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.
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PaulG
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Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 18th, 2011, 9:58 pm

My interest in erging has led to an interest in OTW rowing especially open water. Two weekends ago I entered the grandly titled East Coast Open Water Rowing Championships in Plymouth Mass USA. I don't think there were many people from outside New England with the possible exceptions of maybe a whaleboat or Cornish gig crew. In any case the weather was unseaonably warm in the 80s F, but the water was still open....and rough. I was the sliding seat <21 ft division in my Echo Islander.

My heat started off in a cross wave conditon but not too bad. Then we turned the first mark and headed north into a confused 2-3 ft chop. I'm not saying the waves were breaking that high because I was too scared to turn around and look. However, I was definitely taking water up to my shoulders and spray above that. I found out what my boat was designed for and how the self bailer works. That leg was pure ergometry - just keep your head down and row. I passed a few people on that leg including a gal in a Maas flyweight that did not really seem to be enjoying it. Rounding the second mark we were back in the cross waves and I was having difficulty keeping a rhythm. Rounding the third mark in much calmer near shore water I spotted the leader and he saw me coming so I couldn't really close the gap. Coming up from behind was the gal in the Maas flyweight and she just smoked by us in the calm water. There was nothing I could do. I was feeling a little glum about that until I realized she was in a different class (>21 ft) so it must have been the boat. Couldn't have been the rower. :D

Anyway I ended up second in my class (to a younger rower) in the 4.1 mile race and there is no need to discuss how many boats were in my class (OK, more than 3). It was lots of fun and I look forward to the next race.

The grandaddy of open water rowing is the 21 mile Blackburn Challenge around Cape Ann Massachusetts but that sounds too much like running a marathon with a chance of drowning.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by DavidA » October 25th, 2011, 2:51 pm

Congratulations Paul!
Sounds rough.

David
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PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 30th, 2011, 8:50 pm

Thanks David. There was another open water race scheduled for this past Saturday 10/29 in the Weir River estuary in Hingham, Mass, USA. I was going to enter and report on it but the race was postponed due to gale warnings. Smart thinking. It is rescheduled for next weekend and I may enter depending on the weather. November is awful cold to be rowing in open water in a shell in New England, considering that we just got 3-5 inches of snow.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » May 26th, 2012, 1:34 pm

Last weekend (5/19) I participated in the Essex River race in Essex Mass. This is a 7 mile open water race out the winding Essex River, around an island and then back up the river. Before the race started I wandered around the launch area looking at all the various dories, work boats, various kayaks and rowing shells. I thought I was going for a long row with about 100 friends that I haven’t met yet, but when I saw people with GPS units and compass bearings taped to their hulls I knew this could be serious. I made my way to the start line with the first heat of open water rowing shells, primarily Echoes and Aldens, but a few Peinert Zephyrs and Maas Aeros thrown in. The weather was clear and calm so the advantage was to the Peinerts and Maases . We got our start and the rest of the heat took off like a shot. “Hah”, I thought, "let them go. I’ll catch these guys soon enough." I was right but unfortunately it was after the race while eating chowder and drinking beer.

Shortly after the start I had a close encounter with a forward rowing shell and after we disentangled I learned that you just cannot get as close to the river bank in a rowing shell as you can with a kayak. After I got away from the bank my heat was well ahead so I just tried to settle into a rhythm. I was gaining on them as we approached the island, but unfortunately I was also approaching a boat mooring dead ahead and had to stop rowing and glide over it to prevent getting entangled in the mooring and tag line to the pick-up buoy. Again I regained my rhythm and started to pass boats. As another person from my heat and I approached a fixed seat dory from an earlier heat, we decided to pass him on either side. It seemed like a good idea but the doryman only got half the idea and he moved to starboard to make way for the other guy, but rowed right into me. We exchanged pleasantries, got disentangled and went our separate ways as we rounded the island and headed back upriver.

At this point thing got a little hazy as the sunscreen started to drip into my eyes, but I have a vague recollection of being passed by an old Cuban fisherman with a huge fish lashed to the side of his boat, and then a Gloucester doryman with his hands frozen to the oars. Things cleared in my mind as I made my way back up the tortuous Essex River, but an emergency siren call on shore distracted me and (you guessed it) I rowed into a patch of marsh grass and had another guy follow me in. With all my recent experience I was able to get disentangled fairly quickly, back out of the marsh grass, and cross the finish line a 100 m upriver.

