This is the Row Zambezi Expedition and they plan to be the first rowers to scull this stretch of the Zambezi.

Rowing in three, three-person, coastal boats that have been modified to suit the river conditions, the expedition plans to leave at the end of July 2011 and take about 20 days. This means covering 70km per day by rowing for about eight hours a day and then camping on the banks of the Zambezi at night time.

The team will have to be aware of hippos and crocodiles that are common along the banks and in the water. There are also rapids to deal with and navigation through floodplains.

The expedition is the idea of avid rower Tim Cook who is joined by 15 other adventure rowers including Cook’s three sons, Oliver, 21, Jamie, 19, and Robbie, 14. Also on the team is Antonia van Deventer who was raised in Zambia and has competed internationally in rowing for both Zambia and Great Britain. Van Deventer is currently training not just for the expedition, but also to qualify for the 2012 Olympics for Zambia.

Van Deventer hopes the expedition will help promote rowing in Zambia. “There will be a young Zambian rower participating and the aim is to promote grass roots sport - in particular rowing - in Zambia,” says van Deventer who is hoping that the three boats used in the expedition will then remain in Zambia and get used to help develop the sport locally.

The expedition team has met for meetings says van Deventer where everything from croc and hippo deterrents to how to deal with blisters, has been planned. “The safety element has been well thought through, for example there are safety boats and support vehicles along the way, satellite phones and excellent mapping.

“The team is a diverse group of ages, personalities and rowing experience, and people's motivations for taking part are different. Not everyone has links with Zambia, or even Africa, but I believe that the common theme is the desire to blaze a trail (in a very environmentally friendly sense) and do something that has never been done before, to rise to a difficult challenge and push personal limits. In addition, the chosen charity is a big driving force.”

Supplies for the rowers will be carried by a support truck and there is also four-wheel-drive vehicles and support launches. When access by the support vehicles is not possible the rowers will carry a minimum of supplies in the boats.

Currently Zambia holds an annual regatta, the Zambezi International Regatta in Livingston. Often the race attracts boats from Great Britain’s Oxford and Cambridge Universities who compete against the top South African University crew. There is also a link to rowing of more than 100 years with the World Sculling Championships being held in Livingston in 1910.

Behind the expedition is the aim of raising money for the charity, Village Water. This charity provides clean water and sanitation in Zambian villages. Cook notes, “The people there suffer from malaria, skin disease, diarrhea, eye disease and worm infections; 18% of the children die before the age of 5, diarrhea and malaria are the biggest causes of this. Fresh drinking water and proper sanitation can have a huge impact on the quality of life in these villages.”

Village Water operates mainly in Western Zambia where the expedition passes through and van Deventer says that already the charity organisation has reduced the rates of malaria, diarrhea and dysentery in the area. Members of the expedition have already received donations from friends, families, companies and from the charity single called, “The Smoke that Thunders.” 

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