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.
Autoland
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Autoland » June 23rd, 2022, 9:23 am

I discovered a community on the water rowing club the weekend before last and signed up for a week long 8-man sweep boat training program that started this Monday. This is on the St. Mary's River off the Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

I started erging in the summer of 2020 and have not been on the water until now.

What a revelatory experience! There is so much more to think about and the scenery is spectacular.

So glad I discovered this. The club also does sculling and participates in regattas.
M/55/6ft/165lbs rowing since August 2020, C2 since January 2021
500 1:54.5; 2k 8:05.5; 5k 20:54.6; 10k 42:20.6; HM 1:34:22.6
30' 7126; 60' 13777

Autoland
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Autoland » June 23rd, 2022, 9:51 am

Correction, the St. Mary's River is off the Potomac River a few miles northwest of where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake Bay.
M/55/6ft/165lbs rowing since August 2020, C2 since January 2021
500 1:54.5; 2k 8:05.5; 5k 20:54.6; 10k 42:20.6; HM 1:34:22.6
30' 7126; 60' 13777

Tsnor
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Tsnor » June 23rd, 2022, 1:29 pm

Autoland wrote:
June 23rd, 2022, 9:23 am
I discovered a community on the water rowing club the weekend before last and signed up for a week long 8-man sweep boat training program that started this Monday. This is on the St. Mary's River off the Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

I started erging in the summer of 2020 and have not been on the water until now.

What a revelatory experience! There is so much more to think about and the scenery is spectacular.

So glad I discovered this. The club also does sculling and participates in regattas.
Excellent. Totally agree with you, OTW is really fun, especially sweeps where a team works together. I'm farther north on the Hudson. Maybe see you in Philly at regattas in a year or two.

Some things you can do with your erging to help OTW
1. Mark where the chain goes through the slot. Keep the chain at exactly the same level while rowing. This will help you keep your hands level at the catch -- many new rowers lower their hands to get more room at the catch which upsets the boat. Or move their hands in a curve "skying" the blade. You want your hands to follow a nice straight line from release to catch. Same thing on the drive to control blade depth in the water.
2. Try to control your stroke rate. Do erg pieces that prescribe the strokes/min. Also try some higher stroke rates (25-30) using fast "hands away" to get the faster recovery while staying slow on the slide.
3. Look at the "Force Curve" display and try to make as smooth a curve as you can. In an 8 you'll need to match your stroke to the rest of the team. A clean force curve will help.
4. Keep your knees down as long as you can during recovery. Don't blur your back swing and starting knees up. This keeps your weight lower in the boat while the oars are out of the water and really helps balance the shell. You are likely going to do "pick drills" learning to row that emphasize this. Do pick drills at home on the erg too as a warmup.
5. don't stop your erging. Just mange the load so that if you do a hard OTW session you don't do a hard erg session the next day, likely this means most of your erg sessions are long/slow once you get out OTW. Erging keeps you strong and safe and fast.

Autoland
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Autoland » June 24th, 2022, 7:27 am

Thanks for the tips Tsnor!

I definitely hope to make OTW part of my routine. The small club I'm working with was just at a regatta on the James River last weekend. I'll ask if they've ever been up to Philly.

While we're working with an 8-man shell, only yesterday did we have all 8 of us pulling strokes simultaneously. We started with 2 of us pulling stokes and the other 6 setting the boat. Then moved to 4/4 and 6/2 before we went all in.

Lots to learn. I tend to drive the blade deeper then I should and my OTW form is so far lacking because I'm thinking about oar control and synchronization. Feathering is going to take some time to get used to.

So much fun!
M/55/6ft/165lbs rowing since August 2020, C2 since January 2021
500 1:54.5; 2k 8:05.5; 5k 20:54.6; 10k 42:20.6; HM 1:34:22.6
30' 7126; 60' 13777

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 12th, 2022, 1:52 pm

You can tell the competence of an organization as to how it reacts to sudden change. The Head of the Weir race held on October 8th this year and sponsored by the Hull Lifesaving Museum (https://www.lifesavingmuseum.org/) underwent some significant last-minute changes that the HLM was able to adapt to on short notice. A few days before the race we received an email saying that the launch area and time was changed, the registration time and location was changed, the marshalling area was changed, and as a result, the start line was changed. Apparently, the marsh area where we used to launch had undergone some significant erosion and hauling 40+ boats up on the marsh along with their crews tromping all over it was not helping any.

