This is just my own experience, mind you. There were 281 entrants in this event and, I believe, there were most certainly, 281 different experiences. Here I go.
OK, so I attended this regatta for the third time last Saturday. This time, however, I really wanted to understand it because I am chairing a committee that will produce a head race in October. I wanted to soak in every aspect of it, the venue, the events, the results, the community, well, just everything. I think to understand regattas you can’t just watch them from the shore. You have to really participate ( register, prepare, arrive, execute) to understand it. This race involved 281 participants (although there were a number of “scratches”—cancels). Twenty six clubs.
The venue is Overpeck Park, a wonderful place to walk, run, bike and enjoy the great outdoors. It happens to be the place where Columbia University Crew rows often.
I do not currently belong to a club so I do not own a competitive boat. But I do have what is called a “rec” (or recreational) boat. That is, a boat with a wider body than the skinny crew shells that you see at most rowing clubs. Since I have training boats I decided to use what I have. Fortunately, for me, there is no one in the whole north east who attends this regatta who has a “rec” boat and wants to compete. Lucky me, right?
Other than that, I am treated like any other single boat. I am given a handicap, because of my age (I am now 70). I am given an event #. It was #11. And I am given a lane. Overpeck has 7 lanes. I was given lane #1—the worst lane. At least, it was the worst for me. Why?
In the first place, as soon as I got in the water, I noticed that there was an inordinate amount of algae in the water. Just below the surface of the water it was not easy to perceive. I, and a couple of the other ladies who were in the race scheduled for 8:18am, got our oars stuck in the muck. It took a while to get ourselves out of it. The further in the middle of the venue you were, the farther away from the muck along the sides of the lake. The startup lane, a lane used to row yourself out to the start positions, was marked by one orange buoy. Many of the rowers rowed to the right of the buoy (inside the race lanes) to get away from the muck.
OK, so we finally get to the start position at 1000M out and wait for the call “Attention! Row!”. No sooner than I started that I noticed that lane 1 was laced with the muck mentioned before. In the excitement and frantic attempt to free myself I got deeper in it. I finally broke away from it. I was out of the lane, too close to the shore where there was the lion’s share of the muck. This is because the lanes are only marked by one buoy at 500 meters and then at the finish. Two buoys for 1000M for a very wide course means it is very difficult to gauge where you are, especially if you are fighting muck.
My performance was abysmal I admit. I was not there to win even though I would win by default. I had to remind them of this, however. Although I was in event #11, I was lumped with the results of event #12. Of course I was last in event #12 (of which I was not a part–see below).
Regardless of all of this, I am happy that there even is an event that I could participate in with my “rec” boat. And I am appreciative of ALL THE PEOPLE who put such an event together. There would be alot of work to put extra buoys out in the lake. They only have maybe four powerboats for the officials. And when I strayed so much into the muck they sent someone to make sure I got to the finish safely.
But I will be enlisting many others for the head race. We have many kayakers in the community who would love to help us put a safe race together. It is one thing to race over 1000 meters but a race over 3.3 miles (after a 2.5 mile warmup to the start) is a gauntlet we should have a team of volunteers to ensure the safety of so many rowers.