Vashon’s masters’ women’s eight after their seventh-place finish at Boston’s Head of the Charles regatta last Saturday. (Jordan Petram Photo)

VIRC sees success at Head of the Charles, Gorge head race regattas

If it’s the third weekend in October, the Vashon Island Rowing Club must have members competing on opposite sides of the continent as the crew competed once again at both the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston and the Head of the Gorge regatta near Victoria, B.C. In what has become a tradition for the club over the past few years, this past weekend saw some of the crew traveling east and the rest traveling north for some internationally competitive head racing.

The Head of the Charles (HOTC) regatta in Boston is arguably the most prestigious, best-attended and technically difficult head race in the world. Winding three miles (4,800 meters) through the city under bridges and around corners cheered on by tens of thousands of spectators, this year’s event — it’s 53rd running — saw nearly 10,551 athletes, including current world champions and Olympians, from 30 different countries compete.

Representing the VIRC were 21 masters and juniors racing in four events.

Chad Magnuson and Mark Ripley took on 46 other boats in the masters’ men’s double on Saturday. Starting in 36th position (starting rank is determined by previous year’s finish if top 15; otherwise by random draw) the pair had what coach Richard Parr described as a “great start” passing several other boats quickly. Unfortunately, as can happen on a narrow, twisting course, they ran into a slower group of three boats, and in their attempts to get through the traffic, they inadvertently incurred a one-minute penalty. Ultimately they finished 27th, and Parr said that while the men were “disappointed,” he felt that they had done well given the difficulty of the course and race.

Saturday also saw Vashon’s masters’ women’s eight of Zabette Macomber, stroke, Erika Lanske, Sarah Eden, Kit Gruver, Margaret Hoeffel, Norine Martinsen, Amy Bogard, Lea Heffernan and coxswain Lisa Huggenvik plow through a field of 36 to grab seventh place and a guaranteed spot at next year’s HOTC. Parr happily described it as “the best result ever for the VIRC masters’ women at the Head of the Charles.”

The juniors raced on Sunday, another calm, cloudless day with temperatures in the mid-70s. The club’s lightweight girls’ quad of Mabel Moses, stroke, Olivia White, Ruta Milewski, Emma Greenlee and coxswain Alex Ryan showed their metal by securing 15th place out of a field of 31 entries and a spot in the event next year.

Finally, the junior boys’ quad of Cooper Py, stroke, Rohin Petram, Seth Rosen, Oz Hichens and coxswain Hayden Rosen capped off the weekend with a ninth-place finish out of what Parr called “an extremely competitive field” of 32 entries. With both Canadian and British crews also snagging top-10 finishes, VIRC’s boys were the fourth-fastest U.S. boat in the event.

Parr made a special note of Vashon’s junior coxswains, Ryan and Hayden Rosen, both 13, and their skillful navigation of the very difficult course.

When not racing, the crew got to visit with the reigning men’s lightweight pair champions from Ireland, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, who are now the proud owners of VIRC baseball hats. Also spotted were several VIRC alumni both competing and spectating. Jacob Plihal, VIRC ‘14, rowed for Northeastern in the championship eight which came fifth; Baxter Call, VIRC ‘14, rowed for Oregon State in the championship four which came fourth; Rhea Enzian, VIRC ‘17, rowed in Dartmouth’s eight which came 21st (of 37); Selena Mildon, VIRC ‘17, stroked Marist’s four to fifth place (out of 52); and visiting/spectating were Aria Mildon, VIRC ‘17, Tate Gill, VIRC ‘14 and Charlotte Kehoe, VIRC ‘12.

Coming home with three guaranteed spots for next year, Parr said that the 2017 HOTC was “a great weekend on every level.”

Many of the rest of VIRC’s members competed at Western Canada’s largest head race at The Gorge near Victoria, B.C.

Stand out performances came from the masters’ women’s quad of Jan Peterson, Carri Singer, Celia Congdon and Therese Smith, coming in second in a field of 12; the junior girls’ quad of Gabby Graves, Riley Lynch, Kate Kelly and Ava Lorentzen coming second to a strong Gorge Rowing Club crew; and second- and fourth-place finishes respectively for Graves and Lynch, and Kelly and Sam Zeigler in the junior girls’ double event.

Next up for the busy crew: The Portland Fall Classic this Sunday.

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