So, we all met early on the morning of Oct 10 in the parking lot of Jakes Restaurant near Steamboat Wharf in Hull. Thanks to Jakes (https://www.jakesseafoods.com/) for letting us use their parking lot and restrooms. I dragged my technical support team (my brother) out of bed to get there early because I was not sure how things were going to go with all the changes. As my brother will probably never let me forget, we got there in plenty of time and had to wait in the car for over an hour before I launched.

As we waited a car pulled up to us with a Maas 24 on top and I said to my brother, “Well that’s the end of my race.” Then a 6’4” lean young man (younger than me) unfolded himself from behind the wheel of his VW Jetta wagon and I knew my race was over. He was from Belfast Maine, and although he said didn’t have much experience in open water, he was younger, taller, and had a faster boat than my 19-foot Peinert Zephyr.

At the launch ramp the race director came up to me and said, “You know, it’s going to be pretty rough near Sunset Point with the wind and tide opposing.” Yeah, I knew that. “Do you feel comfortable going into the race in a sliding seat boat?” Yes, I do. Why was he asking me these questions? Do I have my shoes on the wrong feet? Are there holes in my boat I don’t know about? Do I look incompetent? Or was he concerned about my ability to safely finish the race. And, why me?

After reassuring him, I launched from Steamboat Wharf and paddled the 1.25 miles down to the new marshalling area and start line. There was a strong NW wind and I noted for the race that I was going to try to keep in the lee of the Worlds End peninsula. I was soon joined by Mr. Belfast and we nudged the bows of our boats on the flooded marsh and (without causing any erosion) and waited for the on water coxswain’s meeting and the start. There was nothing new in the cox’s meeting except they emphasized that we were rowing under the inland rules of the road and a boat being overtaken has the right of way. While waiting, I said hello to Rich and Jeff, the two best dorymen in New England.

I got in line by start number but then heard them calling my number at the start line. I may have been a little late at the start because a few boats in front of me did not start. Mr. Belfast had the same problem as there were missing boats between us. In the narrow portion of the Weir River near the start there was little wind, and my plan was to go hard in the calm water because I figured I could recover when I had to slow down in the rough water. As expected, Mr. Belfast rowed though me relatively quickly after the start and I continued with a firm hold on second and last places because we were the only two single sliding seat boats.

As the river widened the wind picked up and I hugged the shore near Worlds End. Apparently, I was not the only person who did not need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing. At one time four boats were in close proximity to me but we did not have to resort to the rules of the road to get ourselves sorted out.

Then the river opened out to the northwest near Sunset Point. And it did get rough. There were confused seas but I never felt like I was going over. I shortened my stroke and was taking spray over my port bow but I had the knowledge from past races that this would be the worst part of the race and as I got in the lee of Bumpkin and Peddocks Island things would smooth out. I discovered that if I altered my course more to the northwest I would be going directly into the wind and the ride would be a little smoother, even though the waves were from all over. However, no matter how appealing a NW course was, that was not going to take me to the finish line so had to continue take the wind and water over my port bow.
At this point I had little to row for because Mr. Belfast was out of site. However, I saw from my stroke coach that I might finish under 60 minutes if I picked it up a bit. I did and soon I could hear the horn from the finish line. I rowed 8,200 m in 57:47 with stroke rate of 23.5/min and a distance/stroke of 6.3 m. I thought my distance/stroke would have been longer, but I had some short strokes in the rough water. Interestingly, the stroke rate was fairly consistent throught the race.

After crossing the finish line near Hull Gut my brother waved me over to an empty spot on the beach. He started to wave more vehemently as I strayed near the strong outgoing current of Hull Gut and I almost got spit out the gut into Boston Harbor like a watermelon seed. It was beautiful early October afternoon and we enjoyed the chili and other great food served by the HLM volunteers from the old Coast Guard Station. I rehashed the race with Mr. Belfast and Jeff and Rich, the two best dorymen in New England. With our backs against the weatherbeaten boards of the old Coast Guard station and our faces in the sun, my brother and I decided that if you stay out of the wind and in the sun and you’ll always be warm.

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Yankeerunner
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Yankeerunner » October 13th, 2022, 10:54 am

In addition to having to admit that you are a better rower than I am I'll have to also admit that the Amlong brothers would be insulting me vociferously for skipping this one because I thought it would be too hard. I'll take the insults and bask in the knowledge that I made the right choice. Doing it with you in 2019 could be chalked up to 'ignorance is bliss.' This year I would have had no such excuse.

