are advantaged by our large cross sectional area acting as a sail as the wind pushes us along. Array output begins to decrease and at times we are only seeing about 200 watts compared to the 1150 we saw at times yesterday.

The bus catches us as we pass the 1000Km mark. I radio the team with the news, the reply comes "and there was much rejoicing…. Yaaay".

We have had to slow down (about 45 kp/h), the clouds are thick and the haze that we saw in the distance is now surrounding us, you can taste the dust in the air and when we stop to change drivers we wipe the thick layer of dust from the array in the hope that we can get a better output. The dust is so thick that at times visibility is down to 200 meters I am beginning to become concerned about driving in these conditions. We are very close to Glendambo, less than half an hour, so we decide to continue and make the control stop just after midday we sit for the mandatory half an hour.

The wind is stronger and the haze increases we also feel some drops of rain and, after a brief discussion we decide it is too dangerous to continue. The batteries have also been used heavily to get to Glendambo and there is little charge coming in. We hope that we may be able to restart further south if the weather becomes clearer. A further 20 Min or so to load the car into the trailer and we head out.

As we travel south it becomes apparent that the weather is getting worse. David our observer, also a farmer on the York Peninsula, contacts two weather stations, one on Kangaroo Island and one further west, for the latest weather reports. It doesn't sound good. When I have phone coverage I contact Hedgie back in Perth and ask him to look up latest forecasts. The news confirms David's info and worse, there is a severe weather warning to the west of Port Augusta, and that's where we are heading.

As we travel we overtake other solar car teams, some trailering some solaring, I am glad at this point that our car is in the trailer and the team is safely in the vehicles. The dust in the air is incredible and the Northerly wind must be blowing close to 50 knots. I have never seen anything like it. Fortunately it is behind us so we are not burning fuel pushing into it like some of the trucks we see heading North. David our observer has been farming in the area since 1956 and he comments that he's never seen it worse.

We get to Port Augusta after 4:00pm and get out of our vehicles. The wind has increased and it is hard to stand up straight. We seek shelter and the two yellow shirts manning the control stop inform us that the race has been abandoned due to the weather. It seems our race is over.

We had originally planned to camp tonight and try and get a few more solar Kilometres tomorrow, but we won't be camping tonight and we won't be solaring tomorrow. We discuss finding accommodation in Port Augusta, but considering it is still early we decide to go another 80 Km South to Port Pirie. As we leave Port August it begins to rain mud. The atmosphere is full of dust whipped up by the near gale force winds coming off the desert. As the rain begins to fall it picks up the dust in the atmosphere and forms mud droplets. Our white support vehicles and bus are now brown. I continually use the washer and the wipers to keep the windscreen clear.

We arrive at Port Pirie about 5:30 but are informed by two different cabin parks that they are full. We are also told that there are two weddings and a couple of other functions on in town and we'd be lucky to find any thing but camp sites. One caravan park owner said that given the weather conditions, he wouldn't allow us to camp any way. I had no intention of doing so.

We decide to go to Adelaide. I ring Susan and Ross who have flown to Adelaide to see us cross the line and ask them to find us some accommodation, preferably in the form of a back packer or similar. They do well and organise the team to be spread over two back packers right in the city. We will be together tomorrow night.

We head to Adelaide and we expect to arrive around 8:30pm. Just North of Port Wakefield we spy the Willetton Sungroper trailer on the side of the road with no tow vehicle attached. I frantically switch to their UHF frequency and ask if they need help. They reply that the trailer hitch has snapped and do we have some tools? Our lead and follow vehicle turn around and we get out to assist. We assess the situation, It does not look like an easy repair job on the side of the road. Darren has headed into Port Wakefield to find a flat bed truck to tow the trailer. We help them to move the trailer further off the road by standing on the back of the trailer and raising the nose then pushing it. I tell Chris that our team in Adelaide can help them out finding some accommodation. They do and they end up staying at one of the back-packers that we are in. We hear that our bus has been in communication with the Willetton bus and that Darren has found a flat bed truck which is on the way.

We arrive in Adelaide about 10:00pm, manage to park outside one of the back-packers and get our gear off the bus. It rains heavily. Gear is ferried to the other back-packer and we split into two groups for dinner, Its Hungry Jacks for us at the Blue Galah and Macdonalds for those at Shakespears.

We go to bed close to midnight and lose an hour of sleep because of the change to day light saving time.

Sunday 28 Oct Day Something!?

We rise and those staying at Shakespear's pack up and move to the Blue Galah which is situated perfectly, halfway between the ceremonial finish line at Victoria square and the solar car mustering area at Torrens Parade ground. It's right near the west end of the Rundle Street Mall.

We move the support vehicles, bus and car to the parade ground which has free parking and 24 hour security. We prepare the solar car for our ceremonial trip across the finish line and to take our 15 min of glory however, our old nemesis the driver control board has decided not to play ball. We try many things and Doug notices a wire has de-soldered itself from the board. He repairs it but still no go. After much twisting and kind words of encouragement it eventually springs to life. After a 35 min wait we are cleared to go, Trent drives the final 2 kilometres. Our escort driver comments how well our car drives up the hill and how so many others have struggled. I smile. Trent rushes to the finish line and we are here. We choose not to jump into the fountain to celebrate.

That evening we attend the awards ceremony and don't go to the after party, it's in a pub. Instead we enjoy a Chinese meal at a local restaurant. Steve and Leonie have negotiated a good deal and all are happy. Home to bed, no early starts but still lots to do.

Monday October 29th and Tue 30th.

Packing trailers, cleaning vehicles and dropping trailers and hire cars at various locations. Last minute shopping for gifts for friends and family. Make it to airport and relax before boarding a slightly delayed flight. Tired but happy! Happy birthday Danyal.

Thank you to sponsors, supporters, Doug and the Treen boys and those who helped us to solve our problems whilst we were on the road.


You bet-cha. :-)

John Beattie

Team Manager

Leeming Hammerhead

Leeming Senior High School

Solar Car Team