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



Historical notes | John Alcock | Hales Trophy | It is noted... | Premier event | Crossings | Geography | Verification | Timing | Unsupported row | Status | Tow

  Drug free | The boat | Self-righting | Auto steering | Wind generators | Solar panels | Canopies | Radio | Boat registration | Service Argos | Satellite telephone

October 17th 2000

Please consult us on any questions on oceanrowing@gmail.com

In response to a letter from The Goss Challenge the Ocean Rowing Society formed a committee of ocean rowers: Sylvia Cook (Pacific Ocean), Geoff Allum, Mike Nestor, John Searson (Atlantic Ocean rowers), Teresa Evans from Challenge Business and Kenneth F. Crutchlow from Ocean Rowing Society. The committee met in London on September 24th 2000, the sole agenda item was the Goss letter.
As chair of the meeting I take this chance to thank my fellow committee members for their time and mutual contribution in preparing the following "guidelines" for those who may themselves want to accept the Challenge of an Ocean Row.

 Historical notes:
Christopher Columbus (Italian) 1451-1506.
On August 3rd, 1492 Columbus sailed west from Spain with three ships: the Santa Maria, Pinta, and Nina. He took on water and supplies at Gomera, Canary Islands.
On October 12th, 1492 Columbus saw an island, (probably Guanahani) in the Bahamas. There he came ashore and planted the royal banner, claiming the land for Spain.
Columbus had found a New World . . . America.
This is the first record of "crossing the Atlantic", therefore Ocean Rowing Society accepts this as the traditional route.

 Sir John William Alcock (GB)1892-1919, Sir Arthur Whitten Brown (GB) 1886-1948 -
Were the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. Alcock (the Pilot) and Brown (the navigator) used a Vickers Vimy biplane, it took them16 hours 27 minutes after leaving St. John's Newfoundland before they landed on June 15, 1919 in Clifton, County Galway, Ireland.
This flight was described at the time as "crossing the Atlantic" therefore the Ocean Rowing Society accepts this as an accepted route for an ocean rowing crossing.


is a prestigious steaming record.
1998 marked the 160th anniversary of 18 day 14 hour 22 minute record set by SIRIUS in April 1838. This crossing, together with the successful record breaking arrival in New York one day later by GREAT WESTERN, created public interest in shipping. By gentleman's agreement a number of shipping magnates decided, that the passenger vessel, logging the fastest transatlantic crossing, would be honoured with the privilege of flying a blue ribbon from her mast. Over the next 100 odd years numerous attempts were made to gain the honour of being the holder of the Blue Riband. In 1934 Harold Hales, an English Parliamentarian, commissioned and donated a trophy, which is presented to the "Ship, which shall have crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the highest average speed". Liners, such as REX, NORMANDIE, QUEEN MARY and SS UNITED STATES have all held the Hales Trophy, which is currently held (since 1998) by CATOLONIA. In order to be declared the official record holder a ship must turn over its navigational records to the Hales technical review committee.

Principle Aim of Ocean Rowing Society is:
to promote, develop, and record ocean rowing; to encourage innovation and safety at sea, to maintain and distribute records of all ocean rows and to display ocean rowing boats.


The Ocean rowing Society offers the following as "guidelines" for those, who choose to row an Ocean. It is noted, that it is common practice that any ocean rowing crew or solo rower would want to compare their ocean row to those, that have gone before (and after) a row and to have their effort recorded in a proper way.


  It is noted, that:
Ocean Rowing Society will, as of this date, use the expression "Ocean Rowing Blue Riband" for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic E-W on Trade Winds I Route. A review of logbooks and (if available) Satellite tracking data will be done before posting in it's data base a new record for Atlantic Ocean crossing East to West on Trade Winds I Route
A review of Ocean Rowing Society records shows "Ocean Rowing Blue Riband"
for rowing the Atlantic Ocean as follows:
East to West:
Is held by La Mondiale (France) - in 35 days. Gerard Seibel - Captain of 11 man crew. 1992.
West to East:
The fastest recorded "unassisted" row West to East was by Tom McClean (GB).
Tom McClean left St Johns New Foundland aboard  ocean rowboat Super Silver at 9.10am 17th May 1969 and arrived at 7.15am 27th July 1969, a total lapsed time of  70 days 18  hours 35 minutes. (Tom McClean has verified that before Bishop's Rock he received no tow, no supplies, nor any assistance at any time after his departure from the dock at St. John's Newfoundland during this row).

