What is considered to be ocean rowing

This is a controversial subject in the very small world of Ocean Rowing. However these are John’s views of what constitutes a true Ocean Row. These comments are not meant to diminish any other Ocean adventurer’s achievements or offend anyone who has a different opinion. These are purely the standards John has decided to set in undertaking his challenge.

The most important part of any crossing is the boat. While modern materials and safety must be taken into account, these are some principals that John believes make a true Ocean Row legitimate;

The Challenge – it is (should be) predominately at test of physical and mental fortitude.

Boat design – the boat should be designed in keeping with what is generally accepted as a rowing boat. Something you would expect to find on your local boating lake or was used by oarsman before the days of outboard motors\.

That is:

Underwater the boat should have only a shallow keel and a rudder. No other appendages which are primarily designed to use above water wind pressure to create forward momentum should be utilised.

The boat should be designed to minimise it’s wind catching ability, i.e. cabin shapes and heights should be kept to a minimum yet still provide sufficient buoyancy to aid self righting in the event of a capsize.

Some ocean rowing boat designs (known as blowing boats) are designed with the main larger cabin at the front,which not only aids their ability to hold a steady course down wind, the larger fore-cabin (bulkhead) also serves to catch the wind in much the same way as a down wind sail does.

(Blowing Boat)

Auto Pilots – Rowing boats should be steered by rudder and oar’s. Auto pilots save tremendous amounts of the rowers energy and diminish the physical challenge.

Finally – To claim an “Ocean Crossing” you should have to row continent to continent otherwise you have only completed a partial Ocean crossing or a passage. Yes John is happy to concede his crossing of the Atlantic in 2011 was only a partial crossing (maybe this will be completed as a full Ocean crossing in the future).

Blythe and Ridgeway

Blyth and Ridgway

While we have incredible respect and admiration for Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway for crossing the Atlantic in there open top English Rose III, I’m not sure many of todays Ocean adventures would take to sea in something similar.

Following Uffa Fox’s far sighted design of “Britannia” for John Fairfax’s Atlantic crossing in 1969 all Ocean rowing boats have had some protection built in for rowers to shelter from bad weather.



Good modern improvements that add to safety are essential. Things like water maker, GPS, satellite phones, trackers, EPERBS all make life at sea safer. Non of these things lessen the physical challenge, it could be argued that contact with land lessens the mental challenge but we also have to take into consideration the peace of mind of family and friends.

At the end of the day anyone who goes to sea sets themselves a daunting challenge. The above are simply the principals John has set to complete his challenge.