Well done on going where wise men fear to tread. :mrgreen: I don't know what will entice me to try another open water race, but this story isn't that thing. As much as I admire your skill at successfully negotiating rough water I fear tipping over and not being able to get back in. Maybe someday when I'm older and more experienced.
55-59: 1:33.5 3:19.2 6:55.7 18:22.0 2:47:26.5
60-64: 1:35.9 3:23.8 7:06.7 18:40.8 2:48:53.6
65-69: 1:38.6 3:31.9 7:19.2 19:26.6 3:02:06.0
70-74: 1:40.2 3:33.4 7:32.6 19:50.5 3:06:36.8
75-76: 1:43.9 3:47.7 7:50.2 20:51.3 3:13:55.7

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pagomichaelh
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by pagomichaelh » October 13th, 2022, 1:45 pm

PaulG wrote:
October 12th, 2022, 1:52 pm
You can tell the competence of an organization as to how it reacts to sudden change. The Head of the Weir race held on October 8th this year...against the weatherbeaten boards of the old Coast Guard station and our faces in the sun, my brother and I decided that if you stay out of the wind and in the sun and you’ll always be warm.
Hi,
Thanks for the write-up. As I don't have anyone here to compare with, when you say 'strong wind', what would that be in knots?

TIA,
Michael
5'7" 152# b. 1954

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 13th, 2022, 8:56 pm

Michael:
Now that you call my bluff I have to admit the wind wasn't that bad compared to what you might see in American Samoa, probably 15 mph, 13 kt. However the real issue was the waves in the restriction between Sunset Point in Hull and Worlds End, Hingham (you can find these locations on Google Earth). The finish is near Hull HIgh School and the start was upriver near Lyfords Lyking Park. There can be up to 3 m tides in Massachusetts Bay and we were racing in a strong ebb tide and hit the wind near Sunset Point causing white caps and very confused seas. In a low freeboard sliding seat boat it doesn't take much to fill the cockpit and I had to open my self-bailer. A few times I lost the handle on my oars, and at least once on the recovery I smashed my thumbs between the oar handles as they came in at the same time and at the same elevation.

I never felt that I was going over which is probably due to increased confidence in my boat and experience. I have gone over before and there is a write up of that earlier in this thread when I first attempted the Minots Light Roundabout.

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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » October 29th, 2023, 2:08 pm

New England used to be a hotbed for open water racing, but in the past few years the number of races has dwindled. The Lighthouse to Lighthouse race in Connecticut is gone. The Slocum River Challenge formerly held by the Lloyd Center for the Environment is no more. Moving further up the coast the Buzzards Bay Coalition no longer hosts a race and the Row for the Rock in Plymouth Bay formerly sponsored by the Saquish Rowing Club is discontinued. The Minots Light Roundabout is held intermittently. Most disappointingly, the Essex River Race may not be held again due to a silly dispute between the town and the Cape Ann Rowing Club. Some of the discontinuations were due to COVID when races were cancelled. Most likely the sponsoring organizations realized how much work and money it took to host these races and determined that they were better off without them. I know that some organizations lost money hosting the races.

But the Head of the Weir hosted by the Hull Lifesaving Museum remains. The weather is usually good for the beautiful race in October down the Weir River estuary between Hingham and Hull in Massachusetts and this time was no exception. Partially cloudy with relatively light winds from the NNW, opposed to the usually strong winds from the NW. The same as last year, the starting point has been moved downriver from the traditional start at the Hull DPW garage due to erosion of the marsh. The finish line is at the old Coast Guard Station at Pemberton Point. The wind turbine at Pemberton Point provides a visual guideline for the end line.

We pulled into the new staging location at Jakes Seafood in Hull. Thanks to Jakes for allowing us to use their parking lot and bathrooms. https://www.jakesseafoods.com/. I looked around for similar sliding seat shells to size up the competition. I saw a Mass 24 that was likely to be the winner and a rower that has always beaten me in a FISA compliant coastal racing shell. Also, there was an Echo and a Rowlite boat. The FISA specified boat is very interesting design, very seaworthy and stable but heavy at 35 kg (77 lbs). That’s a single shell that’s too heavy for most people singlehandle by themselves around the boatshed. This particular boat was built by Next Boatworks and designed by Ben Booth, a pioneer in American coastal rowing. Ben’s boat is beautiful, https://nextboatworks.com/, but to be compliant with the FISA specs, it is much heavier than my Peinert Zephyr at 30 lbs. http://www.peinert.com/boats.html#zephyr

