Egyptian pair Omar Samra and Omar Nour — Team O2 — survived a storm that capsized their boat and left them deserted for 12 hours in the ocean before they were rescued by a cargo ship, as the pair saw their Atlantic Challenge campaign come to an end.
Samra and Nour were attempting to become the first Egyptians to row across the Atlantic ocean as part of a race that set off from San Sebastian de La Gomera in Spain on Thursday December 14 towards Antigua.
Their first week on the boat was rough, with power frequently shutting off on the boat, which meant they had to manually hand-pump drinking water, and with difficult weather conditions working against them, leaving them exhausted, dehydrated, and sea-sick.
On Friday morning, the official Facebook account of the race, Atlantic Campaigns, posted the news that the emergency beacon of Team O2’s boat was set off and that they had been unable to communicate with them.
The following message was later posted on the team’s social channels on Saturday night explaining what happened.
“Yesterday (Friday) at 8.30am, Team 02 were hit by 45 knot winds that caused their boat to capsize – their boat did not self-right,” read the post.
“The 12 hours that followed became a survival story of epic proportions.
“The team is now safe onboard a 200m Greek-German cargo ship that came to their aid and was able to bring them onboard after 3-4 hours of rescue attempts in worsening conditions. Omar Nour and Omar Samra finally made it aboard the vessel last night at 8:45p.m. It also turns out that the ship’s captain and senior officers are Egyptian…what are the chances?!
“The ship is not fancy by any means but the 19 men on the ‘Kefalonia’ have provided them with generous support and hospitality. The two Omars now have a hot meal in their bellies and the first full night of sleep in days – they are incredibly happy to be safe and alive to tell their tale.
“Luckily, the ship is bound for Northern Spain and should hopefully reach port by December 28th – the boys should be back home for New Year’s. Once back, they will be recounting the details of their survival story.
“The past 24 hours have made it clear just how dangerous an expedition such as this can be – and how important it is to have professional and supportive partners. Team O2 have to thank DHL Express for their support over the past year. Team O2 might not have made it to Antigua but this is not the end of their adventure.”
Nour is diabetic and since the cargo ship that rescued them did not have insulin on-board, him and Samra were evacuated by a helicopter and made it to Tenerife on Sunday morning.
The daring Egyptian duo of professional triathlete Omar Nour and adventurer Omar Samra, dubbed ‘Team O2’, set off on Thursday in 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 perilous journey is part of an annual ocean-rowing race called the Atlantic Challenge. 28 teams from 17 countries descended on La Gomera this week to take part in the 2017 race. If Nour and Samra successfully complete the gruelling crossing, Team O2 will be the first Arab team to row across an ocean. They are also setting off with a close watch on the world record for pairs, which is 40 days, 4 hours and 3 minutes.
Nour and Samra have been preparing for the gruelling challenge 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.
As well as the physical, the duo have undergone 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 have also 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, fibre glass, 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.
“I can’t believe this is it – we’re finally on the start line!” Nour said from the start line in La Gomera. “The preparation we’ve gone through to get to this point has been intense – no outside assistance is permitted during the crossing, as soon as we row out of this harbor we are at the mercy of the elements – so its been imperative that we get every single detail locked down.
“It’s been incredible to have our whole support team here in La Gomera over the last week – our family, friends and the team from DHL – and to meet the other 27 teams. It really brings it home that we are part of something big. We truly hope we make everyone proud!”
His team-mate had also been waiting with excitement to get going.
“I’ve never been happier to get to a start line!” Samra said. “Although I have a good amount of experience as a mountain and polar adventurer, one thing is for sure – the ocean is very different to mountains and ice! I’ve learned so much through over the last 10 months and we truly couldn’t have done it without the support of the team around us, including our partners at DHL.
“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 are proud to partner 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.
You can track Team O2’s progress across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the other 27 teams, on www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com, as well as get regular updates live from Team O2 on their social media channels.
Egyptian champion swimmer Farida Osman is hoping her latest achievement, of winning the Mohammed bin Rashid Creative Sports Award last week, can inspire young Arab women to pursue sport, and prove to the world that females from this region can excel at the highest level.
The 22-year-old Osman became the first Egyptian — male or female — to claim a medal at a World Aquatics Championship in the pool when she took 50m butterfly bronze in Budapest last July. She shared the podium with swimming superstars Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sarah Sjostrom, and was given a hero’s welcome when she returned back to Egypt.