Premier event:
Ocean Rowing Society recognizes as the premier event(s) in ocean rowing :
Atlantic Ocean West to East and Atlantic Ocean East to West.
In order to claim a record a crew or solo rower must have travelled a point to point distance equal to, or more than the current record holder.


It will be Ocean Rowing Society's intention to review its records for every ocean rowing departure, and to maintain and distribute a list of "successful crossings" and "unsuccessful crossings" by ocean rowboats. Also " Fastest Ocean Crossing" in a row boat and "First Ocean Crossing" in a rowboat will be noted in the record listings. Any crossing must be "unsupported" to be recognized as a record.


Atlantic Ocean rowing record East to West

A crew or solo rower may start from the continental coastline at any point in Europe or Africa, or their Islands.
Departures from Cape Verde will be recognized as an Atlantic Ocean crossing with the words "shortened crossing" added to official listings. This is in recognition of the fact, that leaving from Cape Verde shortens the traditional rowing distance (assuming finish in Caribbean) by approximately 600 miles.
To qualify for the Ocean Rowing Blue Riband record the crew or solo rower must start at any point in the Canaries.

Atlantic Ocean rowing record West to East
Start from any point on the American /Canadian Eastern seaboard and its Islands
Finish shall be at any point on land in continental Europe, including its Islands.
Pacific Ocean rowing record East to West
May start from any point of the North America, Central America or South America.
And finish at any point in Australia or Asia, including Japan.


Pacific Ocean rowing record West to East
From any point in Australia or Asia, including Japan
to any point In North America, Central America or South America.
Indian Ocean rowing record East to West
From any Point in Australia
to any point in Africa.
Indian Ocean rowing record West to East
From any point in Africa
to any point in Australia.

Any ocean rowing crossing that is to be listed in Ocean Rowing Society records must be verified by the Ocean Rowing Society. The crew or solo rower must satisfy the Ocean Rowing Society through at least a signed declaration that all aspects of crossing complies with these "Ocean Rowing Society guidelines".
Ocean Rowing Society will add to its "official list of ocean rows" and to its website "list of ocean rows" any and all ocean rows, and will list any ocean row in the applicable place: i.e. complete, or not complete, or lost at sea when applicable.


The timekeeping for an ocean crossing will only stop when the crew or solo rower has set foot on land at the finish position (this is the most desired way to finish). This requirement may be waived, if in the opinion of the Ocean Rowing Society it is deemed unsafe to attempt a landing (such as: in bad weather. or there is risk to life and /or loss of the rowboat), - in which case a time penalty will be added. Any crew or solo rower must be at least within sight of land or 24 miles from land to be considered to qualify as a successful crossing.

  Unsupported row:
The Ocean Rowing Society suggests that all crews or solo rowers should conduct their row in an "unsupported " way, that is to say without any kind of assistance from any other persons.
This includes: accepting "a beer" or such like, or "a tin of beans" or such like.
Electronic communication including Satellite phones and laptop computers are acceptable and does not constitute support.

The crew or solo rower cannot set foot on any other vessel during the ocean crossing without losing "unsupported" status. If a rower or rowers choose to accept assistance during a row, it will still be recognized as a crossing, but the words "assisted row" will be added to the Ocean Rowing Society list of ocean rows.
(to be reviewed)
 Gerard d'Aboville. Definition of Assisted and Unassisted rows.
Any form of tow during any part of the voyage will be considered outside assistance.
In the event that a crewmember is evacuated for any emergency reason, in this case the row may proceed with "unsupported status" intact.


