The first International Pacific Challenge was held in Port Townsend in 1992.  The maritime activities were organized that year around the bicentennial celebration of Captain George Vancouver’s explorations of the Puget Sound.

Three boats ‘competed’ in 1992; the following year the number of competing boats doubled to six. The Pacific Challenge has now grown in include up to fifteen boats representing eight communities around Puget Sound as well as Sooke, British Columbia.

The annual event, hosted each year by a different port community, is designed to test the nautical skills and knowledge of young mariners aged 14-18 aboard traditional wooden longboats and gigs.  Long boats are 26 feet long with a 7 foot beam.  They row with 11′ to 13′ oars and eight to ten rowers per boat. Longboats also sail using dipping lugsails.

The weekend event brings together youth, their maritime mentors, and community supporters. The competition celebrates the teamÂ’s achievements in teamwork, leadership, and their mastery of rowing, sailing and seamanship. This is accomplished through friendly competition rooted in long-standing tradition. For many of these young crews, the Pacific Challenge is the culmination of a year’s worth of studying and training in their home maritime program.

The event was modeled on the Atlantic Challenge, an international contest of youth seamanship created to build community among nations.  The first such Challenge was held in 1986 and repeats in a different Atlantic port every two years, with participants from ports from around the world.  There is some cross-over of Pacific Challenge members participating in the Atlantic Challenge.

The Pacific Challenge has been held in the following communities in the following years:

2010 – Port Townsend
2009 – Anacortes
2008 – Seattle
2007 – Grays Harbor
2006 – Sooke
2005 – Olympia
2004 – Port Townsend
2003 – Vashon Island
2002 – Port Townsend
2001 – Coupeville
2000 – Anacortes
1999 – Seattle
1998 – Bellingham
1997 – Olympia
1996 – Astoria
1995 – Anacortes
1994 – Grays Harbor
1993 – Coupeville
1992 – Port Townsend