The History

The story of ocean rowing starts with a magnificent tale of daring in the summer of 1896.  The editor of The National Police Gazette published in New York, Richard Kyle Fox, offered a $10,000 prize to the first men to row across the Atlantic.  Anxious to improve their fortunes, New Jersey clam fishermen Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo took on the challenge, investing their life savings in an open 18 foot, clinker-built boat named Fox, after the editor.  Originally from Norway, they carried a sextant and compass for navigation and oilskins to protect themselves from the harsh weather.  They set off from New York in June and amazingly survived, completing this historic journey and arrived at the Scilly Isles, UK on 1 August 1896 in 55 days.


The first ocean row on the Pacific didn’t take place until 1971.  Seasoned adventurer and the first man to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean set off from San Francisco, USA with his girlfriend Silvia Cook.  Despite three false starts, where the wind blew them back into San Francisco Bay, they finally managed to row through the Golden Gate and set off on their island-hopping route across the ocean in their boat Britannia II.  Following a strong northerly wind, they struggled to make much headway in their comparatively large 35ft long double-ended boat and eventually pulled in at Ensenada, Mexico for more supplies, before carrying on to Washington Island and then Onotoa where the boat was damaged and towed to Tarawa for repairs.  After the repairs were finished they got back on board Britannia II and set off finally landing at Hayman Island just off the coast of Australia.  This epic journey took them just under a year and they became the first ever boat to row the Pacific.

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Since 1972 others have rowed the Pacific following a variety of different routes but to date only 13 solos and two pairs have rowed any route on the Pacific from East to West.  Check out details of all the previous rowing routes and crossing times.  The first Great Pacific Race in 2014 saw 34 individuals making up 13 crews and representing 10 different countries, set out from Monterey to row to Honolulu, Hawaii.  The crews and individuals within the Great Pacific Race set and broke many, many world records.  The Great Pacific Race is history in the making.

Learn more about the boats that row the ocean.