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Husky Challenger

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Photo: Stan Pocock with Tuf as Nails crew

Jim Buckley – 

The Husky Challenger is an 8+ sweep racing shell (8 rowers with one oar apiece- plus a cox’n) It was a U.W. Huskies Varsity men’s competition boat that was kept in New York while crews flew back and forth for the annual national races. This was after  shells travelled by rail with the crew – and before they were transported in multi-shell trailers. The Husky Challenger  won at least two big national rowing events judging from the chevrons on the bow. The boat has two – but it’s possible there were three or four before it was refinished in 2002.


The Challenger is 61 feet overall with the rudder sticking out another foot. It’s about 24 inches wide and draws about 6 inches. The planking is old growth, tight vertical grain Western red cedar, 5/32″ thick. The keel is sugar pine, the shoulders are ash sawn to shape. Gunwhales, seat stringers and slats are Englishman spruce.

According to Stan Pocock “Some of these components changed as time went on but I think they are true in the Husky Challenger”. The riggers are steel with bronze oarlocks, tracks are stainless steel, footstretchers are leather nailed to wooden clogs. Seats shaped, laminated Western red cedar, spruce and sugar pine.

When the Challenger was returned to Washington it was used as a freshman boat for the UW and later as a novice boat for Lake Washington rowers.

In 2004 The Tuf As Nails took the Husky Challenger to race in the San Diego Crew Classic April 3-4. Fresh off their first race at Green Lake, the “Nails” set another new club record for the fastest time a PT shell covered 2000 meters. Doesn’t matter that they were last, they had the only wooden shell in the whole event –  and it took on a few inches of water. “If they had a new composite shell”, it was overheard from an expert source, “they would have been competitive.” As it was the Nails and the Husky Challenger attracted a lot of attention and admiration

The Challenger was stored at the Public House the first winter. It was good to keep her out of the weather. But we think getting her in and out cracked the hull in several places. In any case the next summer we must have fixed 50 hull cracks. At first we would scrape, sand, epoxy, sand and revarnish – a time consuming process – only to find six more splits the next row. Later we used a cyanoacrylate glue with a watery consistency and a spray accelerator. We could pour the glue in the crack even when the boat was wet, spray it with the accelerator, and row it again within minutes. But such repairs are no substitute for a new varnished in #104 glass finish like we eventually refinished the Hoh.

In 2011, the Nails took the lead on the refinishing project Here is more on the Husky Challenger


Diane Roberts gives an update… Feb 6 2011

After a bit of stumbling about figuring out space issues in the boatshop, I think we’ve come up with a workable system that keeps the boat accessible for work sessions but still possible to get out of the way when necessary to accommodate other projects in the shop.

With big thanks to Steve Chapin and Scott Jones, not to mention the boatshop volunteers, it is now hanging in slings tied to the big overhead beam and can be lifted, carefully, with some effort, as high as necessary. Scott is kindly allowing us to leave it in place at working level and will have the boatshop guys lift it when necessary – which saves a lot of wear and tear on the Nails, as well as the nails.

Several of us spent Sunday a couple of weeks ago doing some cleaning on the inside, per Steve’s instructions. That was followed by a miserably failed experiment (by Mari, Ann and me) last Wednesday night with two different types of strippers. Basically, the strippers – when they worked at all -removed not only the bubbled, loose varnish, but also the varnish that secures the layer of cloth to the inner side of the hull, leaving a blotchy, white layer that is pulling away from the hull and bubbling even more. In addition to not working very well, the strippers were absolutely nasty to work with. Unless we want to remove all the cloth – a job that would be impossibly time-consuming, really ugly to do, and add the even harder job of replacing the cloth with a new layer – it seems very clear that stripping is not for us. (At least not that kind of stripping.) Steve inspected the mess we made and concurs – in fact, he said he’s having a similar issue on another boat he’s working on. He did say we’ll be able to fix up the bit we messed up, though, so all is not lost.

Steve’s recommendation for the inside of the boat, which we are now vigorously following, was to use small scrapers, pocket knives and the like to carefully scrape away the bubbled and loose varnish without damaging the underlying cloth layer. This will be followed with additional cleaning and sanding before revarnishing. The end result will probably be a sort of polka-dot effect where all the bubbles were, but at least the cloth and the varnish will be sound. Over time, the color differences should mellow a bit, so it shouldn’t look too bad. It can be the Polkadot Pocock…..

Row long, Dianne Roberts


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