Open Water Rowing

No, ergs don't yet float, but some of us do, and here's where you get to discuss that other form of rowing.
Cyclist2
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Cyclist2 » September 25th, 2018, 11:03 am

Nice job, Paul! That sounds like some pretty serious open water. You got that box checked. I'm pretty sure I'd pass on most of the races you describe competing in!

I've been rowing my new Aero on the Hood Canal (Puget Sound), but I pick my days carefully. I have signed up for a head race in October, just to get the feeling of the crowds, other boats around, and the atmosphere that I haven't experienced in over 20 years. I don't really expect much, just get the feel back. I'll post a race report.
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » September 27th, 2018, 9:48 am

Cyclist2 wrote:
September 25th, 2018, 11:03 am
Nice job, Paul! That sounds like some pretty serious open water. You got that box checked. I'm pretty sure I'd pass on most of the races you describe competing in!

I've been rowing my new Aero on the Hood Canal (Puget Sound), but I pick my days carefully. I have signed up for a head race in October, just to get the feeling of the crowds, other boats around, and the atmosphere that I haven't experienced in over 20 years. I don't really expect much, just get the feel back. I'll post a race report.
Mark: I'd look forward to hearing your trip report. I may be taking some artistic license on some of my trip reports, but not on my first attempt at the Minots Light Roundabout. That was hairy. The second time was much better.

I recommend that all OTW rowers practice flipping and more importantly getting back in. The Aero is a great stable boat but if it has both front and back stays it could be more difficult to get back into. Practice will increase confidence.

Cyclist2
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Cyclist2 » September 27th, 2018, 5:58 pm

PaulG wrote:
September 27th, 2018, 9:48 am
I recommend that all OTW rowers practice flipping and more importantly getting back in. The Aero is a great stable boat but if it has both front and back stays it could be more difficult to get back into. Practice will increase confidence.
I went to my upcoming race venue yesterday and rowed the course. It was pretty choppy; a lot more than I usually choose to row in, plus some big power boat wakes. I caught a few crabs and took a little water over the gunwales, but nothing too scary. However, I had read your post, and after that row I decided I really needed to practice getting back in under more controlled conditions, so today I did.

Our little lake here is perfect for that, and it was a warm day, so into the drink I went. Twice, once from each side. No real problem getting back in, the Aero is a big wide platform, but I did discover a few small things that I have to modify (my feet didn't come out of the clogs very well). I can see how in really cold water, you'd have to force yourself to relax and breathe, slow it down a little so that your first effort is successful. Spend less time in the water overall.

Thanks for your post, Paul. It prompted me to do something I knew I should but never had. Until now.
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 16th, 2018, 8:43 pm

Last Saturday I traveled all of 5 miles down to the Lowell Boat Shop in Amesbury MA for the Mighty Merrimack Race. Lowell Boat Shop has been making dories since 1793 and continues to host boat building classes and build wooden boats. Take a look here: http://lowellsboatshop.com/ .
This is a very interesting place.

I've been in this race several times and it is usually just a fun row with a bunch of like minded folks and you tour the boat shop afterwards eating hamburgers and drinking craft beer. The weather was a little dismal but it is a short race. At the pre race meeting we were informed that it will be two laps this year and then the race director described the course. I asked a question and was told the course is the same as last year. OK fine. But then things went a little astray. When I looked at the handout provided and the race chart it was different from last year and different from what the director described. It really isn't hard to get these things right. The confusion was partly straightened out at the start line but at least one boat went much farther than necessary.

I was the only sliding seat boat, got and early lead, and finished first overall. After I glided across the finish line I was told I had another lap to go. No I didn't, I can accurately count to 2. Ok not a big deal. Finally at the awards ceremony they forgot to announce the overall winner (me!). I had to find the director afterwards to get my Lowell Boat Shop beer glass. Then I found her bullhorn and announced myself as the winner as my brother and two dorymen (Jeff and Rich), the only three people left outside, applauded. Ok not a big deal and we were laughing pretty hard afterwards. But really, it isn't hard to get these things right and it is nice to receive the acknowledgments of fellow rowers.

I still like this race and encourage others to participate next year. Maybe I take it too seriously but it isn't hard to get some of this stuff right.

This Saturday will be the Head of the Weir in Hull Mass and I understand there is also another race going on somewhere in Boston on the Charles River.