Her feats earned her the ‘Distinguished Athlete’s Achievement’ award at the MBR Creative Sports Award ceremony in Dubai last week, where Osman’s fellow Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, the world No. 1 in squash, was also honoured.
“Winning with Nour is I think something very important to Arab women, because we are representing Arab, Egyptian women, so the fact that we won this award is just getting awareness and attention from people all over the world that Arab, Egyptian women are capable of competing at the highest level, of being great athletes,” the two-time Olympian told Sport360.
“Hopefully we can use this platform to show the world that we’re capable of competing in sports. So we’re defying the odds and hopefully we will inspire and encourage other young female Arab, Egyptian athletes to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. So hopefully we are good role models for them.”
El Sherbini has been at the top of the squash world rankings for the past 20 consecutive months, and has been making history for Egypt in the sport — winning the British Open, the World Championship and a slew of other prestigious titles.
Happy and proud to win the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award as best Arab Athlete Thank you United Arab of Emirates and everyone who voted and chosen me for this award also Congratulations to Farida Osman for winning the Sports Achievement of the year. pic.twitter.com/bzzmLvMDRf
— Nour el Sherbini (@noursherbini) November 28, 2017
Osman, who has smashed multiple records during her time swimming for UC Berkeley in the NCAA, is back in the United States, pursuing a Masters degree and continuing with her career in the pool, keeping an eye on Tokyo 2020.
She says she’s far from done with the sport and that getting recognised for her swimming is a big motivation to keep going.
“This award means so much to me because it represents what I’ve been working hard for, all my training, all these years, so having to be able to get recognised and acknowledged after all this hard work and this really hard journey is just an amazing feeling. And getting recognised in general, this is what helps athletes to keep going and keep pursuing what they want to achieve,” added Osman.
The MBR Creative Sports Award is not just of great prestige, but it also comes with a significant monetary value, that can help sustain Osman’s career.
“Honestly money wasn’t really my drive to continue swimming or to perform well,” she admits. “I always try to believe and know that I only swim for myself and all these achievements are to me personally, not for the money. Of course money kind of gives you motivation but it’s not the number one driving force. I feel like my number one driving force is just me achieving my goals. And having money on the side is like a bonus.”
FULL LIST OF MBR CREATIVE SPORTS AWARD WINNERS
UAE Sports Personality Award: HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (UAE)
Arab Sports Personality Award: HRH Princess Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (KSA)
UAE Outstanding Athlete Award: Omar Abdul Rahman Al AMoodi (Football)
UAE Referee Award: Ebrahim Yousef Al Mansoori (Beach Soccer)
UAE Coach Award: Saeed Bin Suroor Al Khaldi (Horse Racing)
UAE Organisation Award: UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation
Arab Outstanding Athlete Award: Nour Atef El Sherbini (Egypt – Squash)
Arab Administrator Award: Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Al Gannas (KSA)
Arab Referee Award: Tarek Bin Mohamed Souei (Tunisia)
Arab Coach Award: Faris Ibrahim Al Assaf (Jordan)
Arab Team Award: Iraqi Youth Football Team U16
International Organisation Award (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations): Union Cycliste International (UCI)
International Organisation Award (Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations): International Cricket Council (ICC)
UAE Emerging Athlete Award (Nominees – voting to continue until December 31)
1. Hussain Yousuf Anwar (Football)
2. Ammar Mohammed Al Sedrani (Chess)
3. Maitha Abdulla Hasan (Judo)
4. Wadima Saeed Abdulla (Jiu Jitsu)
5. Omar Mohammed Alwan (Jiu Jitsu)
6. Abdalla Guhloom Al Maazimi (Taekwondo)
Arab Emerging Athlete Award: Mohammed Mustafa Al Sowaiq (KSA – Taekwondo)
Distinguished Athletes Achievement Sports Award: Farida Hisham Osman (Egypt – Swimming)
Difficult Challenges Award (People of Determination Category)
1. Abdellatif Baka (Algeria – Athletics)
2. Fouad Baka (Algeria – Athletics)
Olympic Creative Sports Award
1. Mohammed Gammoudi (Tunisia – Athletics)
2. Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco – Athletics)