The Vashon Island Rowing Club’s masters rowers made their annual pilgrimage to the Northwest Masters Championships on Vancouver Lake last weekend. The conditions were perfect. The competition was tough, and Vashon rowed for medals in blah, blah, yada, yada… (insert usual rowing quotes here).
Okay. Sure, Vashon took gold with open water in the women’s quad. Could add a quote here about focus and drive, but you’ve read all that before.
Instead, let’s drop the spotlight on why a crazy bunch of friends and teammates on Vashon, some of whom are well into their 60s and 70s, would give up an entire long weekend to a sport where it might be hours, or even more than a day, between races.
“It’s a weekend of relentless chilling,” said VIRC’s Bob Horsley. “We’re here all day long. Then we go out, warm up, go hard on the water for four minutes, return to shore, hang at the tent, shoot the breeze for three hours, and then go back out and do it again. Relentless. All of it.”
Included in the chill time at Regionals would be carrying oars to the water for teammates, cheering for Vashon boats from the beach, volunteering for jobs that help the regatta go, rigging and de-rigging boats, and spending hours of quality time at the tent, eating together and telling stories that will have legs on into the future.
In fact, two third-place finishes by Vashon Island Rowing Club at this year’s Northwest Regional Championships will be the races the VIRC masters rowers will remember most.
Amy Bogaard rowed to a remarkable third-place finish in the women’s single after flipping out of her boat not once, but twice, less than a minute before the start of her race.
“I’d just gotten back in the boat and was talking to the person who was holding my bow about getting a bailer,” said Bogaard, “and then I heard ‘go!’ And off I went —slosh, slosh slosh!” Rowing from last place in a boat filled with water, most of which had sloshed out of the boat by the halfway mark, Bogaard found a finishing kick to come on strong and somehow finish third.
The other “race to remember” also just happened to be the final Vashon race of the weekend, featuring the “Old Guys Four.” In recent years, Vashon’s masters’ men have taken to calling their oldest combination of rowers at any given regatta “the old guys.” This year, a Vashon lineup averaging 72 years old waited all weekend until the final race on Sunday to finally get their boat on the water. With 70-year-old Gary Schoch nursing a knee injury from the bow seat, Vashon arrived at the starting line just hoping to be competitive, row their race and not worry so much about where they finished.
As coxswain Lisa Huggenvik pushed the lineup of John Jannetty, Bob McMahon, Fred Sayer and Schoch down the 1,000-meter course, they found themselves neck and neck with Bainbridge in the next lane, to their port side.
In rowing, whether you’re dueling for first place or fifth, having a boat right next to you is one of the great sensations in the sport. In this case, though, Vashon also had the Ancient Mariners to their immediate starboard.
Watching Vashon’s Old Guys Four row through both boats over the final 250 to a photo finish and a bronze medal provided a final thrill for everyone in the club, screaming their encouragement from the beach.
“I kind of lost my voice out there and then started laughing because there we were, right in the thick of it,” said Huggenvik. “Then we all crossed together. No one could tell who won, and all three boats started laughing. We even told Corvallis, the #1 boat, that they were too fast and missed all the fun.”
Three days. Fifty-three rowing clubs. One thousand eighty athletes. And countless moments of teamwork, camaraderie and laughter. All in all, it was a pretty typical Northwest Masters Championships on Vancouver Lake.
— Jeff Hoyt