Essex River Race 2009  



Blackburn Challenge Race Course

The standard race runs clockwise around Cape Anne, starting in the Annisquam River north of the railroad bridge and finishes on the beach near the Greasy Pole.

Blackburn Challenge Google Image Course

The above image illustrates the approximate course

Race Charts:

Blackburn Challenge Chart

Click for larger version of chart. This chart is not suitable for navigation. Please use for reference only - Transfer the waypoints to your own official chart.

Additional Downloadable Versions:
Blackburn Race Chart 1
Blackburn Race Chart 2

After the “Fog Event” of 2006, CARC created two other acceptable courses to increase the likelihood a race occurs given the number of entries and the distance they travel to do our race.  These alternate courses have been approved by the Coast Guard in the event of foul weather.  The Coast Guard and CARC want to stress the importance of safety and have agreed that CARC and/or the Coast Guard will modify races if absolutely necessary.  The courses are:

Blackburn Challenge Traditional Course:  As we all know and love… Circumnavigation of Cape Ann.  Starting line in Annisquam River.  Racers proceed right, point to point if they so chose.  At half way point (Straitsmouth) racers check in so that boat numbers can be recorded for safety. Proceed around Eastern Point and finish line is under the greasy pole in Gloucester Harbor. Boat numbers must be called out to the timing boat at the Greasy Pole.

Alternate Courses (Updated June 2014)
We have come up with two alternate courses based on the logistics of getting 400+ racers in 300 boats from start to finish in an organized fashion.  The considerations for moving to “plan B” are as follows:

  • We need to have some sort of event on the scheduled day, as we cannot cancel all of the celebration food and rentals.
  • We need to start the race no later than 10 a.m. based on the scenario.  The delayed start time allows for decisions and movement of racers and boats to the appropriate starting line.
  • Wind conditions generating building seas greater than 6 feet over the course of the morning of the race.
  • Fog conditions with visibility of less than two miles.
  • The safety equipment that is carried by the racer.
  • The ability of the onshore management to track each racer on the water and knowing what race equipment they carry.
  • The number of chase boats needed to ensure safety/tracking on the water.

The Traditional Course is a circumnavigation of the Cape.  The starting line is in the Annisquam River, and after leaving the river the racers may proceed right, point-to-point if they so chose.  At halfway (Straitsmouth) the racers check in and boat numbers are radioed in to the ham radio center at the finish line.  In the alternate courses this would also occur at the turn arounds. Each chase boat has a ham radio. The timing team monitoring the start and finish have a computerized list of the racers who are left on the water.  They coordinate with the hams.  As the racers finish, the boat numbers are called to the computer people to enter results.  All boats are accounted for very accurately with this system.

The North Course alternate would be used in extreme fog conditions and a S/SE wind.  This has racers starting at the original starting line in the Annisquam at the Gloucester Marina.  Chase boats would be located at the exit of the river and along the course where coves could be a problem.  The race needs to be done within visibility of land (in fog), and inside the chase boat markings.  (Please refer to maps).  The turn around point for the race would be at Front Beach before Rockport Harbor.  The racers would retrace their steps back to the Annisquam and finish line is the same as the start line.  Take out is at the high school.

In fog conditions that are as severe as three years ago, we would know which racers have GPS, chart and compass.  The management would ensure the racer has the equipment by checking each racer at the docks before entering the race and proceeding to the starting line.  The management would already have a start list available for that condition and would be able to switch its tracking to only those boats that are properly prepared to take on “pea soup”.   In lighter fog, racers need to maintain visibility of land and keep it on the right side of the boat until they turn around.  With this simple idea we feel the entire fleet could go out.

The South Course is a plan for extreme North wind conditions.  Racers would be protected from the wind by the Cape.  Racers would need to proceed through the canal to the greasy pole for the starting line.  Again, the delay allows for the shift to the beach in a safe fashion. Racers would exit Gloucester Harbor and proceed left around the cape up to Straitsmouth and turn around to come back to the harbor.  If Straitsmouth is too rough we would turn around near Emerson Point. Chase boats would be concentrated along the course for adequate tracking.  The finish line would be the greasy pole.  Take out on the beach as usual.

Should a racer pull out of the race it is his/her responsibility to notify race officials by phone.  This phone number is given at the pre-race briefing and the ham radio center holds the phone.  Racers need to have a whistle and life vest on board. Racers are made aware that this is an advanced paddling or rowing course that is on open ocean.

Charts will be available at the check-in with pre-plotted waypoints for the races.  A ham radio person with be with the race coordinator on land during the morning of the race to communicate changes.

Again, we want to emphasize that we want to do the Traditional Course of the Blackburn Challenge unless we are experiencing extreme conditions