Rowers train in Dubai for trans-Pacific ocean race

'Guy in Dubai' star Paris Norriss leads a team of four into one of the toughest challenges on Earth

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A band of childhood friends have reunited in Dubai to begin a six-month training programme before tackling an arduous challenge ― to row 4,500 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean.

Led by adventurer Paris Norriss, who fronts the Guy in Dubai online travel show, Barney Lewis, Oliver and Harry Amos hope to raise more than Dh650,000 ($177,000) for marine conservation and military veteran charities by competing in one of the toughest races on the planet.

The team plan to set off on their journey sometime in June, depending on tides and weather.

Their tailor-made boat has arrived in Dubai and is being put through its paces in the Arabian Gulf, ahead of what promises to be the biggest challenge each of the four crew has undertaken.

“We wanted to do something purposeful with our lives as a collective,” said Norriss, who went to school with Oliver at Millfield School in Somerset, England.

“I met up with Olly in Dubai after some years, as I was filming adventure documentaries here.

“The combination of my adventures and our bond over the years seemed to work, so we got together and called in Barney, who was another school friend, to join the crew.”

Intrepid team set to make waves

Oliver Amos is a Stockholm-based energy storage specialist, an avid wakeboarder, mono-skier, paramotorist and master juggler.

His brother, Harry, is a Dubai-based consultant importing sustainable technology into the UAE, and a former captain in the British Army, in which he served for for 11 years, with two tours of Afghanistan.

Mr Lewis, meanwhile, is a strategy consultant in London specialising in ventures, a paramotorist and ski instructor.

The team have started training under the guidance of Gus Barton, an expert at preparing people for ocean rowing challenges.

Sponsorship soon followed to cover the Dh590,000 costs of the trip, and an additional collection to donate to charities.

They included the Blue Marine Foundation, a charity dedicated to restoring the ocean to health by addressing overfishing, and the Invictus Games, a foundation that supports military veterans.

Charting their journey

The team is also making a documentary of their challenge, to be shown on Amazon Prime and the inflight-channels of several airlines, including Emirates and Etihad.

Only 81 people have rowed across the Pacific Ocean, and the team is preparing to compete against 20 boats that will aim to set a world record for the crossing by finishing in less than 30 days and five hours.

“Until [recently], none of us had ever rowed across a river,” Norriss said.

“We have been on rowing machines for the last six months, but now we have our boat we can practise on the water.

“We all have a background in sport, but rowing is very different and new.”

In the first week of having the boat, the team completed 55 hours of rowing and included one 36-hour session.

They plan to take about 40 days to row from Monterrey in California to the Hawaiian islands.

Their rowing boat is 7.5 metres long and has a fresh-water-making machine on board powered by solar panels.

It is designed to self-correct if capsized, and has two cabins for rest. The crew will row in two-hour shifts, continuously for the duration of the challenge.

That rota will change only if a crew members falls ill, so they will be operating on a maximin of 90 minutes sleep at a time, with sleep deprivation and the associated mental challenges likely to be the biggest hurdle.

To prepare, the rowers have been waking at 3am to complete intense sessions on a rowing machine.

“I’m most worried about sharks,” Norriss said. “We have to clean the bottom of the boat every four days or so, which will mean one of us getting into the water.

“We expect to see a load of dolphins, migrating whales and, of course, sharks, who are usually curious at what food could fall off the boat.

“The wildlife will be amazing, and the sunsets like nowhere else on the planet ― but it will be very tough.”

Updated: January 06, 2023, 6:57 AM