Across The Finish Line: Looking Back At The 2023 Rebelle Rally

December 11, 2023


Last month, four Iridium® team members tested their limits against 62 other teams in the Rebelle Rally. Spanning more than 2,000 kilometers across the Nevada and California desert, it’s the first women’s off-road navigation rally in the United States.

Iridium is proud to stand as the Rebelle Rally’s official communications and safety partner, ensuring teams have access to emergency communications services as they navigate the desert without cell service and only their maps, compasses, roadbooks, and wits to guide them.

We first touched base with Team Desert Crush (Director of Program Management, Isa Budge, and Data Scientist, Lauren Serverson) and Team NEXT Wave (Senior Engineer, Cindy Swazey, and Principal Engineer, Annabelle DaSilva) back in September while they were training for the competition.

Let’s check back in with our competitors now that the race is done and they’ve had some time to reflect on the experience:

What motivated you to compete in the Rally?

“Personally, my motivation was to try out a challenge that was known to be difficult and really see what I was made of,” said Severson. “When I was applying to compete in the Rebelle Rally, I was new to Arizona and new to Iridium, so it was just a great opportunity to jump in, learn about Iridium, and learn about myself.”

“I was really intrigued by the Rebelle Rally when I watched Iridium COO, Suzi McBride, participate,” said Swazey. “I thought, ‘What a great challenge and awesome opportunity.’ I’m no stranger to off-roading and this looked like an amazing, empowering, and gritty competition.” She continued, “This was my first time competing in any type of off-road competition, rally, or race. The closest thing I could liken it to was being deployed with the U.S. forces in the Middle East—extreme temps, grit and grind, and an overwhelming sense of teamwork and accomplishment at the end.”

As an Iridium employee, what did it mean to you to participate in this experience?

“As an engineer who’s buried in the weeds most of the time, I don’t always get the opportunity to see how our products impact people in a day-to-day way,” Budge explained. “While the Rebelle Rally isn’t an emergency situation, without Iridium the reality of the race would be incredibly different. It really changes your mindset while you’re in the event because you have the confidence and security that Iridium is there should you need to get in touch with someone.”

How did you utilize Iridium Connected™ technology during the Rally?

DaSilva describes an instance when she and partner, Swazey, broke the housing of an axle during the Rally. “It was probably the worst incident we had during the race, and we were so grateful to have an Iridium satellite phone at hand to call for dispatch,” she recalls. “The response and mechanic assistance was incredible, and our car was fixed and
ready to go so we could be at the starting line the next morning!”

What was a standout moment from the competition?

DaSilva: “Everything about the Rally was so exciting, but I think my favorite part was camping in Coyote Buttes [a section of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness spanning extreme south-central Utah and north-central Arizona] under the stars. The bonding experience of camping with the other women competing in the race was truly awesome.”

Budge: “On the second-to-last day of the Rally, Lauren and I participated in an x-enduro, a course for higher skill level off-roading with step-by-step directions. It was a difficult challenge, and we were directly tailing the leading team at first but then hit this chute in the sand that took us a couple of times to get up. We were stuck and turned around for more than an hour. Long story short, we found the flag before the leading team! It was so rewarding that, in our roundabout way, we found the flag, did some crazy driving, and scored the points!”

Severson: “A really standout moment for me was when Isa and I were following a roadbook and ended up backtracking to find a missed turn. Just when we thought we’d make it to the checkpoint in time we heard our shock dragging on the ground. We ended up taking the shock off and missing the checkpoint, but we just had so much fun doing that challenge despite the obstacles. It was a great lesson that sometimes you can’t have it all, and we decided to have fun rather than race to the checkpoint with a malfunction.”

Swazey: “There were so many standout moments—camping under the stars with a group of women, totally isolated from the world, no electronics or phones, in the middle of nowhere with just maps, vehicles, some food and each other. It was serene, humbling, and tranquil—if only for a moment. Also seeing Suzi and John McBride at the finish line made me smile from the inside out!”

What was your main takeaway from participating in the Rally?

Severson: “Overall, I think our gratitude for being there really helped us succeed. Even if something wasn’t going our way, we’d just think ‘how crazy is it that we’re here,’ so we didn’t spend much time upset with ourselves.”

Budge: “A big takeaway for me was to not to take it too seriously. We weren’t competing against professionals, we were out there to showcase Iridium and the kind of people we are. It’s a personal challenge, and it was just a cool opportunity to take part in.”

DaSilva: “The Rally was really a great adventure that created a lot of team spirit. I feel like the values of the event aligned well with our company values. That, and the collaboration. Even when Cindy and I were stuck in the dunes, other teams came to help us even if that meant they’d lose some time. It was really amazing.”

Swazey: “The driving was challenging, the days were long and the checkpoints and enduros endless. I pushed myself harder than I have in the past ten years since my military retirement. This experience is difficult and gritty and amazing and beautiful and frustrating and rewarding. This was not just a competition; this is the kind of experience that shows you who you are and what you are made of.”

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in signing up for the next Rally?

DaSilva: “My advice for future teams would be not to overthink the experience. Iridium’s presence at the event gave us preparation and peace of mind. It allows you to enjoy the moment.”

Severson: “I was lucky to be pretty free during our training season, so to any future participants: I would think about the time you’ll want to take to train. If this year isn’t your year, maybe the next will be. There’s no rush. It’s such a special opportunity, you want to time it right to get the most out of the experience.”

Budge: “The Rebelle Rally isn’t rocket science, but it takes effort. Don’t be put off by the challenges of this experience and don’t be intimidated. If you’re willing to put in the work, success is attainable.”

Swazey: “Do your research! Talk to all the previous competitors, have a healthy understanding of what you’re getting into. Preparation prior to the event is key. Block off time to do inventory, practice mapping skills, and go over the vehicle. And make sure to read the competition guide. There is a lot of useful and mandatory information in there.”

As the dust settles on the 2023 Rebelle Rally, it’s evident that the journey extended far beyond the Nevada and California desert. Our Iridium team members, Isa, Lauren, Cindy, and Annabelle, emerged not only as spirited competitors but as trailblazers exemplifying resilience, teamwork, and the embodiment of Iridium’s mission. Their reflections highlight the profound impact of this experience, showcasing personal growth, camaraderie, and the invaluable role of Iridium’s technology in navigating challenges.

Their journey is a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration and the empowering capabilities of both human determination and cutting-edge technology. Cheers to their remarkable accomplishments and the indelible mark left on the sands of the Rebelle Rally.