Burton Beach Invitational Regatta shines on St. Patrick’s Day

Winning the club’s first gold was novice Willa Lee, in her first-ever single race.

A bright and sunny St. Patrick’s day on Quartermaster Harbor set the stage for the Burton Beach Rowing Club’s (BBRC) annual Burton Beach Invitational Regatta (BBI).

When BBRC was founded in 2018, the club decided to run a small boat regatta, divided into age categories, to give up-and-coming rowers a chance to display and improve their skills. Six years later, the regatta has grown to become one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest. Fourteen clubs and 300 entrants attended this year, with the furthest club from Eugene, Oregon.

The day started with a ceremonial race, celebrating the founding of the Vashon Island Rowing Club. Masters rower and club founder Celia Congdon was joined by fellow masters Therese Smith, Deb Jackson and Mary Rothermel, coxed by junior Max Kline, for a trip down the course to kick things off.

The event was a success, with 53 races run across 32 different categories. Taking home top honors was the powerful Oregon Unlimited, earning eight first-place finishes.

Host club BBRC had a strong day. Winning the club’s first gold was novice Willa Lee, in her first-ever single race.

“The BBI was my first regatta ever and the experience was amazing,” she said. “All the clubs were so supportive of each other, and it was so much fun.”

BBRC also came first and second in the mixed Doubles (Forest Macnab/Keziah Rutschow and Sasha Thompson/Will Parker respectively). Briar Gunther had a very strong day, earning bronze in the U17 men’s single and then teaming up with Parker to take silver in the U17 double. Both races had large fields of 16 entries.

Coach Richard Parr was pleased with the overall turnout and competition, and the performances of the BBRC club, crediting organizers and club parents Amie MacNab and Andrea Gonter with putting in many hours to make the event happen.

“It’s great to see so many people supporting the regatta, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We can’t do this without the support of our club parents and the island community, and everyone was fantastic … Our athletes raced well after an up-and-down winter, and we’re really looking forward to finding our speed over the next couple of months.”

Ken Jackson is the president of the Burton Beach Rowing Club.