  Drug free:
Ocean rowing is considered a drug free sport. Drugs in a standard medical kit may be only used for legitimate first aid reasons.

  The boat:
The ocean rowboat shall only be propelled by the rowing effort of the crew (or solo rower), the natural action of the wind, waves and currents acting on the boat, it's crew (or solo rower) and equipment whilst operating in their normal manner and intended function. There shall be no use or attempted use of any equipment that deliberately reduces rowing effort or increases boat speed.
The ocean row boat may have one or more skegs, and may be fitted with a rudder (it should be noted, one entrant in 1997 Port St. Charles Atlantic rowing race preferred to leave with no rudder, hence we say "may be fitted with rudder")
The length of the skegs and rudder maybe adjusted to reduce drag and the position of the rudder may be automatically controlled to assist with steerage. (i.e. Autohelm is ok).

The Ocean Rowing Society considers safety at sea to be of paramount importance. For all small boat voyages we recommend the following:
Boat to be self-righting or rightable in the event of capsize. It is recommended that a test with the boat fully loaded be done before departure.

Ocean Rowing Society
Compulsory Safety & Equipment For An Oceanrow - Minimum Requirements

Navigation Light(s)
All round white light©

Towing Eye or Point
Adequate fixed towing eye/point fitted
Adequate backing plate
Towing line diameter
Towing line length (para anchor warp OK)

[State size & type]
Stowage location – NOT IN BOW!
Painter securing point, state location
Painter securing point, adequate in emergency
Painter attached
Within next service expiry date
State next service date
State life raft unique number

Category & type
Securely attached to boat
Battery checked
ORS registered as first point of contact
Copy of EPIRB registration form supplied to ORS
State EPIRB unique number

Radar Reflector
State location
State type
Does the boat carry an 'active radar unit'
If yes state type

Para/Sea Anchor's)
Parachute Anchor manufacturer
State size and type
Warp length, diameter and material
Tripping line (not necessary)
State point of attachment when deployed
Direct or bridle
Forward or Aft (Forward safer)
Number of other sea anchors or drogues
Type & size
Warp length, diameter and material

Lifejacket's) & Harness(es)
Number carried (one per crew member)
Jacket in good condition/reflective tape
Auto or manual inflation
Marked with boat name, number and crew name
Whistle attached
Light attached
Safety harness (one per crew member)
Snap hooks functional
Crotch straps present and in good condition

Jackstays in good condition
Plastic outer sleeve undamaged
Attachment point location
Secured adequately
Rope lashing (if used) no longer than 100mm
Harness securing point to enter and exit cabin

Fire Extinguisher and/or Blanket
Fire Extinguisher carried
State service date
Adequately secured for immediate use
Fire blanket type
Adequately secured for immediate use

4 red parachute flares
4 red hand held flares
2 orange buoyant smoke canisters
12 white hand held anti collision flares
All within Expiry dates

Number Mounting location

Type & model (handheld or fixed)
Number carried
Check functionality

type and model
Charger and location
Fully functional (all channels)

Satellite Phone - Optional
Unique number
Charger and location

State any other form's) of communications
PC Laptop

Forward Compartment access hatch OK
Hatch seal gasket in good condition
Hatch handles in full working order
Centerline access hatches OK
Fully sealable, adequate fixings
Main aft cabin access hatch OK
Size and manufacturer
Vertical opening
Horizontal opening
Safe securing point when hatch open
Hatch seal in good condition
Hatch handles in full working order
Aft cabin roof hatch OK
Hatch seal in good condition
Hatch handles in full working order

In good condition
Adequate mounting points on transom
Securing mechanism after mounting
Rudder control mechanism foot or hand

Blade area
Number of pairs carried (Min of 3 sets, solos 2 sets)

Water maker
Electric, Manual or both
Installation checked and approved inc THF if app.
Operationally tested (one hour test)

Fresh Water Supply/Ballast
Water Container Capacity
Number of containers
150 liters minimum requirement (solo 100 liters)
Fully secured against inversion

Rowing Gates & Seat
Number of gates fitted
State distance outboard of gunwale edge
Is there a backing plate under gate mounting
Backing plate material
Check adequate for job
Gate and seat spares carried
Seat sliding or fixed
Runners in good condition

Waterproof bag if not waterproof unit

Cooker & Food Supply
Manufacturer of cooker
Fuel type
Number of bottles carried/capacity
Fuel supply securely stowed
Food supply for 80 days minimum pcm.

