Station Maine’s racing season got off to a rocky start this year. Only four of the nine rowers who we expected to race with the Seals actually showed up. Then another accident delayed our training season by three weeks. In fact our first real race on North Haven caught us adding Juniors to fill the boat and racing with no more training and conditioning than our summer season had provided. And those Island kids on Vinalhaven and North Haven are HUGE. In a fair race, which looked sort of like Orks against he Hobbits, we placed third of three boats.
This is the point where decisions are made. The sensible people of the world say, “Look, you have it all stacked against you this year. You don’t have a chance. Bow out gracefully, or at least don’t expect to win anything.” The crew of Station Maine made a different decision. They worked harder and with even more determination.
The next race was on Vinalhaven. Same Orks, same Hobbits. We borrowed one rower from another crew to fill out our numbers. Open Water Rowing is a wonderfully inclusive race. Everyone gets a chance to row, either with their own crew or someone else’s. Two heats around two buoys and home. We won both of them.
Encouraged by this victory we pointed our van for the regional meet in Vermont. We rowed a smaller coxed four this time in accordance with our numbers. I waited on shore with the other coaches and supporters near the finish line. Imagine my surprise when the fleet pulled into view and I saw our little four-oared gig out in front of the fleet of eight boats tied for first. Imagine my joy when Station Maine’s Hobbits crossed the finish line in a close photo finish, but clearly first in the fleet.
Of course there are lessons to be learned from this racing season. Philosophers and writers will articulate them. Parents and teachers will lecture about them. The young crew of Station Maine has very little time for these lessons. We’re already living them.