Oakland Estuary Whaleboat Rowing Society


150 years ago sailing ships crossed the seas to ports all over the world to unload their various cargo. Layovers could last much longer than the sailors' money, so the various ships' crews set up races amongthemselves to pass the time while in port... whaleboat racing was


What did the sailors win? Possibly a bottle of grog. But have you ever heard of the expression "losing your shirt"? It originated with these races. The winning ship's crew would collect their booty by taking the defeated crew's shirts, literally right off their opponent's backs!

Alcatraz Race (Port Of Oakland, Jim Putz as the coxwain)with one of the Tall Ships in the background under the Golden Gate Bridge


A modern day whaleboat racing crew consists of eight rowers, a bowhook and a coxwain (the person who steers with a 16 ft sweep oar). The coxwain's job is to know the currents and tides and steer the boat straight, the rowers pull as hard as they can and the bowhook shouts out encouragement for the entire length of the race. There are over a dozen boats in the fleet with more than 250 rowers in the San Francisco Bay Area rowing competively each year.

Whaleboats have been used for hunting whales, lifesaving operations and competition. The boat itself weighs nearly one ton, is 26 feet in length and has an 8 foot beam. Whaleboats have been built to withstand the crushing force of the ocean.


Most races today are held within protected bays but winds, currents and tides can still make for an interesting race. Modern whaleboats are based on a historic wooden design developed in a whaling village on Monomoy Island, Massachusetts, hence where the "monomoy" style of whaleboat, of which Razzle Dazzle is a prime example.

Why row?
Razzle Dazzle

Jim Putz, an original Port of Oakland team member, 45-year veteran of whaleboat rowing in San Francisco Bay, and President of OEWRS, has contributed much to nurture and encourge whaleboating in America. Jim says, "I've seen people improve not only their physical well-being, but their self-confidence and leadership abilities. We also gain a sense of the dynamics of the sea and America's nautical heritage."

excerpt from Boat Journal #76 December/January 1991, Patricia Frank

Whaleboat racing is not only a Local, but National and an International sport. It is still popular in several historical ports of call such as Hull (Mass.), New York, San Francisco, Australia and New Zealand.

In Feburary 2014, one of our members went to compete in the Australia Whale Boat Championships. Below are a few of the photos that were taken

Australia Whale Boat Championships www.visitwarrnambool.com

Womens race heat on the Hopkins River
The Golden State Rowers with Michael Neoh, the mayor of Warnambool
The Golden State Rowers with only 4 days to practice for race day!



To learn more about Whaleboat Racing please visit these sites:


BAWRA: Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association www.bawra.org

New Bedford Whaling Museum: History of Whaling www.whalingmuseum.org

Mystic Harbor: History of Whaling of America and the Sea www.mysticseaport.org

Australia Whale Boat Championships: www.visitwarrnambool.com

New Zealand Whaleboat Racing: www.nzpaimages.co.nz


Practice Times
No Row
7-8 am
6:30-7:30 pm
7-8 am
6:30-7:30 pm
7-8 am
8:30-9:30 am



Meet at Embarcadero Cove, Oakland, 15 minutes before practice starts
Please contact us before you come to row



All rows open to New Rowers ~ No experience necessary


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