I finished 12 out of 19 in my class and I’m calling that middle of the pack. I lost at least 5 minutes due to collisions and errors which would have put me in the top 6. It was a lot of fun, but I really need to learn to navigate.

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Yankeerunner
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Yankeerunner » May 26th, 2012, 2:20 pm

Egads man! If YOU had that much trouble I shudder to think where I would have ended up. :o

See you tomorrow. Hopefully I will be able to negotiate the middle of Lake Gardiner.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by tgf1 » May 26th, 2012, 4:13 pm

Funny, surreal, and why do you do this? :D The erg can be hard enough without becoming entangled in people and sea shrubbery.

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Byron Drachman
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Byron Drachman » May 28th, 2012, 2:02 pm

Hi Paul,

What a fabulous thread! Thanks for the posts, and please keep them coming. Dang, that sounds like fun.

Byron

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Bob S. » May 28th, 2012, 7:36 pm

In California the top races are Catalina Island to Marina del Rey, about 30 miles, and from San Francisco Bay out around the Farallones and back, up to 60 miles round trip. Escort boats are required for all entrants in the Catalina race and I suppose that they must also be for the far tougher Farallones race which goes near or across the infamous "potato patch," in the region of the bar off the Golden Gate. Top notch "blue water" rowing, but still not in the trans-ocean bracket. For one thing, the escort boats can toss you bottles of drinking water or juices.

Bob S.

Note added in edit: I just looked up the Farallones on Google Earth. When I checked on one of the photos available it was labelled "Great White Shark Breeding Grounds." If that is the breeding grounds, I wonder where the feeding grounds are.

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Yankeerunner
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Yankeerunner » May 29th, 2012, 12:01 pm

The best thing about OTW for me so far is all the extra training for free. For example, rowing about 1km out to a marker on Lake Gardiner and back again allows me to cover some 4.5 to 5km due to the occasional (about once every 4 strokes or so) course corrections. I must have been using He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's Head of the Charles stroke. :mrgreen:

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » May 31st, 2012, 8:41 pm

tgf1 wrote:Funny, surreal, and why do you do this? :D The erg can be hard enough without becoming entangled in people and sea shrubbery.
Why do I do it? For the free t shirt you get for the $27 entry fee. I'm wearing it now.
Shrubbery? Do I see another link to a Monty Python clip?

I will be entering a few more races this summer and fall, but if I acheive any degree of competence my stories will be less interesting.

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 16th, 2012, 9:56 pm

Friday night was the first frost on the cranberry bogs of southeastern Massachusetts and on Saturday morning I was in Plymouth Harbor for the over-titled 2012 East Coast Open Water Rowing Championship. Following my prior performance in the tortuous Essex River race, I was looking forward to the open waters of Plymouth Bay. By 10:30 the frost was gone but it was still cold with the wind out of the north. I took my place in the second heat with the “small boats” following the whaleboats and pilot gigs in the first heat. At the line I saw various one and two man boats, a racing canoe and an Alden double manned by two experienced scullers. Well, they were going to win the heat and I would try to follow them. Just like last year the race started out heading due east with a cross chop. I had a compass bearing on the first mark but overcompensated for the wind approached it from too far to the north and rounded the mark with the pack with the Alden double well in the lead. As we headed due north into the wind and chop for the second mark I started to pass boats and separated from the pack. My Echo rows well into the wind and I just concentrated on taking good strong strokes checking the compass for direction, checking over my shoulder for the double, and watching the racing canoe behind me because they were the only people who could see where they were really going. At the start, the race director said on the second leg we should head for the Myles Standish Monument, an obvious landmark in Duxbury, and we would find the second mark. Well, I did and so did everyone else but after the channel markers started to slip behind and we started to sight icebergs and polar bears it occurred that we might have gone too far north. There was a race marker well to the west, but that must have been the third mark, right? Apparently not. Suddenly the Alden double broke for the west and after I rowed a complete circle looking the second mark I followed suit, but had to pass several boats again. I caught them on the way to the third mark, and rounded that mark in second place in my heat. In the nearshore waters on the way to the finish line behind the double I was tired, but concentrated on taking good strokes and finished the approximately 4 mile course (does anyone really know the length?) in 46:49.

