BELFAST — Come Boating!, Belfast's own community rowing program, has had a busy two months of races, sending a team down to row in races in Gloucester Harbor and Cohasset and then sending a team to Plymouth for the "Row to the Rock" race, all in Massachusetts.
First up was the huge challenge of back-to-back races in the sixth annual Gloucester Harbor race and the Minot's Light Roundabout on Saturday, Sept. 20 and 21.
The team of Anne Hallee, Tracy Cunning, David Cubberly, Kevin Brown, Monica Piccinini, Rafe Blood, and Cox Roy Rodgers first tackled the 3.5-mile course at Gloucester Harbor, rowing in Come Boating!'s newest Pilot Gig, the "Malcolm G".
Cold, windy, and choppy conditions greeted the rowers, with three to five foot swells out by the breakwater. Despite the rough conditions, the crew managed to finish the course in 32:10, finishing first in their class against eight other boats and putting in the fastest overall time.
Gloucester turned out to be a great warm up for the Minot's Light Roundabout, sponsored by the Cohasset Maritime Institute, which saw much better weather, but much worse seas. Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and a beautiful, white sand beach saw the start of the race; a 4.2 mile race out to the fabled Minot's Lighthouse and back.
Rodgers reported "some of the waves had to be about [six] feet" and he spent much of the race standing up, clinging to the rails for balance, and still not always being able to see the race markers above the seas.
"We had oars popping out of thule pins a few times, and several of us felt like we were going to fall out of the boat!" said Cunning, but it was also "like the best adventure park ride you've ever been on! Colossal fun!"
The team managed to finish first in their class yet again, with a time of 51:46, only 16 seconds behind the sliding-seat, four-oared Mainville 26 shell from Cohasset, this time beating six other Pilot Gigs.
Then, on Oct. 11, a new team consisting of John Dillenbeck, Cunning, Gregory Stafford, Cubberly, Hallee, Susan Orsato, and coxswain Malcolm Gator, took the "Malcolm G." down to Plymouth, Mass. for Team Saquish's "Row for the Rock".
A gloomy day gave way to strong, wind driven rain by race time, making conditions difficult with chilly temperatures and unpredictable, choppy seas.
Most agreed that this difficult course was more than the advertised 3.5 miles, and rough conditions made it a hard row, with oars often coming out of the thule pins (which keep the oars in place), oars catching a "crab" (the blade of the oar gets stuck under water), and poor visibility.
The crew of the "Malcolm G" managed to place first in the Pilot Gig class with a time of 36:00, beating six other gigs.
Next up for Come Boating! is the last race of the year, Hull Lifesaving Museum's "The Head of the Weir", on Saturday, Oct. 25.
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