East Coast USA! This region is totally primed to undergo a coastal rowing explosion. There are plenty of races already established, especially in New England, where open water racing has been going strong for over three decades. Let's fill these races up with Rebels and other FISA boats and develop a strong class that embraces the international coastal community while celebrating the unique American tradition already established.
Here’s a curated selection of races waiting for you:
(Specific dates are for 2017 but also indicate typical time frames annually)
The Essex River Race. May 20. Essex, MA 5.5 miles http://www.blackburnchallenge.com
This multi-class race starts up in the Essex River and winds out towards the mouth and back. It’s a brutal steering challenge through the constantly curving river. Watch for hidden shoals just under the surface. Rocks lurk everywhere, reaching for your hull. Slower traditional boats start first, so coastal rowers also need to weave through the fleets of museum quality, classic wooden hulls. Plenty of wind-versus-current chop makes this river race decidedly more than “flat water.”
Provincetown Coastal Rowing Regatta. June 10. Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA. 8K https://www.regattacentral.com/regatta/?job_id=4968
This year was the second running of this race. Its one of the first races held under the international format, featuring buoy turns and FISA rules. It’s a must-do event for rowers looking to get a taste of international-style coastal competition. And it’s P-town in the summer--‘nuff said!
The Misery Challenge. July 15. Manchester, MA. 4 miles http://www.miserychallenge.com/home/
Misery. Challenge. I like the sound of it. I haven’t done this one yet, but thought I’d include it because it's promoted by Josh Crosby, who seems to have the fitness lifestyle (and marketing!) down. The event was also recently featured by USRowing as one of the best new races. So it might get big. There are no boat classes yet, but if we get a bunch of FISA boats racing in it, we can probably make a class by storm. I’ll race it this year, check it all out, and let you know how it is.
The Blackburn Challenge. July 22. Gloucester, MA. 20 miles http://www.blackburnchallenge.com
Think you're tough? Think again, because Howard Blackburn defined rowing toughness a long time ago! But you can row the race held in his honor, the Blackburn Challenge – a big 20 miles around Cape Ann, MA. Entering its 31st running this year, this "all-paddle" event is the biggest overall coastal rowing event on the East Coast. It’s a veritable parade of rowing craft: everything from Hawaiian canoes (with teams travelling from the islands!) to traditional Banks Dories to crazy people lying prone on a board and paddling with their hands. Generally the weather is mild, but a couple years ago there were 4+ft. breakers, boats breaking in half, and a whole slew of DNFs. Since it circles a cape, you get to play in multiple wind and sea conditions. The Blackburn is a sort of “must do” right of passage for eastside coastal rowers.
Ventnor City Coastal Regatta. July 29. Ventnor City, New Jersey. 8K https://www.regattacentral.com/regatta/?job_id=5247
Another new coastal race! This will be year #1 for this event. The location seems good: right by the big rowing hub of Philadelphia. Come on Boathouse Row, get some salt under your skin!
Minot’s Light Roundabout. September 17. Cohasset, MA. 4.2miles. http://www.rowcmi.com/events/cohasset-maritime-institute-minots-light-roundabout/
(I won’t trigger onto any weather crises discussions here…but) the last few years of this race have seen unusually rough conditions...which is pretty awesome. I missed it last year, but the last time I raced this course there were overhead waves. So if you were on a different wave than the boat behind you, you couldn’t see it unless you were on top of your wave! That just about locked it into a permanent slot as one my favorite races. It’s a nice course that brings rowers to a scenic lighthouse and back to the beach. I’ll pray to whatever weather gods have been gracing this race to keep it stoked with the proper, respectable waves that coastal racing needs.
Great Peconic Race. September 9. Shelter Island, NY. 19.5 miles http://greatpeconicrace.com/#home
This "multi-paddle" event circumnavigating Shelter Island is the new kid on the long distance rowing block. This year will be the third to include rowing, and the fourth overall (it started as a paddle-only race). The cool thing about this race is that it is about the same length as, yet totally different from, the Blackburn Challenge. There are plenty of lively currents running through the course, enough to really test your water skills – if you can discover where the still water or counter currents are, you will pick up tons of time. There are a lot of short choppy waves that churn through these currents, so if you can surf these little buggers you will pick up another block of time. In fact, this is the type of race in which you can be generally slower than another rower, yet beat them across the line by rowing the course more cleverly. But here are the important parts: this race has a killer post-race party! And it’s the only race that I have ever been given a check for winning…yup….you read that right: prize money!
There’s a group in Pensacola who are pumped about turning Florida into a thriving coastal rowing center. They brought a bunch of boats over from Europe before anyone else, and held the first international (FISA) coastal rowing regatta in the US in 2015. Waiting to hear what’s next from this group!
Coastal Rowing is happening out there, and it's growing. Join the community, spread the word. Lets get our rowing unleashed!