Young Egyptian adventurer Omar Samra is about to break another record with professional Egyptian triathlete Omar Nour by rowing 5,000 nautical kilometres from the Canary Islands to Antigua as part of the Atlantic Challenge.
The journey Samra and Nour are about to take is considered one of the world’s toughest adventures, especially since they will be unsupported and totally on their own.
“The idea of completing a human-powered ocean-crossing always intrigued me, but I knew that this was one perilous adventure I couldn’t do alone,” Samra explained his decision of enlisting Nour for his project, adding that “it takes a certain kind of person to keep going when faced with 50-foot waves, blisters, salt rash, sharks, and sleep deprivation. When an injury side-lined Omar Nour from the Rio 2016 Olympics, I knew I’d found my man.”
Starting on 17 December, the team launches its journey from the Canary Islands, looking to cross the oceans in less than 40 days, 4 hours, and 3 minutes as they aim to break the previous world record achieved by Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway in 1966 and to be the first Arab team to row across an ocean.
“Our personalities are worlds apart—his contagious energy and winning attitude complements my calm demeanour and ability to deal with high pressure situations. Together, we make a formidable team,” Samra added.
In order to start the Atlantic Challenge, the team, nicknamed O2, undergoes a high intensity physical training to transform their bodies into that of elite rowers. The duo will need to undergo sufficient mental training together to be able to handle any situation the elements throw at them. They will also have to obtain multiple qualifications prior to the race, including RYA Yacht-master Ocean Theory, First Aid at Sea, Sea Survival, and VHF Radio License.
The team’s vessel is approximately 7.5 metres long and 1.8 meters broad, and is built of wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and kevlar.
Though both Samra and Nour achieved different accomplishments in their lives, the adventure still gives the team a mixture of feelings between thrill and distress. “While Omar Samra and I are experienced in mountaineering and triathlons, when it comes to rowing an ocean, we’re starting from scratch—we have absolutely no knowledge of the ocean, and had never been in a rowing boat until just a month ago,” Nour said.
“It’s refreshing to try something completely new, to test the limit of our physical and mental strength and to achieve something unthinkable. We want to defy our limits and inspire the world to do the same,” he added.
Omar Nour is the first Egyptian professional triathlete in history, representing Egypt in the Olympic triathlon. This will not be Samra’s first achievement either, as earlier this year he broke down another barrier by being the first one to climb three mountains in Antarctica—all first ascents—during a trip that took 10 days.
Samra named the three mountains after names of his family. One was named “Samra”, another after his late wife “Marwa”, and the third after his daughter “Teela”.
The first ascents concluded seven mountain-climbs in total, six of whichhe climbed through new routes.
In December 2014, he was also the first Egyptian to ski to the South Pole as part of completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a challenge that has only been achieved by around 40 people in history.
Two years earlier, in January 2012, Samra successfully reached the summit of Vinson Massif in his first trip to Antarctica.
Samra was first noticed by a broader audience when he became the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest.
Samra was the only Middle Easterner to be accepted in a global competition which selected 23 individuals for a flight to space in 2013. Three years later, he finished the first step towardsbecoming an astronaut by graduating from the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Qualification Program.
Currently, he uses this as a chance to advance education about outer space and generate interest in science in his home country. He launched a project to raise students’ awareness forclimate change and outer space.