By Ken Waltz
HULL, MASS. (Nov 28): North Haven Community School, Vinalhaven High School and Station Maine student-athletes competed in the prestigious Northeast Regional Youth Open-Water Rowing Championships — or Icebreaker — Nov. 18 at the Hull Lifesaving Museum.
North Haven won the Second Pilot Gigs division, while Station Maine of Rockland was third in that event. Vinalhaven was third for the First Pilot Gigs and the Vikings placed third in the First Sixes Nautical Mile. North Haven was second and Station Maine fourth in the Second Sixes.
There were more than 20 crews and 175 participants from Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts in the popular event. There were eight coxed fours and 15 pilot gigs. There were 24 crew master races, plus a nautical mile finale.
North Haven, coached by Tammy Brown, includes Conor Curtin (stroke oar), Racheal Brown, Amilia Campbell, Brittany Cooper, Stephanie Brown, Mallory Brown and Tom Emerson. Missing from the event was Natalie Jones, "who helped to prepare the team for a great fall of rowing," the coach said.
Jones is the coxswain of Recovery. She had to stay behind due to other commitments, the coach said.
The Vinalhaven crew, coached by Heather White and Tristan Jackson, includes Chad Guilford (cox), Hillary Bunker (stroke), Morgan Boughton (second stroke), Sig Beckman (engine room), Ethan Warren (engine room), Willard Webster (engine room), Ginger Swears (bow), Katilynn Willis (bow) and Marcella Marzenell (bow).
The Viking had won the Icebreaker the past two years.
"This year was a little different," said White. "We had a different group of rowers. We won almost all of our races the whole season and felt very good about heading down to Hull. We entered into the First Sixes category (for the most experienced crews). Our team this year was mostly sophomores — half girls and half boys. In our category we were up against two other boats filled completely with high school senior boys. Our team raced extremely well and really held their own. They took third place for their division and we're very proud of themselves."
Muriel Curtis is the director of Station Maine, located on Wharf Street in Rockland. Participating from Station Maine were Devin Walauski, Layla Gifford, Tristan Slaymaker, Cameron McCrae, Alex Jones and Mariah Jones.
Boats sit on the beach waiting for the competition. (Image courtesy of Heather White)
"The most glorious part of the open water racing is that everyone's a winner right from the start just by being there," Curtis said. "Station Maine's racers took real pride in training very hard, running a mile every day, and doing pushups for missed commands. They pulled with everything they had and were always at the front of the line when there was work to be done. They were superb ambassadors for the State of Maine, for their various communities, and for their families."
Until 2004, North Haven had been the only Maine team to capture the Icebreaker title, winning in 2001. Then Vinalhaven won two years in a row.
The results of the Nov. 18 Icebreaker races were:
Novice Coxed Fours — 1, Vergennes (Vermont), 13:49; 2, Sound School (New Haven, Conn.), 14:15; 3, The Harbor School (Boston) 1, 16:04; and 4, The Harbor School (Boston) 2, 17:18.
Novice Pilot Gigs — 1, Sound School, 14:07; 2, Middlebury (Vermont), 15:46; 3, Vergennes, 15:36; and 4, St. Albans (Vermont), 16:34.
Second Coxed Fours — 1, Floating Apple 1 (New York), 30:50; 2, Saquish (Plymouth), 31:36; 3, Fenway High (Boston), 31:44; 4, Bridgeport (Connecticut), 36:36; and 5, Floating the Apple 2 (New York), 37:37.
Second Pilot Gigs — 1, North Haven, 26:32; 2, Vergennes, 27:54); 3, Station Maine, 27:59; 4, Hinesburg 2 (Vermont), 28:40; 5, Hinesburg 1 (Vermont), 29:45; 6, Martha's Vineyard (Mass.), 30:47; and 7, South Shore (Hull), 34:03. In winning, the Hawks recorded times of 6:58 in heat one, 6:40 in heat two, 6:40 in heat three and 6:13 in heat four. In finishing third, Station Maine had times of 7:23 in heat one, 6:44 in heat two, 7:01 in heat three and 6:51 in heat four.
