History of Ocean Rowing

The early years of ocean rowing

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The first ocean to be deliberately rowed across was the Atlantic by Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo, two Norwegians, in June 1896. The pair left Battery Park, Manhattan, on 6 June 1896, arriving on the Isles of Scilly, 55 days and 13 hours later, having covered 3,250 nautical miles (3,740 mi; 6,020 km). They continued to row to Le Havre, France

The first solo crossing of an ocean was completed by John Fairfax of Britain on 19 July 1969. He rowed from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands to Hollywood Beach, Florida in 180 days. In the same year Tom McClean, also of Britain, rowed from Newfoundland, Canada arriving in Blacksod Bay, Ireland on 27 July 1969. Despite having left almost four months after Fairfax, he came within 8 days of beating Fairfax to the title of first solo rower of any ocean.

In 1974, Derek Paul King and Peter Bird rowed across the Atlantic Ocean from Gibraltar to St. Lucia in Britannia II - the boat designed by Uffa Fox and first rowed by John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook across the Pacific Ocean in 1971/72.

Kathleen and Curtis Saville were the first Americans to row across the Atlantic Ocean from Casablanca to Antigua in 1981 and Kathleen was the first woman to row the North Atlantic Ocean.

Sir Chay Blyth - Challenge Business 

The 1st TransAtlantic Rowing Race

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Since 1966 when he and John Ridgway rowed across the Atlantic, Chay has been pushing the boundaries again and again in sailing, and in business. In 1988 he decided he would like to create a new round the world yacht race that would be open to men and women of any background with no yachting experience required. Challenge Business created other events including the Atlantic Rowing Race which raced from the Canary Islands (La Gomera) to the West Indies (Barbados at this time), a distance of approximately 2,550 nm (2,930 statute miles or 4,700 km). The race was founded in 1997 by Sir Chay Blyth with subsequent races roughly every two years since.


Woodvale Events Limited

The woodvale boats

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Typical old school Woodvale Pure Class Boat

The race was bought by Woodvale Events Ltd., managed by Simon Chalk, in October 2003

Introducing Atlantic Campaigns

In May 2012, Atlantic Campaigns SL, managed by Carsten Heron Olsen bought the rights to the Atlantic Rowing Race, now called The "Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge" - The World's Toughest Row. Since 2015, the race has been held annually starting each December.

"PURE" Class Vs "CONCEPT" Class

In the past the race was originally a success if you crossed the Atlantic Ocean safely. Since the introduction of Atlantic Campaigns and a lot more interest in the race from investors and sponsors the race has become safer and safer every year! This has resulted in the race becoming more competitive for world records and winning the race which has inspired boat designers to create the fastest ocean rowing boats (the F1 of rowing). This has split the race into two classes of boat, "Pure" and "Concept" class. 

  1. Pure class is typically the original ocean rowing boat with a deeper keel.
  2. Concept class are the newer flat bottomed designs that allow surfing with the waves.
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Boat builders such as Rannoch have designed boats purely on concept class since the world records were shattered by this form of boat in 2014. There are many versions of this boat including R20, R45 and R25.

Taking the race to the next level with Rannoch 

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Rannoch Adventure evolved organically from Charlie Pitcher's passion for sea-going adventure and the desire to excel in all aspects of ocean rowing. The sport has become hugely popular in recent years (fact) and continues to grow with events taking place worldwide. Upon completing the 2009 Transatlantic Race, Charlie’s first boat JJ beat the entire fleet and then went on to set the solo world record the following year. Rannoch’s second boat, Soma then smashed this record again soon after. Providing these high quality and innovative boats to the ocean and recreational rowing communities have been driven by Rannoch’s proven track record. It is primarily an ocean rowing company for rowers that is the only rowing business out there that is run by rowers and short-handed sailors.