The Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association (BAWRA) is made up of men's, women's and mixed teams based in Oakland, San Francisco, and Vallejo. The teams compete in different locations around the bay during racing seasons in the spring and fall.
Racing Whaleboats on San Francisco Bay
When the great windjammers of the mid-1800's put into port on the Barbary Coast, the ships’ crews often faced long layovers while their captains negotiated for cargo to carry on the return voyage. With wages spent and time on their hands, the crews would race lifeboats against crews from other vessels in port.
Competition took its current form in the mid-1960's under the sponsorship of maritime companies, using Coast Guard Monomoy Surfboats (aka whaleboats) built in the 1930’s and 40’s. By 1982 the Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association (BAWRA) was formed to provide standards for safety and competition, as well as coordinate regattas and other activities. By the mid 1980’s, new whaleboats were built by BAWRA members for the purpose of racing.
The picture to the right was taken in 1987 at South Beach Harbor in San Francisco, at our first annual Bridge to Bridge Race.
The whaleboat rower of today defies classification: young and old, male and female, large and small. However we all love being on the water, rowing with a team, and honoring the tradition of sea-worthy pulling boats.
Joining BAWRA really means joining one of the teams. All welcome new members and are ready to talk about location, schedules, money and fitness focus. And BAWRA welcomes new teams as well – with or without a boat.
The Boats and their heritage
The BAWRA clubs race each other in Monomoy Surfboats. They are descendants of the shore-based whaleboats used off Cape Cod and Monomoy Island in the 18th century. The decline of whales off the East Coast led to the development of sailing vessels that could pursue the whales into deeper water, and the whaleboats turned into the lifeboats of the area.
Today, the biggest concentration of Monomoys in the world is here in San Francisco Bay. Some are wood, some are fiberglass and some are a combination of the two. No matter what they are made of, it’s still the strength and determination of the crew that makes a winning team.
The Members of BAWRA
The BAWRA members are listed below by their “home port.”