UAE rowers full of Christmas cheer as they brave Atlantic storms

Three sea-faring friends are attempting to row 5,000km across the Atlantic to raise awareness about marine pollution

Powered by automated translation

A UAE rowing team intends to spend Christmas in high spirits on the high seas as their epic 5,000km journey continues across the Atlantic Ocean.

Toby Gregory, James Raley, and Raimundo Tamagnini of the Arabian Ocean Rowing Team have battled fierce storms and crashing waves since embarking on their voyage on December 12.

The trio are on a 53-day mission to raise awareness about the dangers of marine pollution and will be full of festive cheer when the holiday arrives, despite the weather.

They set off from La Gomera, off the coast of Africa, in their small rowing boat and will finish their gruelling challenge at English Harbour in Antigua.

“We have been hit by storm after storm. We are dealing with bad weather and big waves. But we will be listening to Christmas songs while rowing,” Mr Gregory, 44, an ultra-endurance athlete from the UK, and the founder of the team, told The National.

“It's been a tough first few days but the team has pulled together well. The ocean has thrown everything it can at us and we are still going strong,” he said on a satellite call to Dubai.

His teammates are Raley, 43, a British Army veteran and adventure travel enthusiast, and Tamagnini, 48, a four-times Ironman and mountaineer from Portugal.

Having already spent more than a week in the sea, the team said they are delighted with the progress they are making.

“We achieved our first significant milestone last weekend by passing the first 500km mark,” said Mr Gregory.

“We are basically awake for 20 hours every day. It is taking a toll on our bodies but we are going strong.”

The team has been training for the adventure for nearly two years and is completely unsupported during the expedition. They are relying on desalinated seawater to drink, solar energy to power batteries and electronics, and they have only power bars and dried food to eat.

The team members are taking turns in rowing the boat that is just 8.1m long — that is shorter than two cars.

As part of their partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the team is also taking samples of ocean water from day one through to day 50.

“As conditions settle at the end of this week, we will use the plankton net to begin our trawl for microplastics as part of the work we are doing for the UNEP’s ‘Clean Seas’ initiative.

“Despite the stormy conditions, and being miles away from land, we have still recorded numerous instances of pollution — it is just awful,” he said.

Updated: December 22, 2022, 3:00 AM