The Atlantic Rowing Race for two man crews was first held in 1997. Chay’s thinking was if he could row across the Atlantic in a 20ft Dory a well designed and provisioned vessel could follow the classic Trade Wind route from the Canaries to the Caribbean.
He decided that he would create a new event for people who wanted to take on the challenge of rowing the Atlantic, a distance of 2,550nm (2,930 statute miles or 4,700km).
A key aspect of the new event was that it should be accessible to ordinary people who wanted to take on this extraordinary challenge and be affordable.
Chay’s team came up with a new design concept for boats albeit the idea had been used for cars previously. The rowing boats were specially designed so they could be flat packed utilizing laser cut panels enabling them to be shipped anywhere in the world. In many cases the rowing boats were assembled by the people taking part in the race
The success of this approach led to the second Challenge fleet of 72’ yachts being designed in a similar way enabling two of the fleet to be shipped to China for assembly there.
The first race in 1997 saw 30 teams set off from Tenerife on 12th October. In all six teams withdrew and 2 boats finished with single competitors. Kiwi Challenge rowed by Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs took line honours in Port St Charles, Barbados, in a time of 41 days and 3 hours.
In 2001 the event was sponsored by Ward Evans with 36 teams taking part from 12 different countries. Thirty three teams finished with Telecom Challenge 1 (NZ) rowed by Steve Westlake and Matt Goodman winning.
In 2003 Challenge Business sold the event to Woodvale Events Ltd.