21st Annual Blackburn Challenge


The Blackburn Challenge is held in Gloucester every July and is the East’s premier human powered open water event. The event’s namesake is the toughest of a tough breed of dorymen from a century ago, Howard Blackburn. This year’s 21st running on July 21st is also, for the first time, the North American Open Water Rowing Championship. Top west coast competitors from the hotbeds of Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay will be vying with the best of the east for the title of North American Open Water Champion in men’s and women’s single and double shells. This year’s competitors are the top names in the discipline of open water rowing and paddling. Among them are current open-water rowing champions Dan Gorriaran from Rhode Island (men’s single) and Tyler Peterson and Evan Jacobs (men’s doubles) from Seattle. Vying for the singles title this year are past Blackburn champions Rich Klajnscek of Gloucester and Dana Gaines of Martha’s Vineyard. Other notables in paddling divisions include1988 Olympic kayak double gold medalist Greg Barton and 2001 trans-Atlantic rowing racers Tom Mailhot of Ipswich and John Zeigler, this year paddling in separate divisions.

One of the reasons why this event is so great is the venue ‘ a 20 mile circumnavigation of Cape Ann ‘ a course that inevitably serves up conditions that vary dramatically throughout the day ‘ based on weather and location on the course. Each year’s weather serves up a completely new experience for competitors and keeps open-water aficionados coming back year after year. Just ask Henry Szostek of Manchester who has never missed a Blackburn over the past twenty editions of the race, this year being no different.

The first few miles are along the protected tidal Annisquam River. Once the river empties into the open waters of Ipswich Bay, the wind strength and direction play a decisive role in determining the conditions of the day, which range from relative calm (it’s never a flat water event) to very rough (staying upright and afloat trump the idea of competition). The last couple of miles from the Dogbar breakwater at the entrance to Gloucester Harbor to Pavillion Beach, are usually plagued by confused boat wakes from numerous fishing, whale watch and pleasure vessels blasting in all directions.

Date: Saturday, July 21, 2007
Start: 7:00 a.m. crew meeting, Gloucester High School
7:45 a.m. start, Gloucester Marina
Finish: Pavillion Beach (at Greasy Pole), beginning around 10:15 a.m.

Rich Klajnscek
President, Cape Ann Rowing Club
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