Today was my first Regatta, or rowing competition. The men’s and women’s teams drove to New Jersey for the 15th Annual Jesuit Invitational at Cooper River, New Jersey, to race against St. Joseph’s, Georgetown, Canisius, and Loyola.
Yesterday during our afternoon practice, we spent about an hour and a half de-rigging the boats, which is a lengthy process. We had to remove the riggers from the boats and secure them in a trailer, then load the oars in, and finally put the boats in. Then this morning we got on the bus for a 3 hour drive.
We spent around 7 hours driving so that we could compete for around 7 minutes (or 8 minutes for those of us who are rather slow, and spoiler alert we are still a bit slow). It was cold outside, and it snowed on and off (mostly on) all day, both in New Jersey and in Connecticut. We set up a tent and tables, on which there was our breakfast and lunch, largely provided by generous parents.
The men’s team had 3 boats: Varsity 8, Freshman 8 (or “Novice 8” since it technically includes new rowers who are not necessarily freshmen), and Second Varsity 8 (aka JV). I was in the JV boat, which rowed soon after the Freshman race. But once we were on the dock and preparing to warm up, 2 of the freshmen who were planning on rowing a second time (who coincidentally happen to be the 2 freshman recruits) were injured after their race and didn’t want to risk hurting themselves further. So we found 2 volunteers and got ready.
So we got to the starting line, and once the 4 boats were “in alignment,” we took off. Our coxswain shouted encouragement at us, as well as reminders such as “don’t rush the recovery” and “stay together.” Everyone made some mistakes but we managed to cross the finish line after about 8 minutes and 20 seconds if I remember correctly. We came in last in each of the 3 races, but there is hope for the future as everyone continues to get stronger.
After the races were done we had to put everything away; the boats, the riggers, the tent, the food, etc. Then we drove to Norwalk were we had to put everything back on and back in place for practice on Monday (remember, it’s been snowing the whole time). The older coach really wanted to get things done quickly and efficiently apparently, and was forcefully (yet benevolently) directing everything. At one point someone tried to toss the hose to someone else, for washing a boat down. As you can imagine, it turned on once it hit the ground and started spraying water at all the shivering rowers within its range. Immediately, the coach lunged for the hose and started spraying the inside of the boat. It was like watching a soldier run for a grenade to protect his comrades. From some stories I’ve heard from some of the veterans, this coach has a history of taking matters into his own hands at regattas when things aren’t running smoothly. And when he’s involved, smoothly they run. Also following his girls’ boats while on roller skates, although I didn’t get to witness that today.
Before we got on the bus back to Connecticut, the head coach spoke to all of us and said that often times there are a lot of rowing hopefuls who start in the fall, unaware of the suffering that awaits them in winter training. This is why he calls fall the “fluffy semester.” But now all the new rowers who have stuck around until the first race are “no longer fluff.” Therefore, each of us received hats.