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.
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