Fundy Adventure Rally: The SpotWalla factor

I would have loved to ride the Fundy Adventure Rally this year.  But someone had to man the screens at Rally HQ, and that person was me. So, while I didn’t get to ride the rally on two wheels, I got to tag along virtually, thanks to the requirement for each team to have a  SPOT device and a great app called SpotWalla.

When Canada Moto Rallies started planning the 2015 Fundy Adventure Rally, one of the most important safety considerations was our SPOT device tracking system. Although we’d tracked the 2014 rally through the company’s FindmeSPOT website,  it wasn’t easy to track multiple devices on a map – enter SpotWalla!

These SPOT devices (courtesy of our sponsor) were handed out to teams at the start of the rally, enabling us to track teams and coordinate help en-route.
These SPOTs (courtesy of our sponsor) were required devices for all teams, enabling us to track them and coordinate help en-route if required.

If you have a SPOT device (or GPS-enabled cellphone, or inReach, etc.), SpotWalla takes the information from your device’s service provider, and presents it on their website laid over Google Maps,. This allows you to easily follow one or a group of riders and tap into all the features that come with Google maps like satellite view.

So, while I couldn’t ride the route, I could virtually tag along via satellite updates, and it was pretty entertaining at times. For instance, Rallymaster Rob’s most difficult routes headed through several water crossings that had been shallow at time of mapping, but were now swollen over their banks thanks to a downpour the day before.

The big picture. We were able to track all the teams at once with SpotWalla.
The big picture. We were able to track all the teams at once with SpotWalla and see which options they had taken (Green is an A, Blue a B and Black a C)

As the morning progressed we’d see a steady stream of pointers head towards the river on our screen, pause and then (mostly) back out, or take a long look, with their SPOT’s pinging several times in 2 1/2 minute intervals from the shore.

Since Spotwalla uses Google maps you can also switch to satellite view so you can see what terrain the user is in to. This was especially useful for the river crossing as suddenly there would be a ping from mid-stream, followed by a whole load from the other side as the team had to evacuate the water from their drowned bikes!

Thanks to SpotWalla, we could actually see when situations like this unfolded on the trails.
Thanks to SpotWalla, we could actually see when situations like this unfolded on the trails from the comfort of Rally HQ.

In one case, Team Maribal actually attempted a crossing that no other team even considered and as a result ended up on the other side for an extended period of time. It caused a bit of worry until we saw another team arrive, back out and loop around to other side via a bridge to help.

Watching from HQ, it was fantastic to see teams helping each other out along the way.

Another team, went off route and seemed to be bailing, only to stop at a local town. After a while we began to wonder what had happened, so we zoomed in to see that they were actually stuck at a bar. 🙂

Other stall outs could be dealt with by coordinating with our sweep rider to check on a team as we could see where he was in relation to them and direct him accordingly.

Following SpotWalla, you could also see a teams’ strategy. While some teams took at least a passing look at most of the optional difficult routes, others blew past the early ones, opting for the later ones that were worth more points. Some teams, particularly ones from further away, often stuck solely to the easy routes, likely deciding they didn’t want to limp home with a busted bike.

The Dunsinane Triangle was not an easy option
The Dunsinane Triangle was not an easy option

One of the most noteworthy exercises in futility was Team Budge. They skipped the first water crossing to attempt the hardest leg, a.k.a. the Dunsinane Triangle. Predictably, they got bogged down in the mud holes, but unlike other teams, they were stuck there a reaaaaaallllllly long time, finally escaping the muck only to be confronted with the ultimate challenge – the legendary beaver dam.

Not fancying their chances, they bailed, making all the effort of escaping the mud holes worthless as far as points went. Although they eventually made it to the lunch stop, they’d had enough, and it was late enough in the day that Team Budge had to bail back to Rally HQ via the highway. Ouch.

Rally HQ was quiet for most of Saturday, as we watched riders clear waypoints.
Rally HQ was quiet for most of Saturday, as we watched riders clear waypoints.

Thankfully, we only had one incident requiring the sweep truck at the rally. A fairly minor mechanical failure (flat tire) that occurred late enough in the day that the truck was required and was hailed by pressing the appropriate button on their SPOT device.

Another cool side benefit of SpotWalla was that when riders had to bail out early, they could drop by Rally HQ and see how their teammates were doing, just to add insult to injury.

In closing: SpotWalla was a huge part of FAR’s success in 2015. If you own a SPOT, smartphone, inReach, or other compatible device, you should check out their system yourself. It’s free too, although we suggest making a donation if you find it as useful as we did.

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