The Blackburn Challenge—a 20-plus-mile, open-water circumnavigation of Cape Ann, Massachusetts—will take place Saturday, July 20, rain, fog or shine.

The event both celebrates and helps to keep alive the story of Howard Blackburn’s desperate mid-winter 1883 rowing of a small fishing dory from the Burgeo Bank fishing grounds to refuge on the south coast of Newfoundland. Blackburn and his dory mate, Thomas Welch, had become separated from the Gloucester fishing schooner Grace L. Fears during a sudden squall and found themselves nearly 60 miles from the nearest land. Over the course of the ensuing 5-day ordeal, Welch would give up and succumb to a merciful death, whereas Blackburn would allow his bare hands to freeze to the shape of the oars, and row until he reached land.

Though Blackburn survived he ultimately suffered the loss of most of his fingers and toes due to frostbite. In spite of his handicap, he later went on to twice sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean, earning himself the title “The Fingerless Navigator”. His story is told in Joseph E. Garland’s “Lone Voyager”.
The Blackburn Challenge is open to all seaworthy oar- or paddle-powered craft. Classes include men’s and women’s Banks dories, fixed seat singles, doubles, multi-oars with cox, multi-oars without cox, sliding seat singles & doubles, single & double touring kayaks, single & double racing kayaks, surf skis, and outrigger canoes, in about that order. Refer to the enclosed sheet for anticipated start times. A final breakdown of heats and classes will be announced at the skipper’s meeting as well as changes to course if warranted.

Form more information go to the Blackburn Challenge by CLICKING HERE.


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