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Not quite sailing down the Amazon

by Sail-World, Robert Dowling, Great Amazon Raft Club on 27 Oct 2009
Start line - Great Amazon Raft Race Robert Dowling
Five years ago Irish sailor Rob Dowling completed a marathon 24-hour sail, sponsored by his local club. Spurred on by its success, Rob then sailed 800 kilometres solo, in a customised plastic bath tub down the Amazon River. He also competed in a three day 112-mile raft race, again down the Amazon in Peru.

During his time in Peru, he met and helped a young girl named Jazmin retain her sight, and his life changed forever.

Rob Dowling is a man who believes 'one man can make a difference'. Driven by his passion and desire to help the children of the Amazon River basin and his love of sailing, Rob undertook on the 3-4th July 2009, a marathon sail around an estuary in Northern Ireland. Rob completed his challenge - a 48 hour, solo sail in an effort to raise the necessary funds to continue his work with the river children in Peru.

In September Rob headed back to Peru and again undertook the epic raft race.

From Rob:

Well I swapped the dinghy sail boat for a raft; myself and a crew of three (Ann Marie, Bowie and Roy)..paddles in hand we covered 112 miles on the mighty Amazon River in Peru.

I believe this to be the world's toughest challenge on rafts. Why do it ? To promote the kids project.

There were almost 35 rafts in total and 15 pulled out after day two which was 10 hours non-stop in harsh conditions and weird currents, with heat that was like being in a sauna.

This event is promoted by my friend in Peru. We make the rafts out of eight basal wood logs and a dozen nails, 100 ft rope and away we go. We had a Navy armed escort at times whiled out on the river, and these conditions are only for the toughest. This is the second year I have completed and finished the course.

Perhaps some of you would like to have a go next September (2010).

Jazmin the child we continue to help, is the reason I push myself beyond the normal.

If you missed the Rob's 48 hour Marathon Sail story - click here or

The Amazon Rafting Club is based in Iquitos, Peru, and adventurers from all over the world compete in this event. The three day race started in Nauta on Friday, 25th September 2009, and finished in the City of Iquitos on Sunday, 27th September 2009. The four person crew paddled a raft they built themselves the day before the race constructed of lightweight balsawood logs. The teams then rafted 112 miles down the Amazon River.

Race founder Mike Collis moved to Iquitos from Birmingham, England in 1998. Mike had organised raft races back in England.

On the 29th July 1999, on the Nanay River the first race took place. 43 crews competed in the 12 mile, one day race from Santa Clara to Bella Vista Nanay. The winners completed the course in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. The following year the same course was used with over 60 teams from 14 different countries competing. In 2003 the course was extended to 26 miles over 2 days and the winning team completed the course in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

In 2006, the format changed to 112 miles, and attracted rafters from 11 countries. The 2007 Great River Amazon Raft Race attracted rafters from Australia, USA, England, Scotland, Peru, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, Holland, Germany, and Mexico. In 2008 the Great River Amazon Raft Race was won by a foreign crew.
Race website:

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