A Beautiful Day for the James Wakefield Rescue Row

By Nick Patch, Champlain Longboats Director

This past Saturday, October 5, a total of 206 youth rowers gathered at Perkins Pier on the Burlington waterfront to participate in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s annual youth rowing race, the James Wakefield Rescue Row.

Drone footage courtesy of Dovid Yagoda

This race is named in honor of James Wakefield who, along with his son Jack, on December 9, 1876 rescued the crew of the 85’ canal schooner General Butler. The schooner was on a run from Isle La Motte loaded with marble when a storm bore down on them. Ultimately they crashed into the Burlington Breakwater and all aboard jumped off the boat before it sank. James and his son Jack risked their lives rowing out to the breakwater in the middle of the storm to bring all back safely. It is this spirit of compassion and bravery that we remember and honor each year.

Drone footage courtesy of Dovid Yagoda

It was an astonishingly beautiful fall day as teams rowed their hearts out in Burlington Harbor. Teams competed from Vergennes Middle and High Schools; Mt. Abraham Middle and High School; Champlain Valley Union High School; South Burlington High School; Burlington High School; Rice Memorial High School; North Haven Maine; Belfast, Maine; and Rockland, Maine.

In the novice six-oar division, Vergennes rowed to victory. In the intermediate six-oar division it was Rice Memorial High School that took the honors, and in the experienced six-oar division Belfast, Maine edged Vergennes out by six seconds. In the novice four-oar division Belfast, Maine again rowed to victory and in the intermediate four-oar division Vergennes pulled out the win. Finally in the experienced four-oar division North Haven , Maine was the victor.

View the complete results as a PDF: 2019 Wakefield Rescue Row Results

Drone footage courtesy of Dovid Yagoda

After all the teams rowed in two races, a half-mile sprint and a one-mile loop around the breakwater they participated in what is called the “Mess-About”. Teams are randomly mixed up, and then go out and row a half-mile sprint. Finishing off the day with this ultimate team collaboration was a fitting way to honor the spirit of James and Jack Wakefield’s brave deed.

Enjoy these photos from the day courtesy of Holly Weber (and feel free to send us your own as well!).