Head of the Gorge and Elk Regattas

Head of the Gorge and Elk Regattas

VIRC made it’s annual fall trip to Canada for the Head of the Gorge and Elk races on October 26th and 27th.

The Angel of the Gorge holds a microphone in one hand and the fate of over a million dollars worth of rowing equipment in his voice.  The 4.5 km Head of the Gorge regatta on Saturday may be the only regatta in North America that features a whitewater “rapid” – a tidal race through a gorge not more than 10 feet wider than a racing shell plus its oars.  The Angel directs the rowers in each shell through the sequence of strokes necessary to align with the current and successfully avoid the rocks on either side.  Because of the serpentine course, the narrow rapids and the ever changing tidal conditions rowers have come to view this regatta as an “event” more than a serious race.  Some teams come dressed in their Halloween finest – the Vashon junior women’s eight this year, for instance, featured coxswain Ally Clevenger decked out as the devil in her scarlet finest commandeering her eight “angels” all in white.

For the Gorge race, Master Women Mary Rothermel and Kim Goforth won their double category.  The Junior Women’s eight with Halimah Griffin, Taegan Lynch, Bryn Gilbert, Te’a Schafer, Riley Lynch, Virginia Miller, Caprial Turner, Mei Vandervelde and coxswain Clevenger, won their division unopposed but posted the third fastest time out of all nine women’s boats. The Junior Women’s quad with Kalie Heffernan, Mia Croonquist, TeraJane Ripley and Kirsten Girard, and the Junior Men’s quad with rowers Tate Gill, Jacob Plihal, Fletcher  and Baxter Call, each took second in the open event racing mostly against college crews.  The Master Women’s quad with Su DeWalt, Marilyn Kleyn, Debby Jackson and Goforth placed second in a highly competitive division with 14 other boats.  The Master Men’s quad with Colby Atwood, Scott Engelhard, John Jannetty and Steve Haworth also took second in their division in spite of taking a detour into a cove above the narrows that caused several spectators to scurry for safety from the incoming boat.

On Sunday the rowers left their costumes behind for a much more serious venue at Elk and Beaver Lakes, a Canadian national training facility and site for the 8 km Head of the Elk regatta.  Brisk windy conditions greeted the rowers but race officials guaranteed that the wind would die down as the sun rose in the sky and indeed they know their course.  The aquatic “mowing” machine had been in dry dock for this summer so rowers were warned that low lake levels combined with lots of extra weeds would make the course more challenging than in years past.

This race included 152 boat entries and Vashon’s crew, again, had some very strong results (lineups the same as for Saturday except where noted).  The Junior Women’s quad won its Open category and was the fastest women’s quad for the day.  The Junior Women’s eight also won its category unopposed but had the fastest women’s eight out of six total entries.  The Master Women’s quad (Rothermel, Kleyn, Jackson and DeWalt) and the Master Men’s eight (Haworth, Atwood, Engelhard, Jeff Hoyt, Jannetty, Andy Johnson, Mark McKallor, Gary Schoch, Olivia Mackie –cox) took two more first places. The Junior Men’s quad placed second in the Open category and had the third fastest quad time out of 30 total men’s quad entries.  The Junior Women’s double (Emily Milbrath and KaiLi Scheer) placed third out of 12 entries in the Open category.  The Mixed Masters Double (Bruce Morser and Goforth) also placed third.

Coach Richard Parr was pleased with the overall team effort and results. “The Junior Women’s eight made huge progress this weekend improving on a fine Gorge row with an absolutely outstanding row on Sunday.  It’s not often that Vashon wins an eight race and to beat all Open college varsity boats in this race is quite an achievement – not to mention that the Vashon boat included three novices, one an eighth grader and another a freshman.”


By Pat Call, a junior parent and recreational rower.

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