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Thread: American team wins raft race down the Amazon

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    beer city usa

    Default American team wins raft race down the Amazon

    Austinite's team takes on Amazon River race, sets record

    Great River Amazon Raft Race covers 85 miles in three days.

    By Pamela LeBlanc
    Monday, September 29, 2008
    West Hansen knows how to read a Texas river — he's a veteran of some of the state's most grueling paddle races.
    But recently he traded his carbon-fiber racing canoe for a homemade raft of balsa wood logs and swapped area waters for the Amazon River. By the time he and his teammates crossed the finish line of the Great River Amazon Raft Race in Peru on Sept. 21, they'd set a course record in a race long dominated by people living near the Amazon. They also might have started a trend in raft design — long, skinny platforms instead of short, wide ones.
    Hansen, 46, of Austin, along with teammates David Kelly and Carter Johnson of California and Mike Scales of Hawaii, finished first out of 44 teams in the three-day race, becoming the first non-Peruvian team to win the unusual contest.
    The race covers 85 miles, beginning in the town of Nauta at the headwaters of the Amazon River in northern Peru and finishing in Iquitos. About a quarter of the teams entered this year were local. The rest came from as far away as Ireland, Canada, England, Holland and France.
    All four members of Hansen's team, Easy Living, are experienced paddle racers. He knows two of them through racing circles, even though this was the first time they'd paddled together as a team. But this contest required another skill — raft building.
    "None of us had ever sat on a raft or even seen balsa wood except in a model shop," Hansen said last week upon his return to Austin.
    The night before the race began Sept. 19, each team picked eight balsa logs from a pile to construct its raft by hand. That's where Hansen and his teammates got creative: Instead of lining up the eight logs in a row like most of the other teams, they lashed together two rows of four logs and bolted them end to end, making a long, narrow raft shaped more like the canoes they were used to. That gave them the ability to paddle on both sides.
    Onlookers gawked; they figured the novel design would be too tippy. "It looked radically different than anything else that was there," said Hansen, a carpenter who specializes in making custom-built barns.
    Hansen said he got interested in paddling after taking a whitewater course at the former Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University-San Marcos. He's gone on to race the Texas Water Safari 15 times. That 260-mile race from San Marcos to the Gulf of Mexico, mostly on the twisting Guadalupe River, is billed as the world's toughest canoe race; paddlers must keep going day and night. He also has won the Missouri River 340 race, starting in Kansas City and finishing in the St. Louis area, each of the past three years.
    The team brought its own lightweight carbon-fiber racing paddles (the locals used heavy wooden ones), fashioned seats out of foam blocks and sealed their raft with a coat of light blue paint. They dubbed their 32-foot craft the Blue Dolphin and pushed it into the Amazon.
    Still, the boat was slow. The paddlers' top cadence was only about 65 strokes per minute, compared to the usual race tempo of about 80 strokes per minute.
    "Every once in a while we'd laugh and say, 'We're sitting on four telephone poles and pushing them down the river,' " said Hansen, who sat in front and set the pace. "It was like shoving a Buick through a pig sty — it didn't want to move."
    Team members wore water hydration packs and ate energy bars as they paddled furiously through mostly undeveloped jungle in water 20 to 120 feet deep. The river in places stretched 3 miles wide. They spotted pink river dolphins and alligator-like caimans along the way.
    "We were in a constant state of wonderment," Hansen said.
    The team won the first leg of the race by 6 minutes over the defending champions. After an overnight in the town of Porvenir, they shoved off again. This time, they battled it out with another local team, which used its familiarity with the river's currents to pass them at one point. Hansen's team caught up and won the second stage by nearly 10 minutes.
    "We were stronger and had a faster craft, but we're used to our rivers," Hansen said.
    After an overnight in Tamshiyacu, the Americans won the third day's leg, too, gliding across the finish line in Iquitos in 12 hours and 19 minutes — 11/2 hours ahead of the three-day course record.
    With the race in the bag, the team divided its $3,000 in prize winnings — about a year's salary for the average man in Peru — among the local racers who didn't finish in the money.
    "We loved the villages and tried to think of a way to give back," Hansen said.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Whidbey Island

    Default Re: American team wins raft race down the Amazon

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    beer city usa

    Default Re: American team wins raft race down the Amazon


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