The Historic Race Celebrates a Row of Survival in the Atlantic

The Blackburn Challenge is a historic race, an open water 20-mile circumnavigation of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.  The race celebrates the desperate winter row of two fishermen, Howard Blackburn and Thomas Welch,  who had been separated from their Schooner, The Grace L. Fears, during a squall.  Sixty miles from land, rowing for life in a small wooden dory, the two men were at sea for five days.  Welch did not survive the ordeal while Blackburn continued rowing on, with his hands frozen to the shape of the oars, until he reached land. (His story is told in Joseph E. Garland’s “Lone Voyager”)

New England paddlers consider the race a grueling accomplishment due to the New England conditions with reverberating rocky waves.  This is not a flatwater race nor is it a downwinder.  It is usually exceptionally hot, humid. But it’s great fun, you should try it if you can!

The race begins at the Gloucester High School and ends off the shore of  Pavilion Beach, just under the Greasy Pole Landmark.

The 2018 Blackburn Challenge was Sunny and Fast

With no inclement weather and a light wind, this year’s Blackburn was sunny and warm and the times were fast.  Here are some highlights showing the different boats with a few Nelos and Braca-sport paddles you may recognize.  For New England surf ski Braca fans, the Braca paddle of choice is a Braca XI with a 19K shaft.  Keep an eye out for Ted Van Dusen and Annemoon Van Erp in a light blue rowing shell in the second photo. Braca-sport® licenses Ted’s design for the popular Braca XI Van Dusen ’92.  This is the Van Dusen Racing Boat paddle #8 when first developed at  Van Dusen Racing Boats.

Blackburn 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 photos at