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Twenty-third Annual Wye Island Challenge 

24 Mile Electric Boat Marathon

St. Michaels, MD, October 7, 2023




The Wye Island Challenge was established in 2001 by the Electric Boat Association of America (EBAA) with two main goals of: (a) demonstrating the viability of electric powered boats and (b) advancing their performance development.  The race takes place in the waters off Maryland’s Eastern Shore near St. Michaels, MD (approximately 50 road miles from Annapolis).  

The 24 mile course encompasses 8 miles of relatively open water at the mouth of the Miles River where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and 16 miles of sheltered water of the Wye River which circles picturesque Wye Island.  Including a significant amount of open water in the course assures the boats have real world capabilities while the sheltered water section provides an enjoyable and interesting ride.  There are two boat landing facilities on the course, one at the start/finish area and one at the midpoint.  A chase boat will be on hand to lend assistance in the case a boat needs to be towed or any other assistance.

The previous 16 years of the race have seen a wide variety of boats compete, ranging from small home-built boats, to classic launches, to a modified 58’ rowing shell, to pontoon boats.  The fact that most years at least one boat fails to finish also demonstrates the course is still a genuine challenge.  


Race rules:

  • All boats must comply with USCG safety regulations.

  • All passengers must have a properly sized PFD available.

  • No taking on or charging of batteries (using a generator) during the entirety of the race.

  • Solar panels are allowed to charge batteries or directly power the boat during the race.

  • For safety reasons boats are expected to have a paddle, oars or alternative means of propulsion available but if anything other than an electric motor is used for forward propulsion the boat will be immediately disqualified from the competition. A paddle or oar may be utilized to assist with docking at the stopping point at Wye Landing or to push off in the case of grounding.

  • Sail boats are allowed to compete but may not unfurl their sails at any point during the race. There are two bridges on the course that have a clearance of around 10' so most masts will have to be lowered.

  • There is a mandatory 10 minute stop mid point in the course at Wye Landing. All boats must remain docked or beached for no less than 10 minutes. There are bathroom facilities here as well as a snack (and bait) stand.

  • There are no enforced markers on the course as the Island determines the course distance. There are some shallow areas on the route and it is the captain's responsibility to avoid these areas. Boats with a 3' or less draft won't have to stray far from the shortest possible distance in order to complete the course.  

  • Boats taking more than six hours to complete the course will be towed in, in order to relieve the duties of the chase boat.

Classes and Awards - Single Hulls, three classes:

  • Class 1 - Lead/acid batteries: Any single hull boat with a length to beam ratio less than 6 to 1, and utilizing lead/acid batteries. Entrants in this class will be handicapped by waterline length (1.34 times the square root of the waterline).  This will allow smaller boats to compete with larger ones. (note, motor/s must be rated less than 8kw)

  • Class 2 -  Advance batteries: Any single hull with a length to beam ratio less that 6 to 1 and utilizing non-lead/acid batteries, or running off a fuel cell. Because of the likelihood of these boats running the entire course at planing speeds, this class will not be handicapped by waterline length.  (note, motor/s must be rated less than 8kw)

  • Class 3 - Extreme class: Any single hull boat with a length to beam ratio greater than 6 to 1, or a motor kilowatt rating greater that 8kw.   Any type of battery or fuel cell is allowed.  No handicaps.


Multi Hulls*, two classes:
  • Class 4, Lead/acid batteries: Any boat with two or more hulls utilizing lead/acid batteries.

  • Class 5, Advanced batteries: Any boat with two or more hulls utilizing non-lead/acid batteries, or running off a fuel cell.

*Any form whose intended purpose is to contribute buoyancy the boat while it is at rest is considered a hull.  There are no handicaps in the multi hull classes.


Awards for each class:
And for the fun of it all...

Picnic Class*:  This class celebrates what the vast majority of electric boats are all about--quiet, pollution free enjoyment on the water.  The idea of the Picnic Class is not to see who can travel the fastest around the course, but rather who can travel the picturesque Wye Island Challenge course with the most enjoyment and style.  Boats registered for the classes above are also eligible to enter in the Picnic Class.


To compete in this class, the boat must meet the following criteria:

  • It cannot exceed 8 mph average speed, (the optimum hull speed for a 30’ boat)

  • It must have seating for at least two persons, and additional points will be awarded for any passengers beyond the pilot.

  • The boat must contain at least one live cut flower.

  • It must meet the same safety and operational rules established above for the other classes.

Additional judging criteria include:
  • Overall comfort level of the boat, i.e., does it have cushioned or caned seating, a canopy or sun shade?

  • Participants are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch, of course.

  • We will test the boats for noise level after the race.

  • Overall aesthetics of the boat.

  • Time to complete the course (the faster the better, but only by a small amount as the criteria will be weighted to give preference

to style and comfort).


The award for all finishers will hopefully be having had a pleasant day.


Single Hull, lead acid batteries:  Jim Campbell, 20' Canoe, 10.93 mph, 2014

Single Hull, advanced batteries:  John Todd, Wye Flier, 15.36 mph, 2016

Single Hull, unlimited class:  Ben Sorkin, 17.64 mph, 2019

Multi Hull, lead acid batteries:   Paul Kydd, Stillwater/Kydd coaching boat, 7.66 mph, 2003

Multi Hull, advanced batteries:  Chris Clarke, 18' Stilwater coaching boat w/ Pure Watercraft outboard, 20.41 mph, 2017



Saturday Oct 7: Miles River Yacht Club, 24750 Yacht Club Road, St. Michaels, MD 21663

9:30 AM, Skippers meeting at boat ramp.

10:00 AM, Wye Island Race starts in front of the yacht club docks. All boats should be launched and on station

by 9:45 AM.


7:00-9:00 PM, Awards and Dinner held at the Miles River Yacht Club.


Entry Fee:

None this year


Electric Boat Association

PO Box 2115, Beaufort, NC 28516

The Spirit of the Wye Island Challenge:


While this is a competition, many entrants in the past came to the event knowing full well they had no chance of winning—and were perfectly happy about it.  For many boaters it is simply enough to know their boat can complete the 24 mile course.  For others, the idea of improving on their last effort was what brought them back to the race. We’ve had one person bring the same 20’ canoe to the race eleven times, each with a different motor or battery setup—he improved his performance each time.

There are others who just want to win—to come up with the next best thing. These are the folks who keep the race exciting and unpredictable. Each year we have at least a couple entrants who fail to make the entire circuit for one reason or another which proves the course is still a challenge.  

For those building boats commercially, this race can provide valuable feedback on boat operation in a variety of conditions.  Having been in the electric boat business for over 27 years, I can attest that in too many cases there has been a surprising lack of testing and sophistication in electric boat designs that have come on the market (and fallen off pretty quickly).  If electric boats are to gain widespread appeal, this trend has to go away and events like this help diminish that trend.

I have every idea that electric boats have a bright and expansive future ahead of them and I aspire to make sure the EBAA and events like the Wye Island Challenge play an integral role in their advancement.  Thank you.


Tom Hesselink

Executive Director

Electric Boat Association of America

PO Box 2115

Beaufort, NC 28516

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