‘Team O2’, the daring Egyptian duo of adventurer Omar Samra who is also UN goodwill ambassador, and professional triathlete Omar Nour, have embarked on the world’s toughest rowing race: an unsupported, 3,000 nautical mile journey from San Sebastian, La Gomera in the Spanish Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua.
The journey is part of an annual ocean-rowing race called the Atlantic Challenge. The 2017 challenge boasts the participation of 28 teams from 17 countries. If Nour and Samra successfully complete the gruelling crossing, Team O2 will be the first Arab team to row across an ocean. The world record for pairs on the Atalntic crossing is 40 days, 4 hours and 3 minutes.
Team O2’s venture comes in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), to help raise awareness of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and around the world.
Nour and Samra have been preparing for 10 months. Their preparation has included high-intensity physical conditioning to morph their bodies into that of elite rowers; the athletes have added a combined 27 kilos of body weight which they expect to lose over the course of the crossing, and have completed over 200 hours of rowing on their boat.
They also underwent significant mental and medical training to ensure their safety during the row, completing courses such as the RYA Yacht-master Ocean Theory, First Aid at Sea, Sea Survival and a VHF Radio License. They learnt how to self-administer IV drips, and Nour, a type 1 diabetic, has been fitted with a continuous glucose monitor that sets off an alarm to alert his teammate should his blood sugar drop below a critical level.
The boat, named ‘Jan’, is 7.5m long x 1.8m wide and built of wood, fibreglass, carbon fibre and Kevlar. It is equipped with a water-maker to change the sea water into drinking water; solar panels to power GPS and other vital electrical equipment; 90 days’ worth of food rations; medical kits; tracking beacons; an ‘AIS’ allowing O2 to communicate with passing vessels; a satellite telephone and specially designed laptop called a ‘tough book’ to allow O2 to communicate with the outside world.
A small cabin is the only protection O2 will have against the might of the ocean. When the weather proves too much for the boat and it capsizes, it is able to self-right.
Nour and Samra met in 2013 and became firm friends, united by a passion for sports and adventure. Nour has represented Egypt on the Olympic triathlete circuit, while Samra was the first Egyptian to climb Everest, and the 7 Summits. He’s also skied to both the North and South Pole.
At the start line in La Gomera, Samra said: “I’ve never been happier to get to a start line! Although I have good experience as a mountain and polar adventurer, the ocean is very different to mountains and ice!
“There will no doubt be challenges along this incredible journey – when you’re faced with 50-foot waves, blisters, salt rash and sleep deprivation, that’s a given! But we’re as ready as we can be, and excited to get out there and show the world what you can do if you set your mind to it.”
The first successful Atlantic Ocean crossing was completed by Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway in 1966 – a 92-day battle against hurricanes, 50 foot waves and near starvation. Sir Chay Blyth made a guest appearance at the start line today in La Gomera to set the race off.
Team O2’s progress across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the other 27 teams, can be tracked on www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com.
18 December 2017