Abu Dhabi rowers complete epic 400km island tour to celebrate emirate's natural beauty

Plans to donate coastal rowing boats to launch potential Olympic programme

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A determined UAE team has completed an epic 400km rowing challenge across 11 Abu Dhabi islands in 10 days to celebrate the natural beauty of the emirate and promote an active lifestyle.

The squad, made up of four lead rowers and three support crew, capped off the inaugural Row Abu Dhabi on Friday after reaching Yas Island.

They camped out at some of the islands overnight, before continuing on their gruelling journey the following day.

The island-hopping tour started in Ghagha, before daily stops at Dalma, Sir Baniyas, Fatayer, Al Bazm, Marawah, Salahah, Al Jirab, Al Nouf and Nurai.

The impressive feat was inspired by Mansour Al Dhaheri, who took part in the row after swimming 62km around Abu Dhabi Island in March.

Oar-inspiring mission

“What I truly learnt from this journey was that having a purpose keeps your bearing true and that hard work, and smart work, really pays off,” said Mr Al Dhaheri who led the team of seven rowers for the challenge.

“By surrounding yourself with the right people, it was possible not just to endure the journey but also to enjoy it.

“We found out that Abu Dhabi is even more beautiful than we knew before the trip and that our coastline is well looked after, with beautiful clean waters.”

Alongside Mr Al Dhaheri were Sarra Lajnef, Yahya Fadhel AlHammadi and Kaluperimage Arnolis Don Arjuna, who were supporters by rowers Ohoud Musabeh Sailm, Faris Salem Alzaabi and Sultan Ahmed Sayed Saleh Alali.

The challenge was launched by Active Abu Dhabi, supported by Khalifa University and event sponsors to promote the environmental surroundings of the capital and encourage a more active lifestyle.

The four coastal rowing boats used during the 26 weeks of training by the seven athletes, who rowed an astonishing 15 million metres in preparation for the challenge, are set to be donated to the Abu Dhabi Marine Sports Club to encourage more people to take up the sport and launch a potential Olympic rowing programme.

Khalifa University was involved in the challenge by developing desalination units for the crew to provide clean drinking water throughout the 10-day event.

The purification systems developed by the university and used by the rowers were an example of technology that could be used on a wider scale to capture air humidity and salt water to transform into fresh water supplies.

“As well as bringing the community together, the Active Abu Dhabi network has managed to encourage and promote the importance of protecting wildlife, and conservation of important areas the team rowed through,” said Nick Cochrane-Dyet, chair of the Abu Dhabi British Chamber of Commerce and event advisor.

A community rowing event at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi is now planned for Saturday, November 18 to encourage teams of four to take part and challenge themselves to row continuously for an hour.

Organisers hope those inspired by the Row Abu Dhabi Islands Tour will take up the challenge and the chance to with prizes.

“There were moments throughout the 10-day mission where we did not think we would finish,” said Dr Paul Walker, a Hintsa Performance Coach and Active Abu Dhabi Programme Manager, who worked with the rowers in their preparation.

“All the work put in by the entire team over the last six months really paid off. We pulled together to overcame all the obstacles in what was another hugely successful step on the Active Abu Dhabi journey.”

Updated: November 13, 2023, 2:48 PM