The Wooden Boat Challenge

Saturday, October 21, 2023
Boat Building noon – 4pm |  Rowing Race at 5 pm 

Register Your Team

The Georgetown Wooden Boat Building Competition (GWBBC) is excited to announce the following changes to this year’s competition.

Blast from the past!
For any boat builders interested, we are bringing back the Teal as one of two competition options. The Carolina Bateau will remain as the boat of choice to meet eligibility requirements for the National Boat Building Competition (NBBC) however the Bateau and the Teal will both be eligible to win the Georgetown show.

Competition points for speed will be weighted toward the Bateau to level the playing field however a high-quality Teal that’s fast through the water will qualify builders for the competition’s next exciting development!

In addition to claiming the title at the premier boat building competition, the Harbor Historical Association has generously offered a new prize money structure:
 -First place: $2,000.00
 -Second place: 1,250.00
 -Third place: $850.00
Special prize
– *Youth winner: $400.00
*Currently attending High School or a recognized maritime program.

Georgetown Wooden Boat Show is currently accepting deposits for this years competition, which remains $100.00 per team and will hold your place for this years competition. We encourage teams to get deposits in early due to the competition enhancements outlined above and we look forward to seeing you all in October.

Plans for the Bateau or Teal will be mailed to teams upon receipt of deposit.

GWBBC will supply all materials and fasteners, building teams supply all tools of choice.
Competition rules are available on this website.

For additional information contact Hope McFaddin at or 843-520-0111

What is the Wooden Boat Challenge?

It’s a boatbuilding competition with teams of two battling each other and the clock to build a 12-foot rowing skiff – the CAROLINA BATEAU – within a four-hour time limit. The teams are judged on building speed, workmanship, and rowing speed when they test their completed bateaux for seaworthiness in a rowing relay on the Sampit River. At the end of the day, cash prizes are awarded to first, second and third place winners.

The Challenge begins at noon with the command “Gentlemen, Start Your Skil Saws” which sets off a din of circular saws and swirling sawdust as the teams commence to build their bateaux fast and build them right. Quality counts for 1/3 of the points, speed of building for 1/3, and team rowing speed for the final 1/3.

Each team receives a set of plans for the CAROLINA BATEAU when they pay their $100 entry fee and are encouraged to practice-build a boat before the Challenge. On the big day they are issued the same building materials. They provide their own tools, sawhorses, work tables, hull molds and home-made oars. Each team builds within a 12 x 15 foot space beneath a huge tent with hundreds of spectators cheering them on. Some teams finish, amazingly, in just two plus hours.

The Challenge ends with a whistle at 4 p.m. The boats are judged for quality and, then, the teams carry their newly built boats through the crowd to the floating docks and lower them into the Sampit River for the rowing race that begins at 5 p.m.

The Wooden Boat Challenge is open to men and women, family teams, boatbuilders, cabinetmakers and basically anyone with a competitive spirit and a love for sawdust, power tools and wooden boats.

This is “the Superbowl” of Boatbuilding… Only those who have seen it can begin to understand what drives these men and their thousands of annual spectators.”
Rob Dwelley, Wooden Boat Magazine

History of the Challenge

The Wooden Boat Challenge was started in 1981 by John Hansen- current publisher of Boats and Harbors Magazine- and was held at the Newport, RI wooden boat show. The Sika adhesives company sponsored that first event, a quick and dirty boat building contest featuring six teams building any boat they cared to build and then racing them. Racing the boats has been a fundamental part of the contest ever since.

The first one-­design boat building contest, featuring the TEAL, a double-ender design by Phil Bolger, was held four years later at the Oyster Festival in Norwalk, CT. The TEAL design remained in use until 2001 when Willie French of Georgetown, SC (by way of New Zealand) and his partner set an unbelievable record of ONE HOUR, ELEVEN MINUTES AND THIRTY-FOUR SECONDS.

The bar had to be raised. In 2002, “B” Coleman of Seaco Yacht Design in Lexington, KY, was asked to design a more challenging skiff. The result was the handsome GEORGETOWN BATEAU which remained the Challenge boat until 2007. Then, Phil Bolger’s version of the MONHEGAN SKIFF was introduced, but it was a bit too challenging – too many teams were unable to finish the boat in the four-hour time limit. A happy medium was reached in 2010 when “B” Coleman got busy again and came up with the CAROLINA BATEAU, which combines challenge with beauty.

In 2007, the National BoatBuilding Challenge was organized by WoodenBoat Magazine as a circuit of regional boat building contests. So far, regional contests have been held in Belfast, ME, Georgetown, SC and Beaufort, NC. WoodenBoat Magazine hopes to expand the National BoatBuilding circuit to include more sites.