First Coxed Fours — 1, Sound School, 42:39; 2, South Shore 1, 44:20; 3, South Shore 2, 46:02; and 4, Seaport MAP (Boston), 46:18.
First Pilot Gigs — 1, Sound School, 37:46; 2, Saquish (Plymouth), 38:30; and 3, Vinalhaven (40:32). In finishing third, the Vikings compiled times of 10:41 in heat one, 10:48 in heat two, 9:44 in heat three and 9:58 in heat four.
Nautical Mile First Sixes — 1, Sound, 11:48; 2, Saquish, 12:55; and 3, Vinalhaven, 14:24.
Nautical Mile Second Sixes — 1, Vergennes, 13:29; 2, North Haven, 14:44; 3, Hinesburg 2, 15:51; 4, Station Maine, 16:19; 5, Vineyard, 16:25; 6, South Shore, 20:13; and 7, Hinesburg 1, 20:15.
Nautical Mile First Fours — 1, Sound, 13:09; 2, South Shore 2, 15:19; and 3, South Shore 2, 15:23.
Nautical Mile Second Fours — 1, Saquish, 17:03; 2, FTA 1, 17:34; 3, Bridgeport, 20:05; and 4, FTA 2, 22:45.
Nautical Mile Novice Fours — 1, Vergennes, 20:45; and 2, Harbor School, 20:51.
Crews in each division — First Sixes, Second Sixes, Novice Sixes, First Fours, Second Fours, Novice Fours) had to race four heats of the same course in different boats and then there was a nautical mile sprint.
The difference between the First Pilot Gigs, Second Pilot Gigs and Novice is experience.
"Any boat listed in First Sixes must be an all-student boat," coach Brown said. "That means that the boat must be coxed by a student and not an adult. That is why North Haven had to register in the Second Sixes. Ryan Lantagne, who graduated from North Haven Community School in 2004, coxed team Recovery for the icebreaker this year in Natalie's absence."
The Icebreaker is made up of four round-robin events in which rowers rotate through other teams boat and end in their own boat for the final race of the day. After the four heats are completed all the teams and boats — regardless of ability — start at the same time for the nautical mile race to finish the day.
This year's Icebreaker began at 9 a.m. and finished at 4:30 p.m.
The sport of "fixed-seat/open-water rowing," once somewhat esoteric, is rapidly expanding into the mainstream, with the Icebreaker an exciting format for youngsters. The most skilled youth open-water rowers in the Northeast, from New York City, New Haven, New Bedford, Boston Harbor, Duxbury, Gloucester, Hanover, Lake Champlain, North Haven and Vinalhaven, converge on Boston Harbor late every fall to compete for the coveted "Key to the Harbor" and bragging rights for the rest of the year.
The Icebreaker is more than a conventional race. The day is comprised of a series of grueling round-robin-style sprints, with crews asked to test their mettle against each other, the always-demanding winds and currents, and their own mounting excitement and exhaustion. During the course of this one event, youth crews cover greater distances than collegiate crews race in an entire season.
Crews compete in three skill levels — first boat, second boat and novice — in two styles of gigs: pilot gigs and Whitehall Fours. Flat-bottomed barges are also used for exhibition events for younger competitors. The event is a display of youth skill, discipline and courage, and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the racing year. Strictly by invitation, all crews must participate in training specifically for the skills demanded in the event.
Open-water rowing pits crews of four or six competitors against one another in gigs, a type of boat better equipped for the open water than the racing skulls used in crew. Each competitor mans one 12.5-foot oar and each boat has a coxswain to steer. Thus a six-oared gig has a seven-person crew.
The sport of rowing is currently not recognized by the Maine Principals' Association. Given its growing popularity, however, such recognition may not be far off. Though labeled a "club" sport, it is no less competitive. Many of the crews competing at the Icebreaker are made up of students who have many years of rowing experience behind them.