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Blackburn Challenge

the most fun competition we've ever raced in

This is our long overdue race report of the 22nd of July Blackburn Challenge, the 20+ mile open water circumnavigating the Cape Ann, close to Boston, USA.

We (myself and Pentti, the other half of the Quiske rowing team) were invited to row in the race by our boat builder friend Ruud van Veelen from Puuvenepiste , a Finnish company building fast beautiful wooden boats we often race in. A boat built by his design was to be ready just in time for the race and Ruud asked whether Quiske team would like to race in it!

Why not, we thought, long distance open water races in lovely wooden boats made by Ruud is actually right up our alley. So we said yes.

The rower and the boat builder (also a rower)

We got to the race venue at Gloucester, Cape Ann, a day before the race and met the builder of our race boat there for the first time. The bright orange boat named "Sisu" (=Finnish for stubborn determination) needed just some final setup and we were to take her on a virgin journey in the 20mile open water race around Cape Ann. I think that is one of the coolest way's for a boat to start her life. Sisu is the first boat Tim has ever built and the Quiske team were honored to get to do the first race in this boat.


My rowing partner Pentti and the boat builder Tim found many similarities in their lives and they had some good laughs. Both had started by rowing indoors on the Ergo and then started rowing on water only later. We promised to do our best in our race and to be careful not to ram against other boats or stones during the narrow stretches of the start.

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The Blackburn challenge rules are few and easy to understand. That's a very good thing.

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Everyone was given a nice souvenir t-shirt with the map on the back: Row it, Paddle it, If you can!

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Never have the Quiske team had such a good support team present during a race. We felt very well taken care of.

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Saturday morning and we were off. The Blackburn challenge is a multi boat race where not only many different types of rowing boats challenge each other but paddleboats are there too, and even paddleboards. It was amazing to see so many different types of water vessels and smiles on the rowers and paddlers faces as we rowed past each other. The start of the race was quite congested but with the laid back atmosphere of the race there were no collisions but instead even time to exchange some jokes between the crews we passed by.

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The weather was lovely for rowing and after the first 10km of narrow stretches with a bit of overtaking paddleboards and some of the slower types of boats we hit flat open water. Lovely. The Sisu boat had a good glide and rowing it feels light.

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We could have rowed back to Europe. Straight line from here.

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20+ miles and we reach the finish. A good row and gold medalists but of course we would have needed some competition in our boat class. Hopefully there will be more doubles joining the race next year and maybe Sisu herself can be on the starting line again?

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Free beer at the Finish! And massage too. The Blackburn challenge is organized by a small team of people but we've never seen a race organized so well and with such good atmosphere.

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Gold medals and a handshake.

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The full team and Sisu on her way home.

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For me this was the most enjoyable race I've ever participated in and I really recommend it warmly to anyone. Thank you to Ruud for inviting us and to Tim for letting us row his lovely boat for the first time ever!



ps. We'll be at the World Rowing Masters Regatta in Bled 6-10th of September, hope to see you there

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