NORTH WILDWOOD - The crew of Carl Smallwood Jr. and Chris Graves competed at a blistering pace from start to finish in the Bud Tarbotton Memorial North Wildwood Beach Patrol Around The Island Row on Monday morning.

The conditions were ideal, and several crews turned in fast times as they chased Smallwood, a Margate lifeguard alumnus, and Graves, a Margate Beach Patrol lieutenant, around Wildwood island.

But no one made a serious challenge.

Smallwood and Graves assumed the lead early in the 38th annual 20-mile race, and stayed in control as they won by at least 100 yards in 2 hours, 32 minutes.

Ventnor's David Funk, and B.J. Fox, a former Atlantic City and Longport guard, were second in 2:33.08. Third was Cape May's Geoff Rife and Cape May alumnus Jim Wadlow in 2:35.16.

"I've never had the lead most of the way in this race before," Graves, 31, the stern, said. "We were able to dictate our race and row the way we wanted to row. It feels great to win it again."

Graves won the Around The Island Row in 2010 with Greg Smallwood, Carl's brother. Graves was in the bow in 2010.

"In the stern in a long race, I liked the fact that I didn't have to check for the course," Graves said. "We've been training for this race since mid-July."

Smallwood, 42, has an even deeper history in the race than Graves. He first rowed around the island in 1991 and has missed "only a year or two" since then, he said. He has won the race three other times, with Margate chief Rich Kugel in 2002, and with Fox in 2008 and 2009.

"It still feels great to win," Smallwood said. "The race has a lot of variables, and it was a tough field. Chris trained hard for this, and he deserves it. Chris did a great job with tempo. For the most part we maintained. Ventnor (Funk and Fox) made a move on us the first 10 minutes of the ocean (with seven miles to go), but we were able to open it up again."

Graves and Smallwood aren't new partners. They won the first three Hammer Rows from 2006 to 2008 in the Seaview Harbor section of Egg Harbor Township.

Wildwood Crest's Brendan Cunningham and Terry McGovern were trying to become the first crew to win the race three years in a row, but they placed fourth in 2:35.58. Their time was more than two minutes faster than their winning time of 2:38.0 from last year.

"We fell back a little in the bay," Cunningham, 25, said. "The last two years we were able to make a move to get ahead, but today Margate got out and stayed out."

Funk won the Around The Island Row in 2003 with brother Andrew Funk. Last year, David Funk was third in the race with Ventnor alumnus George Miller.

"B.J. and I have trained since mid-June for this," Funk, 35, said. "In the ocean leg, there was a tailwind and a flat ocean, so it was tough to make a move."

Four-time overall winners Dennis Funk, 61, and Miller, 62, were seventh in 2:38.06 and won the alumni division. Funk is the father of David, Ashton and Andrew Funk. Miller has rowed the race 29 times, all but last year with Dennis Funk.

"We passed three boats in the ocean. That's pretty good for guys our age," Miller, the stern, said.

Wadlow flew in from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday. He hadn't rowed with Rife since last year's Around The Island Row when they placed sixth.

"We'll take it," Wadlow, 47, a two-time winner, said of their third-place finish. "Geoff and I have been in the boat four times in three years, so to get top-three is pretty good."

The event honors the late Tarbotton, who founded the race in 1976 while a member of the North Wildwood City Council.

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210

RESULTS

Active lifeguards listed bytheir beach patrol, and lifeguard alumni listed by their former beach patrols.

1. Margate alumnus-Margate (Carl Smallwood Jr.-Chris Graves) 2:32.00; 2. Ventnor-Atlantic City/Longport alumnus (David Funk-B.J. Fox) 2:33.08; 3. Cape May-Cape May alumnus (Geoff Rife-Jim Wadlow) 2:35.16; 4. Wildwood Crest (Brendan Cunningham-Terry McGovern) 2:35.58; 5. Avalon (Erich Wolf-Craig Whitehead) 2:37.18; 6. Wildwood (Brandon Joyce-Steve McGuinn) 2:37.41; 7. Ventnor alumni (Dennis Funk-George Miller) 2:38.06; 8. Upper Township-Wildwood alumnus (Wayne MacMurray-Bill Kindle) 2:38.12; 9. Sea Isle City alumnus-Upper Township (Kevin Larkin-Jim Gibbons) 2:39.32; 10. Cape May (Steve Kowalik-Ed Giordano) 2:41.02; 11. Margate alumnus-Ocean City (John Swift-Sean McCann) 2:41.08; 12. North Wildwood (Pete Lees-Shawn Stamm) 2:43.45; 13. Wildwood (Ed Schneider-Tom Killian) 2:44.43; 14. Longport alumnus-Ventnor alumnus (Tom Kresz-Tom Sher) 2:44.50; 15. Margate alumni (Jim Swift-Joe Swift):46.14.