Crew sees success at prestigious world regatta

Gus Magnuson, competing in the Men’s Club Single, placed 18th in a field of 64 scullers and fifth in his age group. - Alison Jeffries Photo
Gus Magnuson, competing in the Men’s Club Single, placed 18th in a field of 64 scullers and fifth in his age group.
— image credit: Alison Jeffries Photo

For the first time in its history, the Vashon Island Rowing Club competed at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston last weekend, sending five boats to the prestigious competition. The club had a strong showing, with three juniors boats and one masters boat placing in the top half of their fields.

The invitational is the largest regatta in the world, drawing thousands of rowers from around the globe and nearly 300,000 spectators. VIRC was selected in a lottery to attend and was one of the smallest clubs at the event.

This long-standing regatta is known for its challenging 5k course that has three major turns and seven bridges to navigate along the Charles River.

VIRC coach Richard Parr said that because of the obstacles, it can be hard for rowers to keep up speed.

“With the turns, bridges and people in your way, it’s not unusual to have to stop to safely get through certain areas of the course,” Parr said. “Strategy is every bit as important as speed in this one.”

Gus Magnuson was the first Vashon rower to compete, entering the Men’s Club Single. Rowing in a field of 64 scullers of various ages, Magnuson overtook two boats during his race to finish in fifth place among the youth competitors and 18th overall.

Parr said Magnuson did a “phenomenal job.”

“He navigated traffic really well. Gus kept his head, was aggressive, but knew where he was and what was around him,” he said.

Masters Su DeWalt, Kim Goforth, Debby Jackson and Marilyn Kleyn raced in the Director’s Challenge Women’s Quad, an event with highly skilled rowers, including several Olympians. Although the Vashon women came in 17th, they were the fastest in their age category.

Junior rowers Tate Gill and Baxter Call ran into trouble during the Men’s Youth Double race. They were penalized twice for failure to yield to a faster boat, something Parr described as a harsh but fair call. The finish time would have put them in the middle of their field had they not been given a three-minute penalty.

Kalie Heffernan and Anna Ripley had a successful race in the Women’s Youth Double event, passign three boats during the race and finishing 11th. Heffernan attributed their success to the stroke rate they maintained and having a clear path throughout the course.

“I’m really glad at how well we did because finishing 11th out of 39 is pretty sweet,” Heffernan said.

Wrapping up the weekend was the Women’s Youth Eight, a race that had 85 entries. Rowing for Vashon were Halimah Griffin, Maya Krah, Teagan Lynch, Emmie Kehoe, TerraJane Ripley, Kirsten Girard, Katelyn Carter and Bryn Gilbert with coxswain Ally Clevenger.

In a shell borrowed from another team, coxswain Clevenger was working with a boat that was very different than what she was used to and had to stop three times to avoid collisions.

Parr said the boat clearly had good speed, as it still finished in the top half of its field.

When they weren’t competing, rowers were able to meet Olympic and world-champion rowers and coxswains and watched them race. The thrill of their own turn on the Charles River, however, will not be soon forgotten.

“I’m really proud of them,” Parr said. “Effort-wise and sportsmanship-wise, they held their heads high.”


— Marianne Metz Lipe is on the Vashon Island Rowing Club's publicity committee.


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