Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Des Moines Regatta

From September 2011

This Saturday I was in two rowing races during the Des Moines Regatta.  In the morning, I rowed port in a novice mixed 8 with the crew that I have been practicing with on Saturdays. In the afternoon, I rowed starboard in a men's four that I had never rowed with.  Last week we practiced the race course in our lineup and cruised.  Our speed was enough that our cox felt like we could totally win it.  We had few problems and our timing and balance were good.  For practices we have been using the older, heavier, wider fiberglass and wood boats.  For the race, because we were doing so well, our cox arranged for us to get a carbon fiber sliver of a boat named Caliente.

From September 2011

The day of the race we had to row up from the dock a couple of miles to the start before the race.  Conditions really were perfect.  Cool, flat water. The mist rose up in thin tendrils from the river.  The sun was warm, but the air cool.  We wore our jackets rowing up, but it was comfortable in shirtsleeves once we warmed up.  The boat was light and thin.  Carrying it to the river was a breeze.  As soon as I started putting my oar in I could feel though how tippy it was.  When we were all in and pushed away from the dock, we all felt it as minute adjustments on one side buried the oars on the other side.  We had some trouble getting back in rhythm and keeping the balance on the way up, but as we rowed past the park and under the bridge it felt good.  We turned, chatted with the boat behind us in the lineup and got ready to go.

Then, it all fell apart.  The stroke seat sets the timing of the boat and he immediately got his oar stuck in the current.  It whipped behind him and he had to lay down and pull it back.  Then it happened again.  And again.  We got into a decent pace, but never really recovered.  The boat behind us passed us easily and we struggled to keep the boat balanced, tending to list to port, which made the stroke's ability to keep control of his oar worse.  So we lost.  Not horribly - 26 minutes for the course, but in practice we were almost 5 minutes faster.

I had the best cheer squad along the river though!

From September 2011

The afternoon race was with the same guy in stroke, we also had never rowed together, and we were in a different boat then planned.  The original boat actually sank during the women's race earlier in the day; so we dusted off an antique hanging from the ceiling and hefted it down to the river.  My seat was broken.  The footstretchers had odd leather straps instead of shoes that were held in place with ties that no one figured out. The whole boat creaked and groaned with every stroke.  To make it worse, our stroke was still nervous from the morning where his oar seemed intent on knocking him out of the boat, so he was very timid.  The guy behind him overcompensated pushing with all his might and veering the boat each time.  We were late getting to the start and then disqualified for basically rowing very badly.

Rowing back, we changed the person sitting in the stroke position and taped our feet in.  I kept my seat in the rails, and we were a creaky, but smooth boat.  We easily passed the boats ahead of us and slid along the dock, but it didn't matter by then since we were exhausted and out of the race.

A total blast though.  There were hundreds of people competing, from colleges around the Midwest and community clubs like ours. In the morning I helped unpack 4 bushel boxes of bananas by the registration booth along with 3 boxes of apples and a table of muffins.  I thought there couldn't possibly be enough people to eat all of that.  It was gone by 7:30.  The crowd was much larger than I expected, with lots of cheering and music.  It has been the highlight of my summer and I have had so much fun.

I can remember seeing a boat like these in Boise when I was walking home from school one day and wishing I could try one out. I put it on my "bucket" list, and it was awesome to be able to try.  Next year our crew has committed to practicing together again and plan on practicing on the carbon fiber boat and will be quite competitive.


Bonnie said...


Bob said...

Hi Brian,
Good to hear that you are having fun on the river. Grandma is on the Oregon coast with about eight other hens, having their yearly hen party. Guess I will call them tonight HI to the rest of the family. Bob C.