Kunkel ’90 Conquers Second Annual Rebelle Rally

The Rebelle Rally is the first women’s off-road navigation rally raid in the United States. Held over 8 days, the Rally covers more than 2,000 kilometers of terrain across the Nevada and California desert. The competition blends the love of driving with the ultimate challenge of precise navigation. It is not a race for speed, but a unique and demanding event based on the elements of headings, hidden checkpoints, time, and distance using maps, compass, and roadbook.

Katy Kunkel ’90 took part in the competition October 12-21, 2017 where she finished 9th out of 33 teams with fellow teammate Frances Spencer from New Zealand.


How and why did you get involved in the Rebelle Rally?
I have always wanted to take my ski racing skills and ‘apply the line’ to driving. The Rebelle was the perfect fit.

What did the event involve? What was a typical day like?
The Rebelle was intense and grueling (a very Burke like experience). We were up at 4 am packing and preparing before maps and checkpoint co-ordinates were released. Next comes a mad dash to plot and make it to your designated start time. We covered over a thousand miles so every day was different. The scenery was amazing and untouched. The organizers worked tirelessly to get permits for some epic courses. Finding yourself lost with dozens of wild mustangs is quite epic. Checkpoints are like ski hills. Green easy, blue hard to find and green invisible, so you had to nail it with navigation. The more you hit, the more points you collect over a day. Finding them is part nav and part driving skills.


What was your experience during the rally? Did you have to overcome a big challenge?
I was on a high the whole time. I was never tired; fully emerged. They confiscate all devices for the week. That was scary not just because I had to give up my beloved phone but because a compass was all you had to find your way. The challenge was trusting that we could find our way. We did. Teamwork was a key component. My teammate was great. We have a really great respectful relationship so when the going got tough we drank a cup of concrete and forged on.

How did you prepare for the Rally?
An amazing crew in North Carolina OEX (www.overlandexperts.com) prepared us for the off-road component. We learned way more than we needed but it was fun and incredibly satisfying to learn how to drive off road. And more importantly, how to recover when stuck. The navigation component frightened me the most but learning how to navigate is metaphorically and literally quite life-changing. I LOVE no longer relying on Siri.  She is fired.


Did you achieve your goals?
We came in top ten. In our wildest dreams, we would not have thought that possible. So YES, we achieved our goal!

What did you learn from this experience?
High school is not the only place for a BURKE like experience.  It’s so amazing to feel this kind of BURKE energy at 45.

How did this experience relate to what you did at BMA? Did anything from your BMA days help you on the rally?
It was all BURKE. The commitment to train, the awesome result and the dunes. We arrived to whiteout conditions which was probably best because these were skyscraper high. The checkpoints we hidden deep inside. I had little experience driving them and we were warned of the dangers up front. The conditions were scary.  But 10 minutes in, I realized it was skiing in a car. I picked the line, accelerated out of the turn, kept up momentum and maintained traction. As soon as I ‘got it’ we skied all day nailing checkpoint after checkpoint. It was easily my favorite part of the rally.

Parting comments?
Get in touch with me if you’d like to take part in the Rally! Next year’s Rally will take place October 11-20, 2018.

When Katy is not conquering dunes, she’s a marketing consultant having created campaigns for a long list of international clients including Pepsi, AT&T, The United States Army and Reebok. To learn more about her work or keep in touch with Katy, check out her blog.