The When & If Does It
On the morning of Saturday, July 16, longtime LARC member Bayard Storey, 56, and his brother John, 54, waited in the lovely, and for the moment, calm waters off the coast of Gloucester, MA, to start the Blackburn Challenge, a 21-mile open water race around Cape Ann.
Their boat: The When & If, a sliding seat open water touring boat Bayard built, shares the name of a famous Alden schooner General George Patton had commissioned. Patton died before his schooner was finished. Luckily, Bayard did not; but chose the name “because people kept asking me if I’d ever finish it.”
“I love rowing in the Marina,” Storey says, “but constantly going in circles gets dizzying. So, I wanted to go out into the [Santa Monica] Bay.” He first set out to buy an ocean-ready rowing boat from a guy in Santa Barbara but he wouldn’t sell it. "He told me I should, and could, build my own. So, like an idiot, I did. I started by watching YouTube videos," says Storey, four years later it was being finished in my driveway."
The completed boat “turned out to be not as fast I had hoped.” So Bayard made plans to race with a canoe builder from Big Bear who was building, what hoped to be, a faster one, “kind of a sports car to my station wagon." It turned out that the sports car to his station wagon would not be ready in time, so Bayard was stuck with the When and If. “The benefit of the When & If is that it could make it through a small hurricane," and during the previous years’ Blackburn Challenge, there were plenty of those.
Bayard and John teamed up for the When and If's maiden race. John Storey is an ultra-marathoner who runs 100+ mile races. John also lived across country in Tennessee, so the boat hitched a ride from Orange County to Club Nationals in Ohio, and drove with Bayard and John up to Gloucester, MA . "Just getting the boat to the race (and back!) was an unbelievable logistical challenge.”
The brothers understood the Blackburn Challenge was not going to be a big event in their boat category. While a total of about 300 boats, including men’s and women’s kayaks, single and double outrigger canoes as well as other sliding seat boats were in the contest, only three boats were touring doubles like theirs. Still, there were serious challengers, "our main competitors were two strong guys in a $14,000 boat who had won the past two years."
Once the race was on, the Storey bothers blew past the previous winners at the 2-mile mark and went on to beat them by a full 33 minutes! Their total time was an incredible 3:00:56. “We were shocked by how fast we went, especially given the boat and the heavy chop we had the last 25 minutes...We had to use the bailer a lot coming into the harbor,” Bayard recalls. As to the brother's performance, “while I had the most strength between the two of us, John...brought his endurance. We were a good match.”
As satisfying as it was to win their category, the siblings were surprised to find they even beat a Leo Coastal single representing the US at the Coastal Worlds.
Storey is casual about his multi-year journey to this extraordinary win, but does mention the free massage he needed at the end of the grueling 21 mile contest. “It was a tough race, but I’d do it again. The town is beautiful, so for me, it was a vacation with a side of racing.”
For complete details of the race, go to blackburnchallenge.com.