We had about a 1.5 mile row down to the starting line and the weather was good. Unfortunately, we had to wait about an hour before our numbers were called for the start and it is not comfortable sitting in a single shell. We went off at 30 second intervals with Mr, FISA starting in front of me. It looked like I was holding my interval behind Mr. FISA in the calm water between the Lands End peninsula in Hingham and Hull when I glanced astern and saw Mr. Maas just smoking through the field. He was sculling beautifully with long send between strokes and soon made up his time deficit as he slid into first place. Then on the other side I saw Mr. Echo just churning up the water with a fast stroke rate and soon he had made up his deficit. So, it was up to me and Mr. FISA for third place.

After we cleared Worlds End and Sunset Point in Hull the chop picked up a bit but nothing like previous years. With the wind more out of the north this year I chose a near shore route opposed to Mr. FISA and most rowers who went closer to Bumpkin Island. Because we were so far apart, I couldn’t tell if I had made up the 30 second interval. Interestingly, twice during my traverse of Hull Bay headed to the finish line at Pemberton Point, wake trains from unseen power boat seriously upset my rhythm and almost stopped me from rowing. There was no power boats in sight and I have no idea where the wakes came from.

Mr. FISA and I were converging at the finish line from our different courses in our race for third place. He got there first but I may have made up part of the 30 second interval. Turns out I made up 5 seconds and took third in about 54 minutes total. That was the first time I beat Mr. FISA, but if he was in a lighter boat like an Echo or Zephyr he would have beaten me again. Here are the final results with a link about half way down the page.
https://www.lifesavingmuseum.org/ . They used to have pictures of the race on the website and they may be on the HLM facebook page.

Talking to other rowers after the race, each said that they remembered the two phantom wake trains. Mr. Maas said he had to stop rowing and bail out is wash box. He felt that he won the race in the calm water at the start and slowed down a lot in the open water.

We all enjoyed the food provided by the Hull Lifesaving Museum and basked in another beautiful October day on the New England coast.

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Yankeerunner
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Yankeerunner » October 29th, 2023, 6:25 pm

Congratulations on another good open water race, and thanks for the report.

At first I was sort of disappointed to have passed up the opportunity to go down with you, especially since my planned participation in the New Hampshire Rowing Championships on the Merrimack in Pembroke fell through. But then I remembered that I'm a lousy open water rower. On the other hand, I saw that Wolfie (Craig Wolfe) was in your division this year, and I'm wondering if it was because he couldn't find a partner to do a double. Maybe I'll check with Wolfie and see if he would do a double with me next year. I'd ask you but I've heard from a reliable source that you don't play well with others. :mrgreen:
55-59: 1:33.5 3:19.2 6:55.7 18:22.0 2:47:26.5
60-64: 1:35.9 3:23.8 7:06.7 18:40.8 2:48:53.6
65-69: 1:38.6 3:31.9 7:19.2 19:26.6 3:02:06.0
70-74: 1:40.2 3:33.4 7:32.6 19:50.5 3:06:36.8
75-76: 1:43.9 3:47.7 7:50.2 20:51.3 3:13:55.7

Cyclist2
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by Cyclist2 » November 3rd, 2023, 9:58 pm

Nice job and report, Paul! I always like reading about others' adventures.

The fall Head races around here are closer to open water races, IMO. I did the Tail of the Lake on Lake Union in Seattle on what they considered a calm day. For the most part it was, but at the far end, the long fetch really was kicking up the waves, and then a seaplane landed and just totally waked me. Had to dodge the hot tub boats, too. Crazy! The one other time I did this race, in a double, same thing. I think I'm done with Lake Union. The Head of the Lake is this weekend, and is the largest regatta in this region, but it goes through the Montlake Cut and out into Lake Washington. No thank you, even if I was rowing my Maas Aero! I did that on my own one time, and the Cut is a standing wave generator when even a Boston Whaler goes through it.

Did the Head of the Bull Trout on Lake Stevens, another big-ish lake with a long fetch. The wind was a crosswind on two legs and it was rough. Our double was a little more stable, but we were still rowing tentatively (I sure was breathing hard, though). The winners were rowing a Maas open water double, the right boat for the race that day. Being old helps, we took third with the big handicap.

