Ocean Rowing History

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)

Taken from http://www.oceanrowing.com/fox/oceanrowing_history.htm

Nobody really knows why but, for some reason, despite the lack of any particularly good equipment, on 06th June 1896 Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo, two Norwegian-born Americans, decided to deliberately row across the Atlantic. They left Battery Park, Manhattan, on 6 June 1896, arriving on the Isles of Scilly, 55 days and 13 hours later, A journey of 3,740 mi; 6,020 km). Clearly this wasn’t enough so they then continued to row to Le Havre, France. I’m pretty confident that upon their arrival the first thing that they said was never again. The above image is the two legends and their Boat the Fox.

This was the beginning of Ocean rowing as a sport. The Atlantic Six crew have rowed the Atlantic in separate campaigns. One thing we all agree upon is that it is tough. I can’t even imagine what it was like for these guys using the equipment of the day. Massive respect. They arrived in the UK destitute and in pretty poor condition. They had to enlist the help of the US consulate. I imagine that conversation was pretty interesting. The below image is a letter that was sent back to the US reporting on the arrival of the pair:-

It’s incredible that the first recorded rowed crossing of the Atlantic was West to East and via this route which is by no means the shortest and is widely accepted as being among the most difficult routes. It’s also the departure point for the Atlantic Six who aim to set a new record for the fastest west to East crossing.

Modern Ocean rowing is split into categories. These are the Concept class and the pure class. Pure class is typically the original ocean rowing boat with a deeper keel. Whereas Concept class are the newer flat bottomed designs that allow surfing with the waves. The Concept class Boats deliver faster crossings. They tend to catch winds more favourably and surf better making for a quicker crossing. As suggested by the name the Pure class is more for the purists. The Boats tend to be slower. There is much banter between the crews of the two classes. The claim by pure class crews is that the concept class Boats tend to be much easier and are more like sailing than actually rowing. We shall not get involved in that debate on this page. The Atlantic Six have all used Pure class and will continue to do so.


In September 1987, Don Allum became the first person to row the Atlantic in both directions. Don successfully completed a 77-day solo journey from Newfoundland, Canada to Achill Island, Ireland. He had previously rowed from Gran Canaria to Barbados in 1971 with his cousin Geoff Allum, in 73 days. To this day very few people have ever completed a west to east ocean row. The latest data shows this to be 18 total crews. Less still have rowed the Atlantic both west to east and east to West. We cannot find exact data but our research leads us to believe that it may be 4 crews in total (Data from ORS) if you have any data suggesting otherwise then please contact the team and we will amend this. The majority of the Atlantic 6 will join this number as we met each other whilst rowing the Atlantic in 2016 where Stephen Murphy crossed with Leven Brown (pure class), Andy Warner and Sean McGuigan crossed as a pair (pure class). Neil Blackeby crossed as a pair with Hamish Stewart (pure class). Jakup crossed on another occasion rowing from Portugal to Cuba as a four in his own Boat (also Pure class).

As such (unless data to the contrary is provided) we will become only the 5th ever crew to have rowed the Atlantic Ocean in both directions. We will also hopefully become the fastest.