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 21st, 2018, 6:01 pm

The last voyage of the Bluefish

The Head of Weir is held on the beautiful Weir River estuary between Hingham and Hull Massachusetts. I’ve participated in it for several years and it is always well run. The night before the race I received an email that they shortened the course for the 2018 Head of the Weir due to small craft warnings. Since there are few crafts smaller than an ocean shell, this was a good idea. Once I arrived on site it was clear that it was a very good idea as it was blowing 15-20 MPH out of the W and NW. The race director explained the new course clearly and an accurate map was distributed at registration. The regular course is from the Hull DPW garage out the Weir River and across Hull Bay to the old Coast Guard Station near the High School. The shortened course went out the river but there was a jog into a cove along the Worlds End peninsula that forms the west bank of the river, and then out to buoy 6 for the turnaround and then back up the river to Steamboat Wharf for the finish. If you are interested I think you can find all these landmarks on Google Earth.

This race lumps all sliding seat boats into one class which often puts people in ocean shells at a disadvantage. This year there were four entries in the sliding seat division and they were all Echoes, similar to my boat! I’ve never seen this before and all my excuses about other people having faster boats were out the window. The competition was a women and her daughter from Ohio who drove out specifically for this event. I hope they did other things while they were here. (BTW someone could make a good rowing vacation this time of year in Massachusetts between the Mighty Merrimack Race, the Head of the Weir and the Head of the Charles.) They said they had never raced before and only rowed on lakes. Well, some of the lakes in Ohio are fairly Great so they might have been sandbagging me. The other competitor was a young guy with a lot of rowing experience and even coached for a while. I figured Coach would win and I had a good chance of finishing ahead of the Ohio women. One of these assumptions turned out to be true and the other not.

This is a head race and the clock starts when you are supposed to cross the start line. The starter does not wait. Even though Coach was starting one place before me, he helped me get my boat in the water even though I said he should go first. I heard the numbers being called down to our division but Coach was nowhere in sight. They repeatedly called his number and I caught a glimpse of him frantically adjusting his foot stretcher way behind me. He missed his start and I was ready to go when my number was called.

I know this course well and hit the apices of most the curves at the start. After that I rowed as close as possible to the west bank of the river to stay out of the wind. The course took a sharp curve to the west to round a buoy in a cove that is between the two drumlins that form the Worlds End peninsula. After that is was straight shot to buoy 6 for the turnaround. I left the lee of the peninsula and headed out to the channel to buoy 6 and things started to get rough. Two foot waves with white caps on top were approaching from my port side. That was uncomfortable. Then I had to round the buoy and head back upriver surfing the waves. I don’t like surfing waves. Sometimes the boat got a little sideways and slewed into the trough and it was hard to get it back on track. But, with each stroke I was getting back into the lee of the peninsula and the waves and wind were diminishing.

Then we entered the narrow channel that led to Steamboat Wharf. Because this was a shortened course, the same number of boats was entered, and the slow boats started first, things started to get very crowded near the finish line. I tried to keep a course parallel to a person behind me in a surf ski because he could see where he was going. However, I drifted a little too far away and got behind two big multi person fixed seat boats with another coming up fast behind me. I just held my place in the parade as I crossed the line even though I could have rowed faster. I never saw Coach or the Ohio women so I figured I won my division and I did for the first time in this race. My time was 40:40 for the about 4 mile shortened course.

After that it was load the boat and out to the old Coast Guard Station for chili, chowder, coffee and post-race talk. I met the Ohio women again but never found Coach. He did finish the race and I feel bad about getting in the water before him but he would not take no for an answer.

So why is this the last voyage of the Bluefish? I am going to put it up for sale and continue to row in my new (to me) blue Peinert Zephyr, the Bluefish II. The Zephyr is a lighter boat and much easier to handle around the boatshed and loading on to the car. Maybe the old Bluefish knew this was the last race and carried me safely through the chop around the turnaround buoy and surfed on to victory.

Cyclist2
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Cyclist2 » October 24th, 2018, 1:33 am

Nice, Paul! Both races!

Retiring a boat is sometimes hard. I completely restored an older Pocock wooden racing shell, then sold it. I bought an Aero, then sold it. Both bad decisions. My kids will decide what to do with my current Aero (and any other boat I may buy) after my demise.

Re; Cartopping. I built a wooden cradle that sits on top of my truck that has skateboard wheels at the back so I can easily roll the boat up onto the roof without having to lift it. That plus a PVC pipe dolly I built so I can roll the boat down to the water make transporting it much easier. I have photos if you might be interested in something similar.

Enjoy your new Zephyr, and keep the race reports coming!
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » May 24th, 2019, 9:13 am

I didn’t like the sound of the weather report. 10-15 mph with gusts to 25 mph out of the NW. The Essex River Race sponsored by the Cape Ann Rowing Club http://www.blackburnchallenge.com/default.asp was tomorrow and I didn’t have a lot of experience in rough water in my Peinert Zephyr, the Bluefish II. Regardless I would show up and see what it looked like.