The American Lake Fall Classic was, again, on a big lake with lots of pleasure boaters, seadoos, but no seaplanes. This year it was beautiful, a real nice change of pace. Rowed my single and our double, both races strong, well rowed efforts. That's more like what I remember about the Head races on the east coast. Again, slowest raw times, placed third in both races with the handicap.

Racing OTW is done for this year, now training up for the erg races. Keeping my eye on the CRASH-B web site, Rick. Maybe I'll go, we'll see.
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

PaulG
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Re: Open Water Rowing

Post by PaulG » May 14th, 2024, 8:53 pm

As I chronicled a few pages back, the number of open water races in New England has dwindled. But the Mighty Merrimack River Race remains, hosted by Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury MA, the oldest continually operating shop in the country www.lowellsboatshop.com. The race was originally scheduled for last October, but bad weather caused it to be rescheduled for May 11. All our registrations and fees were supposed to be carried over from last October, but of course, no one told the volunteers manning the registration. After some confusion we were all registered in.

This is a small fun race with a short course for small boats and a different and longer course for the larger pilot gigs. The Race Director explained the course, which was different and improved for this year. In previous years we had to go around a small island downriver from the start and this caused some congestion and confusion right after the start. This year we were to head downriver to a mid-channel buoy near the Whittier Bridge (Route 95 bridge), cross over to a no wake buoy and then head upriver along the south bank of the river. The course continued upriver to a temporary inflatable green mark and then we were to cross over to the north bank of the river and round a red navigation buoy, and head back to the finish/start line and repeat it all for a second lap. All marks were to be left to starboard. The course resembled a banana with squared off ends and was about 4 km total for two laps.

I was in the sliding seat class as usual. This year there was only one other competitor in my class, a young lady with a stand-up paddleboard and a sliding rigger deployed on the board. Notice this was a sliding rigger; the seat was stationary and you pushed the rigger away from you. This is an inherently more efficient set-up but the paddleboard itself is not very hydrodynamic. Regardless, I’ve been beaten many times by people who were better rowers in supposably slower boats. The class of the field was two guys in a double sliding seat wherry. I was going to try to stay with the double and keep Ms. Sliding Rigger astern.

The gun went off and the double missed a few strokes and I was in the lead. They quickly got synchronized and passed me before the first mark. We crossed over to the second mark with double in the lead, me in second, and Ms. Sliding Rigger holding on hard to third. Rounding the second mark we hit the upstream tidal current and rowed upstream to the third mark. The double was leaving me behind and Ms. Sliding Rigger was fading so I had a good hold on second place. Rounding the third mark the double had solid lead on me and it looked like they would place first overall, unless they had a mishap.

Then they had a mishap. Instead of crossing the river to the fourth mark, they headed directly to the finish/start line to start the second lap. I called to them but could not get their attention. For those of you have not rowed on the water, rowing shells and surprisingly noisy with seats going back and forth, oarlocks clicking, and water rushing by. I could have pulled out my emergency whistle, but I was afraid that would cause more problems than it solved. So, I continued along the prescribed course.

The second lap was uneventful as the double stretched its lead, and Ms. Sliding Rigger was passed by Jeff and Rich, the two best dorymen in New England. I finished the second lap but couldn’t tell if the double missed the fourth mark again. After they finished, they turned around quickly and headed upriver to the launch ramp. As I crossed the finish line I was in a bit of “am I the a$$hole” quandary. The double clearly did not row the right course, but they were not in my class so it did not directly affect me. Also, they were the only boat in their class so no one else was affected. There was no award for overall finishing first so that didn’t matter either. They undoubtedly would have beaten me for the mythical overall first place if they had rowed the right course. But, this was a race and the course was explained to everyone. They were keeping time and places and I can be a stickler for rules in a competition. So, I paddled over to the dock at the finish line and said that the double missed the fourth mark. They told me that they saw it also and sent the double back upriver to round the fourth mark and then finish. I felt a little better. Navigation is part of the race.

I rowed slowly upriver to the launch ramp and my brother met me to help put the boat on the car and we drove back to Lowell’s. I met the doubles at the cookout afterwards and they were laughing about the whole thing. They couldn’t remember if they had to cross the river to the fourth mark or not. So we enjoyed the mercurial May weather and Ipswich Ale as we received out Lowell boat shop pint glasses for winning our classes. As my brother and I walked back to the car, a woman who watched the race from her house called out, “You have a glass, you must have won!” Yes, but not the way she expected.

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