The Roof of The World Rally is an adventurous charity rally that begins in London, United Kingdom, and finishes in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. There has also been additional launch sites on the European continent for continental teams, although the official launch is from London and is usually shared with the Mongolia Charity Rally. The Roof of the World Rally has been called arguably the most eccentric rally, due to its 'droll mission of promoting the drinking of tea across the globe'.
Vehicle rules for taking part are limited to taking Left Hand Drive vehicles if they are to be donated at the end of the Rally. There is no vehicle age limit or car model restrictions, although the Rally does offer some guidelines as to recommended vehicles. The Roof of the World Rally fits into the categories of banger rallies and charity rallies. These type events are vehicle rallies but participants are not allowed to race - as a legal requirement. There is also no on the road support. Teams are self-reliant. The purpose of the rally is for adventure, travel and also to promote positive cultural interactions, hence the extra element of tea.
The Roof of The World Rally is organised by Go Help, a UK registered charity run primarily by volunteers. Go Help runs Charity Rallies, which include the Mongolia Rally and the Roof of the World Rally.
Currently the Roof of the World Rally is one of only a handful of long distance endurance 'every-man' type rallies. Similar long distance rallies can include the Mongol Rally, Mongolia charity rally, London Tashkent, Africa Rally and the original Rally Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. The Africa-based rallies, usually running around December have relatively limited route choices and were hit hard in Dec 2009 due to the terrorism incidents in Mauritania. One of the strengths of the Roof of the World Rally is its appeal to potential participants of the Mongolia rallies. The large number of vehicles of dubious quality going to Mongolia has resulted in tighter import restrictions and this has meant that with an overlapping route the Roof of the World Rally is a clear alternative to the Mongolian destination rallies.
Since the Roof of the World Rally was created there have been at least two profit making European rallies that have chosen to use Tajikistan as the finishing point for new rally events.
The very first Roof of the World Rally launched in 2008 from Greenwich Park Tea Pavilion. There were 3 teams representing UK, Australia and Italy all of which raised funds for Sworde-Teppa in Tajikistan. 2 of the teams completed the Rally. The Rally originated and was run independently by Sophie Willingale and Ryan Walker.
In 2009 The Rally organisers gave the Rally more structure by joining the non-profit Charity Rallies group. 8 teams launched from Greenwich Park Tea Pavilion and all 8 teams managed to complete the rally. In Kurgan-Tyube there was a finish ceremony honoring the teams in the city centre with speeches by Tajik Ministers and Government Authorities. Tajik TV, Embassy staff and Tajik musicians attended the ceremony and after party.
In 2010 the Roof of the World Rally launch took place on 3 July from London and is still under the Charity Rallies banner.
In 2011 the end point of the Rally was moved to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, this was due to Dushanbe being a more logical finishing point for the teams and the new relationship the event had with Save the Children.
In 2012 the ground work was laid for the event to start becoming independent. Go Help started working with the Ministry of Health to start researching the need for medical vehicles and how the rally could help.
In 2013 there were 11 teams on the Rally. It was in this year that the Rally moved to an independent footing and didn't rely on working with other Tajikistan-based charities. This meant that Go Help was now responsible for dealing with all the logistics of importation of vehicles and the placement of ambulances. The Roof of the World Rally has an increased focus on providing good quality left hand drive ambulances to hospitals in need across Tajikistan and as of August 2013 there will be six Go Help rally donated ambulances working in Tajikistan in a number of different hospitals outside of the capital.
The Rally has always launched in July. Teams can choose their own route to the finish. Routes tend to range somewhere between 5000 miles to 8000 miles, although some teams choose to do round trips back to the UK. There are four main possible routes and only a few ways into Tajikistan.
The organisers recommend teams consider driving the Pamir Highway (M-41) driving into Tajikistan via Osh in Kyrgyzstan.
Teams are challenged to complete an 8000-mile charity rally, whilst socialising with everyone they meet along the way, with the help of Tea. Tea is an important factor in the rally with challenges and competitions based on how well the teams distribute their given quota of tea stocks which are donated by sponsors of the Rally. In its first years the Rally was affiliated with the Tea Appreciation Society and from 2010 has been sponsored by the Kent and Sussex Tea Company who have provided all the teams with tea they can share on the journey.
Teams over the years have used their tea in various ways. One team in 2010 used their tea to pay for hospital bills in Tajikistan, two teams have had tea parties with border guards and the bags have often been used as thank you gifts in Central Asia as teams often receive help from local people.
The Roof of The World Charity Rally entry fee has been traditionally capped at £300. Which is less than the Mongolia Charity Rally also run by Go Help, and recognises that the charity doesn't have an office in Tajikistan and can't offer support to teams to the same extent as in Mongolia. The entry fee aims to cover the costs of running the event which is run by volunteers. An early sign-up discount is run every year when sign-up first opens.
The Roof of the World Rally is a non-profit event, organised by a charity and run to benefit charities.
The organisers of Roof of the World Rally have supported other charities working in Tajikistan since it started. From 2008 to 2010 the vehicles were driven out to Sworde-Teppa (The rallies nominated charity) and donated to them to sell to raise funds. Teams were challenged to raise a sum of £750 for Sworde-Teppa and asked to transport donated equipment from a wishlist to help improve the charities facilities.
Sworde-Teppa was substantially funded from the rally. The 2009 Rally raised in excess of £10,000 and funded the re-development of Sworde-Teppa's main building and gardens, the rally has donated 4x4's and a minibus that was used to reach school children unable to travel to school. As part of the Rally, teams were encouraged to raise a minimum of £750 for Sworde-Teppa using a separate online donation system.
In 2011 and 2012, the Rally began working with Save the Children in Dushanbe working under the same arrangement as for Sworde Teppa.
In 2013, the Rally became independent with rally teams raising funds for Go Help and Go Help taking on its first member of charity staff. Go Help needed to move the event onto a sustainable footing so as to be able to develop charity projects and ensure the event could keep running. Go Help still works with other local charities and organisations in the region to gather wishlists for the teams to enable further useful donations. These wishlists are usually from charities working with children or young people as well as hospitals.
In all years teams have the option of fundraising for other charities as well as the principle charity as long as the minimum fundraising target it met for the principal charity.