The drift logs along the beach at Jensen Point became makeshift “bleachers” for more than 200 athletes and spectators at last Sunday’s Burton Beach Invitational on Quartermaster Harbor. Rowing under ideal conditions, Vashon Island Rowing Club led the overall medal count among all clubs with 21 top-three finishes, including six golds and eight silvers.
The Vashon junior rowers struck gold early when VHS sophomore Bowie Hichens won the under-16 boys’ single event going away.
“Rowing is so much about staying mentally consistent,” said Hichens. “I just tried to remember what (Coach) Ben always tells us — row hard, have fun, do well.”
Later in the day, Hichens stroked the under-16 boys’ quad to another gold, along with boatmates Baker Van Buren, Joshua Kyles and Mateo Nigretto Ellner.
“It’s great in the first regatta of the season to watch our athletes dig a little deeper than they normally do and get to see how we stack up against solid competition,” said VIRC Head Coach Ben Steele. “We had some rowers learn things from their first race and then go out and improve on their performance the next time they got out there.”
For the Vashon masters rowers, gold went to Gail Brownell in the women’s single, while Chad Magnuson took gold in the men’s single. Vashon also swept the top three spots on the medal stand in the masters’ men’s double event, with John Jannetty and Jeff Good narrowly edging out teammates Bruce Morser and Bob Horsley.
Rounding out Vashon’s gold-medal races, the masters’ men’s quad, featuring a 72-plus-year-old lineup of Sam Williams, Bob McMahon, Fred Sayer and Rob Briggs, edged out a Commencement Bay crew nearly ten years its junior.
“We came together in this one despite some tension and nerves,” said Sayer, “But we held our stroke rate of 32 and Rob (Briggs) always calls a great race from bow.”
It was a great day for Vashon, getting to row on their “home water” and not having to board a ferry in the wee hours and rig boats in the dark, as happens at nearly all away regattas.
“This was the first go-round of the year,” said VIRC masters coach Maya Krah. “Today was all about just having fun and seeing where we’re at here early in the season.”
— Jeff Hoyt is a VIRC masters rower