Today I tried a new regatta – the Row for the Cure in Poughkeepsie, NY. It is somewhat of a coincidence that today also marked the IRA Championships, which originally were held in Poughkeepsie in the late 1800s.
It was a great day – the terrible wind from yesterday was gone, and the weather was beautiful. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was only an hour from my house and it sounded like a good season opener.
It was a strange and unexpected trip for several reasons:
1. It was weird to have this huge rowing scene just appear seemingly out of nowhere, and few people in my area seem to know about it. I came down the hill to the largest boathouse I have ever seen, with probably a couple of thousand people in the crowd, almost all of them from high schools. Hudson River Rowing Association has a facility with 7 boat bays, hundreds of boats, plus tanks, etc. Massive facility in a pretty out-of the-way location. The scale of the river is immense too. 10 “lanes,” no stake boats, no buoys, no visual references to steer by for an uncoxed boat. A little intimidating but kind of cool too. The regatta was not very well publicized outside of the high school scene – I was just looking for an early-season race on RegattaCentral and found it by accident.
2. It was an interesting race format, billed as the “Masters 1X.” 1500 meters, no handicaps, with competitors ranging in age from 19 to 64. I guess in the context of this regatta, “masters” means “anyone who has graduated from high school!”
3. I had a good time and finished 2nd. It was a wild race – right when we were lining up for the start a huge barge came downstream and a big red tanker ship started coming upstream. The official saw my green shirt and joked that, as a Cornell alum, he didn’t mind anything that could be called “Big Red.” They asked us if we wanted to delay the race, but the wakes would get us either way, so we went for it. The two young guys went out hard and the wakes got me first as I was in the outside lane. The race was more like 5 or 6 segments of 20-30 strokes separated with some half-slide rowing or even pauses to cut through the wakes. The saving grace was that I was through the bumpy water first and was able to catch one of the young guys in the last 500 when it was his turn to get bounced around. I have been working a lot on power and support at the finish, picking up the speed of the boat more than jamming it off the catch. This paid off in the bumpy water and I never felt out of control.
4. The regatta ran early instead of late and the results were posted before I de-rigged my single. Impressive organization.
Overall I went home with a good opening result for the season, a with-current 1500m time of 5:24, and a feeling that I had contributed to a good cause. I will likely be back next year unless it’s windy, in which case I suspect it would be very ugly.