The Blackburn Challenge


The Blackburn Challenge, held on July 12 this year, is the premier human-powered open-water event on the East Coast. One of the reasons why this event has been recognized as one of the best open water races in America is due to the venue ‘ a 20+ mile circumnavigation of Cape Ann Massachusetts ‘ a course that inevitably serves up a wide variety of conditions on the water. The first three or so miles of the race are along the protected and tidal Annisquam River, resulting in something akin to a head race, but with plenty more interesting obstacles to avoid (mooring and navigation buoys, boats, docks, etc.) and a 17 mile open water race after it. 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 of Gloucester Harbor to Pavillion Beach, are usually plagued by confused boat wakes from numerous fishing, whale watch and pleasure boats going in all directions. Each year at the Blackburn brings us a very different story, making the event so interesting for open-water aficionados. One thing that thankfully remains the same each year is the fun time after finishing ‘ cold beer, massages, good music and food and the inevitable harrowing stories from the event. The 2008 Blackburn Challenge will be the 27th running of the event.

All event information may be found at the event website: