Essex River Race 2009  


Cape Ann Rowing Club - Event Rules & Boat Classifications

The Cape Ann Rowing Club reserves the right, at any time, to:

  • Refuse to register any individual or boat.
  • Expel or disqualify any individual or boat for lack of required equipment, unsafe operation, disregard for event rules or unsportsmanlike behavior.
  • Disqualify any individual or boat who has gained an advantage by drafting any boat outside of its registered class, blocking an overtaking boat, ignoring someone in distress, or causing damage to another craft.

Time Limits:
Essex River Race: For safety reasons, all participants MUST clear the course within two hours of their starting time.
Blackburn Challenge: 6 Hour limit to complete course. If you are not at Straitsmouth 3 hours after your start time, you will be expected to pull out of the race and notify the committee. Chase Boats and Timing will finish after 6 hours. Racers are paddling at their own risk after 6 hours on the course. Please plan appropriately if you believe you can not complete in 6 hours.

Updated Essex River Race Rules - March 2016 (in addition to the applicable Blackburn Rules):
-No earbuds - Participants need to have full awareness of other boats which may be going in the opposited direction.

Updated Blackburn Challenge Rules - June 2017:

You will be paddling, rowing, or drowning in a 20 mile open ocean event. The inherent risks for hypothermia, hyperthermia, or other physical medical emergency is possible. The inherent risks for natural open ocean conditions are very large waves, mixed up current, strong wind, fog, precipitation and lightning during storms and you may be exposed to these or more. You are responsible to rescue yourself should you overturn. You are responsible to wear the safety equipment needed for this kind of extreme event including whistle, life vest, and communications as in hand held VHF. Man eating fish are present in the ocean. There are fishing vessels and much boat traffic creating hazard for collision.

The CARC is not responsible for your choice to take these risks, and CARC wants you to know your decision to do the Blackburn Challenge is best supported by prior experience with said conditions as noted above.

While participating in the Blackburn Challenge I understand that:

1) I am required to carry a communication device (VHF radio and/or cell phone).
2) I am required to carry a noisemaker.
3) I am required to notify the race committee immediately if I pull out of the race.
4) I am required to wear or carry a PFD on board my vessel.
5) I am required to carry a GPS and/or compass.
6) I am required to carry my own provisions (food and hydration).
7) If paddling a kayak, I am required to use a spray skirt. - Added 11/2015
8) If I do not reach the half-way point (Straitsmouth Island) within 3 hours of my starting time, I am expected to pull out of the race and notify the race committee.
9) If I do not reach the finish line within 6 hours of my start time, I am expected to pull out of the race and notify the race committee.
10) Chase boats are not obligated to remain on the course beyond the 6-hour mark.
11) I may be on my own for most of the course and I feel confident about my open-water skills.
12) I am required to clear the boat ramp at GHS in a timely manner when putting in and taking out.
13) I may not park in areas designated for boat trailers at GHS.
14) I may not park my vehicle in the Chamber of Commerce parking lot.
15) At the after-race party, I am required to stay within the fenced area with alcoholic beverages (do not bring alcohol on the beach).
16) I am ultimately and solely responsible for my safety during this event and participate at my own risk.
17) If I do not comply with these rules, set forth by the race committee and the City of Gloucester, I may be banned from this race in the future.

Boat Classifications:

Rowed Boats:

  •  Fixed Seat: Oar-on-gunwale boats only.  Fixed seat boats with outriggers are in the Open Class division.
  •  Sliding Seat Touring: Singles and doubles with overall length to overall beam ratio less than or equal to 9:1 or overall length less than or equal to 19' (singles) or 23' (doubles).
  •  Sliding Seat Racing: Singles and doubles longer and narrower than Sliding Seat Touring boats.
  •  Workboat: Traditional displacement (load-bearing) rowing craft, peapods and dories that are propelled with two oars per rower. Traditional Banks Dories are workboats but have their own classification.
  •  FISA Coastal Sliding Seat - C1x: The Cape Ann Rowing Club is pleased to add the "FISA Coastal" Sliding Seat Class to the Blackburn Challenge. Currently we have just one singles class for men and women, "C1x". Depending on demand, we will consider adding a mens and womens class, as well as a doubles class.