Rules and Regulations

  1.  Each team will consist of two boat builders.
  2.  Each team will be assigned a space approximately 12’X 15’. All tools, tables and necessary building materials will be confined to this space.
  3.  Each team will provide their own tools, both hand and power. 20amp service will be supplied to each team. All tools must be in good repair with all guards and safeties in working order.
  4.  Any power tool is allowed except for pneumatic tools.
  5.  Each team must bring their own sawhorses and worktables(s). No jig, pattern or automatic assembly mechanism may be used.
  6.  Only manual caulking guns may be used to dispense adhesive and caulking material. Teams must bring their own caulk guns.
  7.  All plans and building materials will be supplied by the National Boatbuilding Challenge Committee.
  8.  The oars must be MADE by the team (not purchased); however, they should be made ahead of time. One set of 2-inch diameter oar locks and oar sockets will be supplied and may be installed after the team has blown the whistle to signal completion of the boat.
  9.  Transom blank will be provided at the competition.
  10.  Two station molds are needed and should be built before the competition.
  11.  Boat plans are available to teams as soon as their entry fee is received.
  12.  A team is permitted to be coached verbally, but the coach cannot physically assist the team in any way.
  13.  PFD’s (life jackets) need to be provided by the building teams.
  14.  The fee to reserve a workspace for the competition and receive the boat plans is $100.00 payable to the HHA (the Harbor Historical Association).
  15.  Prize money for the Georgetown Challenge will be distributed as follows:
     $2,000 – FIRST PLACE – team with the lowest total points
     $1,250– SECOND PLACE – team with the second lowest total points
     $850 — THIRD PLACE — team with the third lowest total points


World Record Championship is based on the following:
50%- speed of building the boat

50%- Quality of workmanship

The Georgetown Challenge is based on the following:
1/3 – Speed of building the boat

1/3 – Quality of workmanship

1/3 – 2 man relay rowing race

Speed of building the boat:
Each team will have a 4 hour time limit to build the boat

Each team will be awarded points for their standing against other teams for simple elapsed time.

First place will receive 1 point, second place will receive 2 points, third place will receive 3 points, fourth place will receive 4 points, fifth place will receive 5 points, and so on.

Quality of workmanship:
Each team will be given a point score, based on the quality of the workmanship. These points will be compiled from the scores of each judge evaluating each boat, taking into account adherence to the plans. The lower the point score, the better the quality of construction and adherence to plan details. The point scores will then be converted to a ranking: ¾ points for the lowest point score, 2 points for second lowest point score, and so on.

Relay rowing race:
The race will be a relay on an even course with each team member rowing one leg each. The course will be short with simple straight lines and one turn. The points for this portion of the competition will also be awarded in the same manner as the speed portion of the Challenge.

We look forward to you becoming a boat building “Warrior” this October in Georgetown, SC!

Challenge Judges

John Vang – Beaufort, NC is a wooden boat designer and boat builder for the North Carolina Maritime Museum where he also teaches traditional small boat handling. John builds museum quality boat models on commission. He has been a judge many times here in Georgetown and in Beaufort ….also in Kingston NY and Belfast ME.

Reed Tiller – Georgetown, SC is a Georgetown native and once worked at Jarrett Bay Boatworks based in Beaufort, NC. He
currently manages Hazzard Marina and is a local harbor pilot.

Jack King – Beaufort, NC is manager of the Moehring Group Atlantic Veneer Distribution, providing structural marine grade lumber and plywood to North Carolina’s coastal boat building community. He has been the Beaufort Challenge’s Event Sponsor for the entire 10 years of the event. He is the Event Sponsor of this year’s Georgetown Boatbuilding Challenge!

Bobby Staab – Morehead City, NC has won Challenges in Beaufort NC, Georgetown, SC & Belfast ME numerous times.
He also held the World Record Time for several years. He teaches boat building & wood working at Croatan HS and Carteret Community College. He is responsible for bringing many boat builders to our Challenge Community! This year’s competitors Shelby Freeman & Bryce Becker & Kenna Stone were all students of Bobby at Croatan HS. We welcome his expertise as a 2019 Challenge judge this year!

Master of Ceremonies

Our master of ceremonies, Rob Dwelley, has been part of competitive boat building since 1982 when he ran the first Challenge event in Newport, RI. This first event was the idea of John Hanson of Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors magazine.

Although Rob did not participate in the first two competitions, he started to compete in 1984, coming in second at both Newport and Norwalk. 1985 brought victory at both venues with a first in build time at Newport in 54 minutes on a builder-designed boat called “Origami Canoe.” He then won first at Norwalk in 2 hours-30 minutes on a Bolger Teal. This was before quality became a factor in the scoring. Rob and his partner rubbed salt into the wound by taking a lunch break at the 1-hour mark to give the competition a chance to catch up. Also, his team easily won the Teal event in Oakland, CA. In the water racing portion of the event, Rob’s team had a quick win using the sail design put on paper by designer Bolger. Rob’s competition thought they could improve on the Bolger rig. The Bolger recommended blue tarp and duct tape sail just barely stayed together over the simple windward/leeward course, but the Bolger “Rube Goldberg” rig prevailed.

Rob was (and is) deeply addicted to competitive boat building and has spent time looking for other venues in which to compete. He has also been instrumental in helping build the successful events in Georgetown and Beaufort, NC that we have today.

Not a stranger to wood and tools, Rob is a full-time home builder in Camden, ME. He has fancy Greene and Greene houses and a winery to his credit. He has also had a lifetime passion for classic wooden yacht restoration

When not building, Rob has given much time to Hurricane Island Outward Bound as both an instructor and a boat driver. His Coast Guard license has let him drive many ferries over the years. He also delivered a NY 40 (Herreshoff design) from Italy to Maine, surviving a dismasting in Penobscot Bay. He has also been a boat driver in the oil patch of the Gulf of Mexico.

After all his experiences and ventures, Rob has a passion to make sure the next generation learns the skills of working with their hands and experiences the joy of a job well done. His respect for each builder is both deep and sincere.