Head of the Charles and Head of the Gorge Regattas 2016

Head of the Charles and Head of the Gorge Regattas 2016

Vashon Island Rowing Club’s Juniors were divided last weekend, with regattas on opposite sides of the continent, traveling internationally, and with additional rowers in the mix from a visiting German rowing team. Despite the distance and logistics of all that, the team brought home a number of medals and placed well in a national event on Sunday.

A Women’s Youth 8 boat and Men’s Youth Coxed Quad were invited to the prestigious Head of the Charles (HOCR) in Boston, MA, where the 52nd annual race was held on the Charles River, buffeted by high winds and rain on Sunday, when each of Vashon’s races took place. “Great job by our two coxswains, Lucca and Josie, who steered really well in tough conditions on one of the most famous courses in the world,” said VIRC Coach Richard Parr.

Despite the challenging gale conditions on the water, the Men’s boat placed 11th in a field of 27 boats on the 3-mile course. Most impressively, they placed well despite being a mostly lightweight boat in an open weight race. The Men’s boat included David Nguyen, Seth Rosen, Beckett Reid and Cooper Py, with Coxswain Lucca Shattuck.

The Women’s 8+, coxed by Josie Slade, placed in the middle of the field of 85 boats, in 45th place. Junior rowers invited to compete do so in the midst of Masters, collegiate and national teams. ”Our launching area was the same one as used by this year’s Olympians, so it was great for the Vashon crews to meet and be in really close proximity with the best rowers in the world,” said Parr.

The HOCR typically includes more than 2,000 entries from over 700 clubs nationwide, and spectators numbering in the hundreds of thousands line the river to see the race. Clubs whose entries place high enough are invited back the following year to race in the same category. The balance of spots are determined by lottery. The Men’s Coxed quad received an automatic invite for 2017 based on their standing.

With one-third of the team in Boston, the balance of the VIRC Junior rowers competed in Victoria, BC at the Head of the Gorge and Tail of the Gorge races, sponsored by the University of Victoria. They were joined by rowers and coaches from the Berliner Ruder-Club Aegir. The club is visiting the island for two weeks with nine student rowers and coxswains.

The German rowers had the dual challenges of speaking and understanding English in high-pressure situations, and in some cases rowing with just one oar (known as sweeping), which is something they don’t train for until they are 15 or 16 years old. Younger rowers first master sculling, which is with two oars. Even with the lack of familiarity with sweeping, they were skillful contributors to many of the medaling boats over the weekend.

“This is a great opportunity to broaden their horizons athletically and culturally, “said Hannes Heppner, Berliner Ruder-Club Aegir coach. “It is great the way that rowing can connect people from around world.”

VIRC Assistant Junior Coach Tom Kicinski agreed. “I’ve been very impressed with how the two clubs have come together as rowers and athletes in general.”

The 3,800-meter Head of the Gorge is held Saturday and involves one of the most unusual starts to any regatta in the world. That’s because the Head and Tail races are held on opposite ends of the Gorge Waterway, which is a tidal river dividing the city of Victoria. To reach the start of the Head of the Gorge race, rowers must make it upstream through rapids caused by the incoming tide at a narrow bridge without crashing into rocks on the side. A coach familiar with the rapids calls out commands to rowers so that they can position themselves in the rapids in such a way that they can make it safely through. It’s difficult enough that some boats try multiple times to make it up and are finally disqualified.

All of the VIRC boats made it up the rapids, and back down without incident, and three medaled on Saturday. The A Women’s 8+ came in first with a time of 15:21.95. Rowers Olivia White, Ivy Jaguzny, Kate Lande, Tiffany Huestis, Emma Greenlee, Sam Zeigler, Mabel Moses and Maya Gould were coxed by Hayden Rosen.

The Junior A Men 8+ won a bronze medal, as did the Junior A Women 4x+. Each included rowers from the German team, and the Women’s 4x+ included Berlin coxswain Helene Aign, along with rowers Pippa Slade, Maria Abe, Lucie Hartfiel, and Ava Lorentzen. That boat also had the distinction of being rigged as a “Fuad”—a combination of a Four and a Quad, with two seats having two oars and two with a single oar. The unusual rigging was due to a lack of enough sculling rigs, but worked just fine on the course.

The Tail of the Gorge held on Sunday lacks all of the drama of its counterpart, but the same serene scenery, starting at the terminus of the tidal waterway and making its way 3500 meters across mostly calm waters. Sunday’s sunny weather and light winds made it a great day for racing.

Both silvers for the day were earned by boats that included both Vashon and Berlin rowers. The
Junior A Women 4x+ and Open Novice Women 8+ came in second in their respective races. The Junior A Women 8+ earned bronze with an all-Vashon crew.

“It’s difficult to gauge our success, as we are rowing against mostly Canadian teams, who we won’t see again during our regular season,” said Kicinski. “It’s great to see us out here being competitive and rowing at a high level.”

VIRC’s next regatta is the Portland Fall Classic this coming weekend. The club is actively recruiting for an assistant coach. Contact the club at info@vashoncrew.org with your resume.

Article by Anne Higuera

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