    While we are following the FISA Coastal boat classification, the Blackburn Challenge is NOT a formal FISA Coastal race. Below are the full FISA Coatal boat specification. Please note the 35kg weight minimum:


Paddled Boats - Surfskis:

Traditionally all surfskis have been included in the "HPK" class. In 2013 we decided to add a new surfskis class called the "SS20Plus" class. This class is based upon the length to width dimensions of the surfski, very similar to the kayak FSK class. The SS20Plus class objective is to have this class of surfskis race independently instead of being part of the FSK sea kayak class like previous years. Anyone paddling a SS20Plus surfski can still participate in the HPK class if they would like, but no longer the FSK class like prior years

To determine if a surfski is part of the SS20Plus class, use the manufactures dimensions and divide the length by width. If less then 11.25, then you can race in the SS20Plus class (or HPK class if you wish). Any surfski with a ratio of 11.25 or greater will race in the HPK class.

To help determining if you surfski in the SS20Plus class, we created the table below of many popular models that may be in question. If you do not see your surfski, just calculate the length to width ration and if under 11.25 register in the SS20Plus Class.

Paddled Boats - Kayaks:

Starting in 2008, Blackburn kayak classification will be based on a system originated by the Sound Rowers, a consortium of race organizers in the Puget Sound area.  In this system, kayaks are classified into one of three categories “based on waterline length to width ratio. Those boats with a L:W ratio less than 9.25:1 are in the Sea Kayak class (SK); between 9.25:1 to 11.5:1 are in the Fast Sea Kayak class (FSK); greater than 11.5:1 are in the High Performance Kayak class (HPK)”. See below for more information on determining L:W ratio.

You will be placed in an appropriate category by the race committee based on the information you provide about your boat during registration.  We ask that when you register, you provide exact information about the manufacturer and model of your boat, so that we can reference our copy of the Sound Rowers’ classification list for known boats.  (I.E.: please don’t enter an “Epic Kayak”, rather, enter “Epic 16X Sport”, or “Epic V10 Surf Ski”).

All boats of similar dimensions will end up in the same classes:

  • The Sea Kayak (SK) class includes familiar boats such as Aquaterra’s Chinook, Chesapeake Light Craft’s Chesapeake 16 and Chesapeake 17, Current Designs’ Caribou,  Eddyline’s Falcon 16’, Necky’s Looksha IV, P&H’s Capella, and Wilderness System’s Tempest 165 Pro
  • The Fast Sea Kayak (FSK) class includes models such as the Epic Endurance 18, Epic 18X, the Impex Force Category 4, the QFC 600x and 700x, and the Seda Glider and Impulse.
  • The Surfski 20 Plus (SS20Plus) class is a new class for 2013. See above.
  • The Unlimited or High Performance class (HPK) includes most surf skis such as Huki S1-R/S1-X, Epic V10/V12, Stellar SES/SE/SEL, Fenn Swordfish/Elite/Mako 6, the Valley Rapier 20, the Van Dusen Mohican, and many of the Westside Boat models.

There are no kayak class distinctions based on paddle type.  All paddle types (wing or straight blade) of any material (composite or wood) are acceptable in all classes.  We encourage you to choose all of your equipment (boat, paddle, pfd, etc.) based on your own skills and capabilities, and with your main consideration towards personal safety and comfort.  (Note that the breadth of boat profiles in each category allows most individuals the option to change boats the day of the race while staying in the same class – for example, a person who registered in the Unlimited class on a Mako Millenium surf ski can change to a Futura II on race day and remain in the same class.) 

There are several ways to get the length to width ratio for sea kayaks.

The official method is to use a set of measurement calipers. The measurement calipers consist of a straight beam with adjustable jaws which are exactly 4 inches tall. The measurement calipers are placed against the hull and slid forward and aft to locate the maximum beam at the 4 inch waterline. To determine the length waterline the measurement committee has a long beam, which the boat is placed on, with 4 inch jaws that can be adjusted to locate the 4" length waterline.

Using either centimeter or inch measurements the:

Waterline ratio = (waterline beam / waterline length) * 100

If a boat has a keel, as is found on some canoes, the keel will not be included in the waterline measurement. If a boat has a rudder which is used to continue the waterline shape the rudder will be included in the waterline measurements.

Winglets which perform no useful purpose, besides meeting the classifications requirements, will not be included in the waterline measurements.

Alternate methods of determining the waterline are to place the boat in placid water with an average weight paddler in it. Use a grease pencil to mark the waterline on both ends, and the sides, then eyeball measurements over a measuring tape. This is imperfect as paddler weight can greatly affect waterline length.

Another way to get the beam measurement is with a piece of plumbing solder. The solder can be wrapped around the hull to get the hull profile, then the solder copy of the hull profile can be measured.

Click to open a table of length to width for each category

For more detailed information on the Sound Rowers system, go to  All classification questions / concerns must be addressed prior to race date.  For more information on measuring waterline length go to