Tonga Samoa 2000
In 2000, the Camel Trophy returned with a new style of event. It developed the spirit of the Mongolia and Tierra del Fuego events but the competitors were to explore islands in the Pacific Ocean in specially customised Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB).
The Ribtec 655 boats, custom built in Southampton and each powered by a massive 130hp 4-stroke engine, cost in excess of £40,000. The order for sixty formed the largest single order of RIBs commissioned in the UK. Honda officially supplied all the vehicles for the challenge, including twenty CR-V and forty TRX 450 all-terrain vehicles. Also supplied were sixty BF130 outboard engines and a supply of five EM4500 generators. All the equipment was transported to Tonga ready for the start of events on 1st July 2000. Nevertheless Land Rover Defender 110 HCPUs (High Capacity Pick Ups) were still essential behind the scenes. Land Rovers were also used in the selection and promotion of the event.
Two years of planning produced a route planed from Vavu'a in Northern Tonga and finishing at Malolo Lailai in Fiji, covering some 1,000 nautical miles. The organisers showed they were flexible and adaptable after the original destination country, Fiji, was plunged into conflict and the event was hastily but competently redirected.
"Honda is delighted with the way WBI's contingency plans were put into place so efficiently. Considering the scale of the event, the number of people involved and the fact that they have planned what is effectively a new event in just a couple of weeks, is quite remarkable. I understand that Samoa has an altogether different terrain to Fiji, so all this adds to the sense of the Camel Trophy being an adventure."
Paul Ormond, Honda UK, Head of Marketing
This made Camel Trophy 2000 a unique event in more ways than one. Moving the event to end in Samoa meant the teams crossed the International Date Line with the route revised to revised include two ten-hour sea crossings with an overnight stop on the island of Niuatoputapu. The second crossing to Samoa effectively happened on the same date as crews traveled back in time by 24 hours.
Crossing the International Date Line had little effect on the participants, other than a bit of confusion about which day they were on. In order to minimise this, all references to the event were made in local time and date, while press releases flagged up the respective dates in Tonga and Samoa, ensuring that those reports written in Tonga but read in Samoa did not appear to have been written before the events actually took place.
Thirty-two competitors from 16 countries, selected via national trials from more than one million applicants, explored the exotic waters and remote cultures in the powerboats. Nothing like this had been done before. The teams had the opportunity to explore the exotic waters and remote cultures of idyllic South Pacific islands, beaches, forests, lagoons and traditional villages. Activities included snorkelling, scuba diving, wakeboarding, abseiling, climbing, wave skiing and traditional exploration on foot. Even the record-breaking open-water crossing between the two countries is a journey not usually made in small open boats.
The British team, Rick Freeman, a 31 year-old PE teacher from Lincoln and Nick Anderson, a 28 year-old disabilities nurse from Burgess Hill, suffered a sudden capsize after being struck by a freak wave in the early days of the competition and therefore lost too much time in Stage One to be able to challenge for the lead during the rest of the event. The teams did find an alternative use for the Honda BF130 outboard engines however as competitors stored their food inside the engine covers to keep it warm and dry.
"The boat went over a number of times and had to be towed ashore. We thought that would be it for the engine but it seems you can take a Honda swimming and it still works perfectly!"
Rick Freeman, Team UK 2000
The risk of fuel contamination was a reality, with Honda Australia providing more than 1,000 fuel filters, enough for each RIB engine to have a filter change every day.
Camel Trophy 2000 came to its climax in the early hours of 21st July 2000 on the sandy Lalomanu Beach in Samoa. After three very competitive weeks, the South African team claimed a late victory over Team France, not only winning the Camel Trophy 2000 title but the prestigious Team Spirit and new Island Adventurer awards as well.
Although the event was successful as a sporting activity, it failed to give the sponsors the exposure they desired. In the future they would concentrate on fashion, not performance. "Camel Trophy is in fact a fusion of sight, sound, sensation and attitude," the sponsors declared.
It was to be the last Camel Trophy event.
Within a few years, international legislation made running events and producing products with the slightest traceable links to the tobacco industry illegal. Although for many years the Camel Trophy events had been sponsored by WBI, producers of Camel Trophy clothing and watches, but their parent company, RJ Reynolds was a tobacco manufacturer. The irony is that even if the Camel Trophy had continued into the 2000's, international law would soon have made it impossible to run.
- Team Vehicles: Ribtec 655
- Support Vehicles: Honda CR-V, TRX 450 ATV, Land Rover Defender 110 HCPU
- Distance travelled: 1000 nautical miles
- Number of countries: 16
- Austria - Werner Leitner & Philipp Leube
- Benelux - Michel Reynders & Sascha Weil
- Canary Islands - Marco Bermudez & Tomy Lopez
- Germany - Hilke Tiedt & Eike Sack
- France - Jean-Baptiste Calais & Philippe Reviglio
- Greece - Lambros Argyris Michael Tsaoutos
- Italy - Nicoletta Nutrito & Matteo Poli
- Japan - Hajime Kobayashi & Kojiro Shiraishi
- Portugal - Nuno Filipe & João Pedro Martins
- Russia - Anna Medvedeva & Tatiana Poliakova
- Scandinavia - Lisa Nordlind & Mikael Stening
- South Africa - Wim Van Herzeele & Xavier Scheepers (Camel Trophy, Team Spirit Award and Island Adventurer Award)
- Spain - Gaizko Aseguinolaza & Jordi Garriga
- Switzerland - Judith Koller & Patrick Jeannerat
- Turkey - Arif Gurdenli & Serkan Koray
- United Kingdom - Nick Anderson & Rick Freeman