OAR Northwest doing ‘super’ in race

OAR Northwest brought their boat to Winslow Green back in December to show it off to the community. - Review file photo
OAR Northwest brought their boat to Winslow Green back in December to show it off to the community.
— image credit: Review file photo

The island-based boat is in the lead with 1,741 miles to go, may break record.

The OAR Northwest crew, made up of Bainbridge native Greg Spooner, Brad Vickers, Jordan Hanssen and Dylan LeValley are making a superhuman effort in the Shepherd Ocean Fours Rowing Race.

As of press time, their boat is holding a good lead over the other two remaining boats after 27 days at sea with 1,781 statute miles left to go.

According to OAR Northwest’s website, at their current pace they’ll break the 110-year-old record of Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo – who rowed from Battery Park in New York City to the Scilly Isles near England in 55 days – by 1.7 hours on their estimated arrival in Falmouth Enlgand on August 4.

“Having a lead thus far is great,” Hannsen wrote in an e-mail. “It seems we have been doing it right so far, but it’s a long road to Falmouth and it is imperative we do not let the big lead go to our head, and make sure we stay sharp to increase this lead.”

Their stellar performance could be due to a group of superheroes assisting the crew.

In a recent post on their blog, the crew made a clarification over a comment they had made in a earlier blog post about a meeting with a container ship from Virginia.

The crew on the ship called the foursome “Team America,” which led Vickers to ponder in his post if they should start calling Hanssen “Captain America.”

The superhero was one of Hanssen’s role models at a young age.

While they didn’t want to make that broad of a claim, they did write that these superheroes – Chrono (meter) Man, The Handyman, Gabbermouth and Captain Momentum – would be revealed at a later date.

“Who is this team of superheroes?” the poster writes. “What are they doing on the North Atlantic? Does this count as outside assistance? Do they live in the bow cabin? Is Jordan really Captain America? Stay tuned to find out!”

The team led for what appeared to be most of the race, but their lead shrunk due to a scoring error by the organizer, Woodvale Events. They have been as far back as third place at one point.

“One of our genius’ (sic) back home figured that the way Woodvale was scoring the race before was to draw a straight line between New York and our current position, figure the total miles traveled between point A and B (excluding curves), and subtract it from the total race mileage,” Spooner wrote in a post on the team’s blog.

“Using this method, we could have put our boat on a trailer to California and could be in the lead.”

The team also decided to ride through the strong Gulf Stream current, which has helped power the boat and increase their lead over the other boats.

However, their progress has been slow the past few days due to a current flowing the opposite way.

“Generally, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” Spooner wrote in an e-mail. “Technically, that’s still the case here. But navigating an ocean in a boat as susceptible to wind and currents as ours is, we went for the elusive but dependable Gulf Stream current.

“It paid off, as our daily progress blossomed when we found the 3 knot current. It may be a bit more circuitous, but worth the extra effort.”

The crew has also made the effort to take in their surroundings, as they have run into various ships (the Stream is a major shipping lane), and have encountered numerous sea life, including a pod of porpoise and a pod of right whales, several sea turtles, flying fish and a shark.

They’ve also come into contact with some big whales (Spooner wrote: “A large swath of glowing water moved silently, slowly, bigger than our boat, toward us and underneath. It made the hair on our necks stand on end.”), torrential downpours and even a major storm.

“The North Atlantic continues to amaze and challenge us on a daily basis,” Vickers wrote in an e-mail. “So far our training has allowed us to confront numerous situations as they are presented. We were able to ride out Tropical Storm Alberto with confidence and some relative degree of comfort.

“Though we did not experience 25-30 foot waves on these training rows, we gained the confidence to use our equipment and trust each other.”

But after the success of doing well in the race wears off, the struggle of shipping the boat back home will present them with a new challenge.

LeValley writes that they are working on solving their problem.

“Shipping is not yet secured to get the boat home,” he wrote. “However, during our journey thus far we’ve heard from clubs, groups, and individuals pooling together to raise money to help pay for shipment.”

LeValley also wrote “If island residents wish to help, they can donate online at, or contact OAR NW Shore Manager Kyle Putnam (see website for contact info) with ideas, contacts or suggestions.”

Spooner also has a message for the island:

“It is with great honor and pride to represent Bainbridge Island in this historic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean,” he wrote. “Thank you for supporting OAR Northwest, and please remember to support the American Lung Association of Washington by making a tax-deductible donation online at our website...

“P.S. – and a free OAR Northwest T-shirt to anyone who gets a royal-flush in the Grand Ol’ Fourth Poker Ride!”

The team is gladly accepting messages from anyone who wants to wish them well.

To send a text message, visit, click “Send a Satellite Message,” then fill out the form, sign it at the bottom and send it to 881641426086.

Messages need to be capped at 160 characters.

For updates, check the team’s website at

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