Whaleboaters Getting Ready to Race


If you have time to check out the scene on the Alameda-Oakland Estuary these days, you might catch a glimpse of the whaleboat rowing teams getting ready for their next race.

The Coast Guard Challeng–in which the whaleboats are raced around Coast Guard Island–drew a lot of teams to the area on April 12. That course is roughly 1.5 miles long.

This week, teams are getting ready for the Mini Bridge to Bridge contest between Alameda’s High Street and Fruitvale bridges, set for this Saturday, April 26.

Next weekend on May 3, the Oakland Cup will take place on the Estuary.

The bigger Bridge to Bridge race (between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges) will be held on May 31. That involves a 5-mile course.

According to the Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association, these types of boats were first raced on San Francisco Bay in the mid-1800s.

The modern competitions took off in the mid-1960s and involved Coast Guard Monomoy Surfboats (or whaleboats) built in the 1930s and ’40s. (Monomoys get their name from Monomoy Island off Cape Cod, Mass., where merchants used them to smuggle cargo.)

BAWRA was formed in 1982 to provide standards for safety and competition. The group’s members built new whaleboats in the mid-1980s.

Janet Levaux