The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records


A Journey Into The History

Instead of preface

The right stuff
I DON’T think that those of us who have felt the need to climb a mountain or row an ocean have done it, or will do it, “because it’s there” but “because we are here”. Without us mountains and oceans have no meaning by themselves: they “are there” and always will be but, for a very, very few, their presence inspires a dream of pitting our puny strength against their might, and to conquer not them but ourselves. The quest to prove worthy of an almost inconceivable challenge is our greatest reward.
To us it is not the final result that matters but how we measure up to our self-imposed task to confront and do battle with Nature at its rawest. And those who die in the attempt do not die in defeat; quite the opposite, their death is, in many ways, a triumph, the symbol of that indomitable human spirit that will break before it bends. To test what we are made of, that is our pursuit.

John Fairfax, Las Vegas

(First man to row an ocean single-handed, Canaries-Florida, 1969;
with Sylvia Cook, first to row across the Pacific, San Francisco -Australia, 1971-72)

Ocean Rowing has a lively and coloured history, as you would expect with the type of people who row oceans.

It all began with two Americans of Norwegian origin...

In 1896 a New York Police Gazette offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who could row across the Atlantic Ocean from America to Europe, from New York to Le Havre. George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, from Atlantic Highlands, bored with their lives as New Jersey fishermen, accepted the challenge. They also hoped it would change their lives and fortunes by becoming celebrity adventurers and consequently cash in on what would be a lucrative lecture tour around Europe and the USA.

In the spring of 1896 they outfitted their 18 foot wooden skiff named Fox, with provisions for the journey. They left in the spring of 1896 with no idea how long the journey would take. They encountered storms along the way and lost their supplies and equipment, but they were replenished along the way by other ships in mid Ocean.

After 55 days the two men reached land in Europe and news of their success was sent by cable telegraph back to New York.
There was no radio telegraph at that time but a few years later Guigliemo Marconi sent radio telegraph message across the Atlantic, again from Highlands, NJ, not far from where the two fishermen started their voyage.
The fishermen loaded their boat on a steamer and headed back to New York where they would make headlines and collect their $10,000 prize. The prize would be equal to $500,000 in today's economy. The steamboat ran out of coal off the coast of Cape Cod and the Captain ordered all wooden objects burned in the stoker in order to make steam for the remainder of the trip The two fishermen launched their boat over the side of the steamer and rowed back to New York, which was just a few hundred miles away.
Much to their dismay when they reached New York and went to the Newspaper there was no prize money and they never did collect a nickel - despite sinking their savings into buying an eighteen foot skiff, 'The Fox', capsizing twice and setting a record of fifty-five days that has yet to be broken for that particular route (USA - Europe), all they ended up with was two medals

 In the end, they returned to fishing. George Harbo died in 1908 whilst Frank Samuelsen returned to farm in Norway, survived the Nazi occupation and died in 1946.

Click here to read  Log of Harbo and Samuelsen

New Page in the Oceanrowing History of Atlantic Highlands

On May 27, 2005 at 14:30GMT four Dutch rowers left Atlantic Highlands in attempt to break the 55 day record of the two fishermen. Their Vopak Victory is a 30 foot fiberglass boat that weights a ton before provisioning and 1 1/2 tons when loaded. It has watertight compartments and it has three sets of oarlocks so two or three men can row while one or two men sleep. They have all types of radios and navigation equipment that is solar powered. They also have solar powered desalination equipment for making fresh water from sea water. All their food is freeze dried and can be mixed and eaten with fresh water.

At the same time and from the same place Oliver Hicks started  his solo voyage, rowing the same route followed by George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen on their historic 1896 voyage.

The day before the start Don Godshall and Stan Nadler of The Long Branch Ice Boat & Yacht Club brought their most prized possession to the Atlantic Highlands - a replica of 'FOX', the boat that the very first ocean rowers used in 1896. This at a glance shows the progress made in 109 years of oceanrowing. The 'FOX' was an open boat, nowadays boats have cabins and the latest in manner of equipment.
 What has not changed at all, is that still each ocean rowboat needs someone sitting at the oars in order to make any meaningful progress.

May 26 2005.
Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club, Where Three boats  and "The Past " and "The Present"  Come Together.

Photos by Tatiana Rezva-Crutchlow

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