Sunday, July 12, 2009

First Races

This weekend marked the start of our racing season. We've been practicing all of about 6 weeks. Frankly I didn't think we were ready (speaking strictly for the men's side of my club). We had only had 2 practices where we even got around to practicing our starts. But ready or not we headed out Saturday morning to the Anacostia River and the Capital Sprints hosted by the Capital Rowing Club. We have sort of a love/hate relationship with the Capital Sprints. We love that it's our first race of the season and all the excitement that comes along with that. However, rowing on the Anacostia River pretty much sucks. The river is incredibly dirty and its pretty much mandatory to shower the minute you get home and hope you didn't pick up an infection. Then there is the whole issue of launching your boats amongst used syringes and condoms as they float by. Not to mention the race course itself. Its not a buoyed course meaning boats tend to wander out of their assigned (imaginary) lanes and get in each others way. Add to the fact that you also have to maneuver under two bridges at the finish line, makes it a somewhat stressful row if you are the coxswain or in my case, rowing bow in a Quad (no coxswain) and responsible for steering down the course and missing those bridge abutments at the end.

Saturday was sunny, but windy. That made for very choppy water. Rowing on the Occoquan, which is very sheltered, doesn't really train one for rowing on really choppy water. A few of the races, luckily not mine, but say for doubles and singles, it was a matter of just surviving. This is a look at the course looking from one of the bridges at the finish up river to the start, which was just below the bridge in the distance.
I was entered in two races. The Men's Master 8+ and Men's Masters Quad. Our boat captain decided that since this was our first race and all and to keep thinks light we would ham it up a bit. he went out and bought masks for us and our coxswain, Sammi. The masks were straight out of the movie Nacho Libre. Here is how we looked. Needless to say we drew some looks walking our boat to the launching dock.

Here we are pulling away from the dock. I'm in 2 seat. Most of the boat actually rowed the race with the masks on, but bow and I decided they were too hot and took them off before we hit the starting line. The Start Line Official jokingly gave us a "warning" for not having identical uniforms (meaning masks). Funny these officials.

Our coxswain Sammi is new to our club this year and is from Australia. It was so cool being coxed with someone with an Australian accent. Her terminology was a bit different then we were used to, but we could pretty much figure out what she meant. She normally coxes for the Women's side so we were grateful for her helping us out. Our row up to the start was just horrible and didn't bode well for our race. The set was terrible and there was no ratio and the check in the boat was as bad as I've felt it. There was only one other 8+ in the race and they were from Alexandria. They were a few years younger then us (based on the average age of all the rowers in the boat) and we've rowed against them before and we knew we had our work cut out for us. Remarkably, our start was very good and given the conditions on the river (i.e., choppy water) we rowed pretty well. The boat set up and we gave as good as we could. We still came in second, but it was close and everyone was happy with it. We didn't settle during the bulk of the race to our stroke rate we agreed to (32 spm), but ran most of the rate around a 36 to 37 spm. Even at that rate it felt good if a bit hectic. My second race came about two hours after the 8+ race. We were in the Men's Masters Quad and none of us in the boat had delusions on how we would do. The four of us had never rowed together before - no practice time whats so ever. While we all scull to some extent, two of us much more than the other two. The race went pretty much as expected. We finished last. At the start we were doing pretty well actually, but then a Quad from DC Strokes (the local DC gay rowing club), which was ahead of us, cut in front of us forcing me to steer wide to avoid them. It sort of went down hill from there, but we finished and we were happy in the row even if we weren't competitive. All was not lost though. The Women's side did quite well. They won the Women's Masters 8+ and Women's Masters 4+. Here is the 4+ at the finish.

And here they are with their medals. Their coach is on the right.

Here is a picture of the winning 8+. Congratulations to our ladies. They had a great day.

Sunday was our chance for more racing at the Occoquan Masters Sprints on our home water hosted by the Occoquan Boat Club. On Sunday I was to race in the Men's Masters 8+ and Men's Masters 4+. No quad, thank god. Sunday was much calmer then Saturday. We had great water to row on and a buoyed course! For our 8+ race we had 3 boats entered. Ourselves, Thompson's Boat Club and a team from Saratoga, NY, Queensbury. We had a very good race. We were dead even with Thompson's at the end of our start sequence and high 10. Unfortunately for us, Thompson's did a high 20 and pulled away from us. They held that differential throughout the race and we finished second ahead of Queensbury. We rowed a solid 34spm and it felt strong and relaxed. Given the lineup we had in the boat, we probably rowed as well as was possible. For the second race, Men's Masters 4+, we basically broke up the 8 into two 4+s. Unfortunately, I wasn't in the "A" boat. There were 5 boats in out race and we finished last. Totally not a surprise. We did have an interesting incident at the start. The referees did a quick start and Thompson's in the lane next to ours, wasn't totally ready and their coxswain didn't have a proper point and after the first couple strokes they were all the way over into our lane. Our blades were literally in their boat. The referees set off their alarms on their bullhorns signaling a stop to the race. We all had to back up and reload into the starting platform. The race itself was just ugly. Our boat was sitting very low in the water and the boat just felt heavy. The set was iffy too, dragging our riggers in the water a time or two. Not a fun race. On the plus side, our "A" boat won. Its been a while since the men's side of the club has been competitive so congratulations to them. Another nice thing about Sunday is we were done racing by Noon. Saturday was an all day event and we were unloading the trailer at 7 at night. Made for one long day. Next up for us is Diamond State Masters in two weeks.

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