Solar Panels
Fixed/ flexible and/or movable
Max Power output
Number of panels carried

Secured against inversion
Capacity (Amp Hours)

Bilge Pumps
Deck Bilge pump size type and capacity
Handle secure
Checked for full operation
Roving bilge pump size, type and capacity
checked for full operation

Grab lines
Location of grab lines cabin break to for'd 'cabin'
Type and diameter of rope
Fixing points secure and fit for purpose

Publications Manuals etc
Boat Log Book
ORS Race Publications
Service manuals for GPS
Water maker inc repair manual
Medical guide
Satellite Phone
VHF Radio License
 Small Ships Registry certificate (SSR)

Doctors Letter stating you are fit enough to row an ocean

 applicable charts depending on proposed routing

Other Equipment
Buckets with lanyard minimum 2
Waterproof Torches minimum 2
Foghorn mouth or aerosol type
Signaling Mirror (with life raft or extra)
Eating utensils
Throwing line 20 meter buoyant attached to boat
Sun block
Toolkit including :
6" Adjustable spanner
Mole grips
Junior hacksaw and blades
Stanley knife and blades
Hand drill with bit set
Alum Keys to fit water maker
Multi meter
Medical Kit
Full set of all necessary spares inc
fuses if applicable
water maker spares kit
nuts, bolts screws etc
Gaffer tape etc
Spanner and Alum key for converting water-maker to manual

Auto steering:



  Wind generators:
After the following comment from Rusty Knowler of Southwest Windpower  USA. (and in the absence of any conclusive data saying a wind generator can help advance a ocean rowboat)
ORS accepts that a wind generator is optional equipment for an ocean rowboat.

From: Rusty Knowler
To: Michael Seeley
Subject: RE: AIR Marine 403 or AIR X
We don't have any good thrust data at low wind speeds, but it is basically zero. I can't imagine it being anywhere close to enough force to move a boat.

It is still advised by ORS to check self righting capability of ocean row boat once the wind generator is installed.

 Solar panels:
Should be used for generating power for all electric's on any ocean rowboat.


Not to be fitted, they can hinder or prevent ocean rowboat's self righting action (it has been said by many ocean rowers that they believe a canopy acts as a sail).
  Radio operator's license:
The minimum radio equipment required is a VHF. A radio operator's license is needed to operate this and other radio systems.

  Ocean row boat registration:

 It is not a British requirement that an ocean rowboat be registered. However in many foreign ports authorities (such as customs) often expect that an ocean rowboat would be registered, and that the owner is expected to have  "proof of ownership". It is advisable, especially if the ocean rowboat is going out of Great Britain that it be Registered with: 
Registry of British Ships part 111 (small ships register)
write for registration form to:

Small Ships Register
Registry of Shipping & Seaman
Anchor Court
Ocean Way
Cardiff CF2 455W
phone 029 20448800
Registration fee £12.00 cheques or postal order to be made payable to Maritime Safety Agency.
Online -

  Service Argos (CLS) satellite tracking, this avoids any question about where and when ocean rowboat arrives, it is also an emergency beacon. In the event of rescue at sea the rowboat can be tracked by Service Argos and recovered at a later date.(Peggy Bouchet 1998, for example).

 Satellite telephone:
ORS recommends Iridium or (if budget allows) Thrane&Thrane (Denmark) . Airtime by Satlink (Madrid).
Electrical communications and laptops are optional but preferred ( if budget allows)



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