I drifted near the finish line and accepted the roaring adoration of the crowd (well, my wife took a picture) and watched the rest of the heat finish. As the various one and two man dories and racing canoes finished it occurred to me that I was the only single sliding seat boat in the race and that’s how I became the 2012 Open Water Single Scull Champion of the East Coast. Never mind those guys who raced in the 25 mile Blackburn Challenge and the Essex River Race, they weren’t there and I was and I won and I have the certificate to prove it! Woody Allen was right.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by mikvan52 » October 17th, 2012, 10:39 am

"we started to sight icebergs and polar bears"
:lol:
Did your wife get pictures of those too? :wink:


Great job, Paul!
I can just picture you and your Echo plying the waves!
3 Crash-B hammers
American 60's Lwt. 2k record (6:49) •• set WRs for 60' & FM •• ~ now surpassed
repeat combined Masters Lwt & Hwt 1x National Champion E & F class
62 yrs, 160 lbs, 6' ...

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Bob S. » October 17th, 2012, 1:06 pm

Enjoyed the report. A great read.

Bob S.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 31st, 2012, 9:34 pm

Last Saturday was a beautiful October day on the Massachusetts coast and I participated in the five-mile Head of the Weir River race from the Hull-Hingham town line to Point Allerton in Hull. The race was hosted by the Hull Lifesaving Museum and they did a great job. As I feared earlier, if I ever started to get some proficiency in open water rowing, my stories would become less interesting and that’s what happened. No collisions with other boats, river banks or sea shrubbery. At the start there was the usual collection of pilot boats, livery boats, various dories, canoes and kayaks, and one Irish Curragh. In the single sliding seat division there were two younger guys each in a Peinert Dolphin and a Maas Aero, so with the calm sea state and no wind to the disadvantage of the Echoes, my race was going to be for third place at best.

The start was at 30 second intervals so that minimized my opportunity to have close encounters with my fellow rowers. I made it to the start just as they called my number and got a good rolling start through the starting line. Soon thereafter I passed the rower in front of me and then was quickly approached by and passed by an Alden double. Wait a minute; those were the same guys who led me astray in Plymouth a few weeks earlier! But this time they were on their home turf (water) and they knew the course very well. My goal was to keep them in sight and follow as close as possible. We headed down the winding Weir River with the town of Hull to starboard side and the beautiful Worlds End peninsula in Hingham to port. Worlds End is now conservation land but at one time it had been a suggested site for either the United Nations or a nuclear power plant. You can decide which could have caused more harm, but it would be an ominous place name for either.

As we broke into the open waters of Hingham and Hull Bays, I fetched up the wake of the Alden double (Gawd, I just love nautical talk and Patrick O’Brian novels: Keelhaul the landlubber, circumcise the compass! Or is it the other way round?) and tried to keep in contact with good hard strokes. However, I found that any attempt to seriously raise my rate resulted in bad strokes. They cut close to the Hull shore and I followed them in but could not overtake them. Then I saw the guy in the Dolphin rowing back to the start line so I figured he must be the winner. The finish line was a finger pier near the Point Allerton Coast Guard Station and as I tired I was amazed at just how many piers there were that were NOT the finish line. Eventually I heard a horn and my race was over. I finished fourth, the second Echo, and it was really one of the most beautiful rows I have been on. People came from as far as Lake Champlain and Albany NY and I recommend it to any open water rower. Next race is the Snow Row on Hingham Bay in early March. That will be combination of a race and exposure survival experiment with a LeMans start. I should have some good stories from that.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by harpblues » March 14th, 2013, 10:38 pm

I live in Mass also and hope to enter several of the open water races you mentioned Paul. There doesn't seem to be a way to get in touch with you? I would love to pick your brain on these local races. Can you contact me Paul, or anyone else with experience in these races. My email is caterhamsv2002@ yahoo dot com

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