By Alex Chhith

Nabil Amra will be representing Palestine in the race around the world. (Submitted photo)

270 days.

That’s how long Nabil Amra hopes it takes for him to sail around the world, as part of the 2018 Golden Globe Race.

The trek commemorates the 50th anniversary of a 1968 round-the-world yacht race and is approximately 30,000 miles long, starting at Les Sables D’Olonne, France on July 1. As part of the race, the Chaska native will be sailing as the original competitors did, solo and without modern devices, like a GPS.

Racers will head south past Africa, and then make their way east around the world before turning north past South America back to France – determining their location by the stars and the sun.

To race, Amra has spent over $300,000 of his own money and has quit his job as a U.S. Bank foreign exchange trader in Minneapolis for the trip of a lifetime.

“I thought it would be a little project,” said Amra, 43, of the race. “It turned out to have a lot of moving parts.”

Sailing began a hobby over a decade ago, with his brother, Ziad Amra on the waters of Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) and evolved into a passion. It reminds Amra of his late father, Dr. Waleed Amra, who died in 2005 and was a well-known Chaska doctor. Dr. Amra worked for 30 years in the community and served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

Amra graduated from Chaska High School in 1993.

“No GPS — that added a whole new element to it. I thought, ‘Well, this sounds interesting,’” he said.

“Everyone is on slow moving, family boats designed in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so there’s no real huge advantage from one boat to the next.”

Amra’s family is excited for his trip and plans to fly to France when he starts and finishes the race.

“Honestly, I was initially really, really worried for him,” said his sister Jeanine Amra, who lives in Chaska. “I kept asking him questions like ‘Are you sure? Is this really what you want to do? You’re giving up a lot to do it.’ I think it took a little bit of time to get me on board and the rest of the family on board.”

There’s a number of obstacles out at sea, including 60-foot waves, strong winds and unpredictable weather, Jeanine added.

Only one sailor from the 1968 race finished. The others dropped out or died during the race.

“I think the emotional part will be one of the harder parts,” she said, noting that there won’t be anyone there to help him or talk to him in person.

After seeing Amra plan the trip, his family felt less worried.

“We just had to see his preparation and planning and level of drive to do this,” Jeanine said, adding he is resourceful, driven and has a sense of adventure.

“Once he sets his mind to something it’s something he’s going to do,” she said.

COMMUNITY

Amra has had an outpouring of support from his friends and family.

A GoFundMe page Amra set up has raised over $25,000 for the race. Others have also donated cassette tapes for Amra to listen to during the journey, helped him find a way to transport his sailboat to France, and given him meals to freeze dry and eat during his trek.

That will be his primary source of food, as he doesn’t know if he’ll catch any fish during the voyage.

“I’m not one to ask for help, but these people recognized, on their own accord, and really reached deep,” he said. “They knew I needed help and they came out of the woodwork — that’s everything Minnesota is great for.”

Some of his Chaska High School friends will be watching him train before the race and bid him adieu the day it begins.

The support the community has given him would have made his father proud.

“I think what would have warmed his heart the most, was the way the local community came out and taken it under its wing. I think that would make him smile,” he said.

Amra said he believes he’ll be thinking a lot about his father while on his voyage.

“He was an adventurous spirit, and was a kid at heart. He talked fondly of his days in the Navy,” he said.

PALESTINE

Amra, a Palestinian-American, will be sailing under the American and Palestinian flags. The Palestine flag will be in support of Palestinian people to sail and live freely, he said.

When Amra and his siblings were children, Dr. Amra moved them back to the West Bank so they would understand the issues facing Palestinians.

“I think he would have liked this at so many levels and to be able to raise the American and Palestinian flag on the boat would have definitely warmed his heart,” Amra said, of his father.

“In 1987, my father moved our family back to the West Bank just in time for the Intifada. During those years, like so many other Palestinian children, my time was spent in daily protest to the injustice, humiliation, and oppression suffered under occupation,” Amra wrote on his GoFundMe page. “The experience profoundly transformed me and my heart never stopped thinking about it.”

Palestinians have had a history of sailing, but struggle to continue their traditions, Amra said. Currently, Israel and Egypt have a land, air and sea blockade against the Gaza strip.

Sailing is known to be dangerous in Palestine, Amra said.

“I will be sailing under the Palestinian flag as a showing of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and their unyielding desire for freedom,” he wrote. “Racing under the Palestinian flag is a way of supporting the 6 million people, who have had the hardest 70 years imaginable, and perhaps give them something to cheer for.”

By the numbers

Nabil Amra is one of 19 contestants from 13 countries taking part in the 2018 Golden Globe Race, as of May. The maximum number of entrants is 30.

Amra estimates he has spent nearly $320,000 so far in preparation for the race around the world.

The race is approximately 30,000 miles. Amra hopes to finish it within 270 days.

For more information on Amra’s journey and to donate visit: www.gofundme.com/teampalestineggr

For more information on the race go to: goldengloberace.com/ggr/

Items not allowed on journey

“GPS, radar, chart plotters and electronic charts, electronic wind instruments, electronic log, mobile phone, iPhone, iPod, Kindle or any computer based device, CD players, electronic watches/clocks, video cameras and electronic cameras, electronics of any kind, satellite equipment of any kind, digital binoculars, pocket calculators, water-maker, carbon fibre, spectra, any high-tech materials etc.” (Source: goldengloberace.com)