Paul Attalla will attempt 5,500km journey

Darren Kruse/For Metro Calgary


Paul Attalla will be the first Canadian to compete in the 5,500-km Atlantic Rowing Race beginning on Dec. 2. Attalla will be in Calgary on July 14 at Cowboys Nightclub for a fundraising event.

Nicole Attalla has had some time to accept the danger of her husband’s upcoming 5,500-kilometre journey across the Atlantic Ocean — by row boat.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ I was a little overwhelmed,” she said.

“But, it’s not surprising. I’ve learned that Paul is always on to something big and something grand.”

Paul Attalla will attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean in the Atlantic Rowing Race beginning on Dec. 2 — an ultra-endurance challenge in which no other Canadian has ever competed, let alone qualified for.

This year, 46 teams will compete and Attalla’s boat will be the only one flying the Canadian flag.

The 36-year-old former Calgarian and father of two daughters, Joy, 2, and Amy, seven months, has had this plan in mind since 2000.

Attalla has long dreamed of crossing the Atlantic by row boat and said the Atlantic Rowing Race presented an opportunity to compete with safety support, instead of doing it alone.

Though safety boats patrol the waters alongside competitors, Paul and Nicole still harbour some concerns about safety as the rowers are left to their own devices during the 100-day race.

“There’s going to be lots of times when I am going to have to make a conscious decision to totally stop racing and start surviving,” Attalla said, noting past competitors have faced tropical storms, shark attacks and waves as high as 50 feet.

“The ocean is big, unforgiving and there’s not a lot of room for error.

“I’m going to be scared out of my mind for quite a bit of this race.”

Attalla is confident his “super-sophisticated” boat, natural nautical-sense and ongoing training are going to serve him well in the journey from San Sebastian, La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the West Indies.

The biggest challenge leading up to the race, he says, is funding the endeavour.

Costs to compete in this event are near $200,000. The 24-foot boat Attalla will row rings in at $80,000, and includes the latest in safety equipment.

Vacuum-sealed food, a water maker, travel costs and race fees make up the bulk of the remaining costs.

Over the next four months leading up to the race, Attalla is looking for support to defray the expense of competition.

A fundraising event has been scheduled in Calgary for Saturday, July 14, at Cowboys Nightclub.

Tickets are $20 in advance, and a 10-ticket minimum purchase is required — no-line entry between 4 and 6 p.m. Call 809-1791 for details.

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