The Essex River Race starts at the Riversbend Restaurant and Essex Marina in Essex Mass, goes out the tortuous Essex River and around three small islands (Cross, Corn, and Dilly) that appear as one large island interconnected by salt marsh and then back up the river. Take a look on Google Earth. Because the whole course is behind a barrier beach it was likely that the winds would not be as high as predicted and that was the case. After registration it appeared that the winds were dropping and it was going to be a beautiful May day in Massachusetts and we haven’t had many of them this year. Scanning the registration list it seemed that the likely competition would be another guy in a Zephyr as the other boats seemed to be slower designs, but you never know what a determined young rower can do in a slower boat. My goal was to finish in less than 1 hour and on the podium.

Launching was without drama and I took my preferred spot near the north bank of the river. Our class, <21 feet sliding seat, all went off at once and it was a fair start. Mr. Zephyr and I shot into the lead confirming my earlier estimation and then, of course, we shot into each other. As we disentangled the field caught up with us and we had to row through them. A few minutes late we repeated the process: entangle riggers and oars, the field catches up, disentangle, row through field.

By now we had left the river and were in the more open waters. Mr. Zephyr was slightly ahead to the south of me and I was trying to find the narrow channel between Conomo Point on the mainland and the islands. He had the more direct course and I thought I would try to catch him before we went through the channel. That didn’t happen and he entered the channel first. The channel is an area of tricky current and no place to try a tactical move. As I entered the channel I spotted and area of choppy water near the mainland side that in previous years was a signal of a back eddy of outgoing current while the rest of the channel was dominated by a strong incoming current. I shot through channel on the back eddy but he was still in front.

Now we were on the east side of the islands headed into the wind and I decided this is where I was going to pass him. Good, long, hard strokes and a line near the islands and slightly out of the wind had me gaining on him. But, an arm of salt marsh grass jutted out from the island and into my course and I had to make a large course correction to avoid running aground and he regained all that I had made up.

Now we had rounded the island and were headed home across open water before entering the river. The wind was still somewhat strong and we were in a manageable cross chop that was diminishing as we neared the entrance to the river. It was now or never as passing someone in the river was going to be difficult. Mr. Zephyr was slightly north of me on a converging course. As we neared each other I put the hammer down and rowed through him.

I’ve been passed in running track, had people blow by me in basketball, had balls spiked down my throat in volleyball and done the same to others but there is nothing in sport as demoralizing as being rowed through. It’s happened to me and will happen to anyone who competes in rowing. It just about ends your race. After I passed Mr. Zephyr I saw him stop to take a drink of water and adjust his seat pad. I knew the race was over.

Now there was just me and a smooth rowing guy in a Maas 24 entering the river. I was feeling pretty good and thought I could challenge the Maas or at least stay with him. The water got glassy and he looked over to me and said “this is great” and Mr. Smooth proceeded to row away from me so fast I’m not sure if he was ever there. I just tried to hold my pace and finish strong. I won my class, primarily because the guys who usually beat me didn’t race this year. My time was 1 hour 9 seconds for the 6 miles rowed as recorded on my GPS tracker. Call it an average speed of 6 mph. If we hadn’t had those two collisions and think we both would have broken 60 minutes. My GPS tracker showed that I rowed almost a perfectly straight line on the last leg from the island to the mouth of the river. I wish I had made a note of the compass bearing.

After the race we had a great picnic and PBR hosted by Riversbend Restaurant and Mr. Zephyr and I helped each other load up our boats and we laughed and talked about rowing and boats. It was a great day.

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gregsmith01748
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by gregsmith01748 » May 24th, 2019, 9:27 am

Paul,

Great story! I know what you mean about rowing through people and being overtaken. It's the best/worst part of head racing.

I'm curious about how you would compare the Zephyr and Maas Aero?

The Zephyr is a couple feet shorter and a bit wider, so I imagine that its a bit better in chop, but slower on flat water. Have you rowed both?

Thanks
Greg
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PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » May 26th, 2019, 4:46 pm

Greg:

You accurately described the differences between the boats. I've rowed both and the Aero is faster in flatter water, but I bet a skilled sculler can make it go as fast as a Zephyr in reasonably rough water. They race Aeros a lot on the west coast in open water. A major difference is that the Aero is just a beautiful looking boat while the Zephyr is more prosaic.

I chose the Zephyr because most of the competition on the east coast is in the under 21 ft class which includes Alden 18s and Echoes. The Aero would be in with even faster boats such as the Peinert Dolphin and the Maas 24 and some of the longer Alden boats.

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