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Head of the Lake 2013

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Marsha Wiener

On the morning of Sunday, November 3, 30 rowers from Port Townsend participated in the Head of the Lake Regatta in Seattle, the largest Fall rowing event on the West Coast. The field consisted of 436 boats representing 73 clubs from 37 cities in 9 states and 2 countries, and Port Townsend sent what was probably our biggest contingent ever to take part in this annual event.

Serious planning for this event began in September, shortly after the Wooden Boat Festival. Crews were formed, boat assignments made, and practice sessions were scheduled for the 3 women’s quads and men’s quad which would be rowing our Club boats (the Tuf as Nails women with coach Rodrigo Rodriguez from Port Angeles as their coxswain were entered, as were Steve Chapin in a single, and Rats in a double and a triple.) Work to complete the repair of the Oho (now named the Frank C in honor of the late rowing icon Frank Cunningham) was stepped up with the hope that it would be ready for the regatta (it was, with only days to spare.

Because of a new edict from US Rowing stating that, because of safety concerns, the Concept 2 sandal-style foot stretchers would no longer be allowed in USRowing-sanctioned events, it was necessary to change out the foot stretchers in the Dose and Lorna. Out came the box of very worn, huge and smelly rowing shoes that had been stored in the trailer for several years, and they were duly installed in the two women’s boats. When, after one or two sessions on the water, final adjustments were being made in an attempt to render the shoes as near to fitting everyone as possible, a small dead rodent was discovered in the heel area of Michele Olsen’s shoe, lending new meaning to our name, the RAT Island Rowing and Sculling Club!

Participants met at our boathouse on Saturday morning to de-rig the boats and load everything onto the trailer. This was accomplished in gale-force winds, fortunately without incident and before the rains came. Conditions didn’t look very promising at that point, but most of us headed to Seattle later that day and were relieved to see our trailer, with equipment intact, parked outside the Lake Washington Rowing Club as we arrived for the lasagna feed, where we were guests of their Club.

When we convened at 7:30 Sunday morning, we were relieved that weather conditions seemed fine, so we unloaded equipment, re-rigged boats, and then most of us spent considerable time waiting, since our heats didn’t take place until mid to late morning. By that time the clouds had parted, the wind was minimal, and conditions were just about perfect for a November day in the Pacific Northwest.

Our wooden boats – the Riverside, the Frank C, the Ristretto and Steve’s single – garnered much attention and admiration from rowers and coaches from other clubs. (Our crew rowing a triple elected to rent a boat from the Lake Washington club, rather than to bring their own craft.) They are a rarity these days, and others are impressed that we are carrying on the wooden boat tradition

Despite the fact that some of the crews had rarely or never had the chance to practice together (illness, scheduling issues, weather) and that our equipment was less than ideal (strange footgear, no rudder on the Dose), in the end all agreed that it had been a wonderful experience. Two of our boats – a women’s quad and the men’s double – were in the “H” class (average age 70 and above), the only two such in the entire regatta, and both logged better times than at least one other boat in their respective heats against considerably younger crews. We Rats cut quite a figure in our red-and-black rowing gear, which reminded me of the effort that Kate Franco spearheaded a few years back: logo contest, working with Erica Springstead to choose an equipment supplier, convincing rowers to buy the shirts and hats (and now fleece vests and jackets are available.)

Monday morning we – along with some Rats who had not taken part in the race – gathered to unload the equipment, re-rig the shells and switch the foot stretchers back to the Concept 2s. As the rowing season on the bay winds down, many of us are already thinking about HOTL 2014.


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