Looking back on this year with Chinook, it’s amazing to think of how much we accomplished. From February camps in Florida to the last regatta in San Diego in November, we used every bit of the year and flew across countries and oceans to come together and row – and to make our mark as Chinook Performance Racing.
We couldn’t have known how well this year would be back in February, but it sure started out great with two camps at North Palm Beach Rowing Club. For some of us, it was the first time we met Marlene Royle in person (she’s not just on the Internet or in our inboxes) and got to benefit from her wonderful coaching as we took out quads and an eight. The sculling and sweep practice were very welcome – especially for those suffering the cold, snowy winter – and Adrienne Moore (not one to overstate things) declared it was the “best camp ever”.
The first test of the year came at the always fun San Diego Crew Classic, where we won the E 8+ for the second year running and set the tone for the year. Time to show people how strong those Chinook winds can be!
Our trip to Portugal was a first as we acted on our call to “come row the world with us” and planned a rowing vacation that didn’t involve racing. What a great time we all had – bike tours before camp then celebrating some milestone birthdays with lots of Portuguese wine and cake in Avis as we enjoyed an exquisite location and great coaching. New words and phrases like “Watch how you hold your h’oars” and “I may be man, but I am not stupid” have now entered our vocabulary and endeared Luis to us forever. A few of us even had the enviable pleasure of rowing behind Luis and Luis in a quad!!
We put our skills to the test at Diamond States when we went to beautiful St. Andrews for the camp with Scott Anderson down from St. Catharines to coach us. Practicing up and down the racecourse before the crowds arrived served us well as we had lots of the other rowers, sitting across the pond, wondering what Chinook was and why were they winning so much.
A small contingent headed up to St. Catharines to race at the Canadian Henley. The Canadians understand what a Chinook wind is, so perhaps weren’t quite as surprised when we took gold in the women’s 8+, women’s 4x, womens 4+, womens 2x, and mixed 8+. It wasn’t easy with those conditions, and an everlasting memory will be seeing brave Terry Walters sculling in a single in those crazy waves.
We fielded a very big team with more than 40 athletes for Masters Nationals in steamy Camden, New Jersey. Our team may not practice together and may come from all over, but everyone pulled together at the two campsites we staked out and helped everyone else over the grueling, 4-day event. Lesleh showed her logistics skills with the banner-sized race schedules and lineups that must have taken ages to put together but helped keep us organized and on track. Our small but powerful men’s team of Mac Nash, Bob Reichart, Scott Anderson, Mike McGuirk and Ted Kakas helped us win points in the men’s and mixed categories. We won the women’s points trophy and showed our depth by taking gold in the C, D and F women’s 8+s and took second in the E race by just 0.25 seconds!! Though we entered only open and no club events, and had no composite entries we were also in the running for the overall point trophy.
Our next test was at FISA Worlds in Hazewinkel, Belgium, and we took 26 athletes to race against some very strong European and Australian teams. In addition to enjoying some delicious Belgian chocolates and beer, we won several golds (including the first race of the regatta in the women’s 4-) and had strong showings in several races that we didn’t win. Jack Davis raced his first race ever and Todd Chisholm had his international debut in a couples’ mixed 4x with Doc and DCC. Both marriages are still intact.
As always, the Head of the Charles felt like a highlight of our year, when all our hard work on the water, in the weight room and on the ergs paid off. We fielded five boats this year, including our first Chinook men’s 8+ which took 9th place in the senior masters event after starting at number 51!! We showed our colors on the medals podium: our senior masters women’s 8+ won gold over Long Beach and Marin, and the senior masters 4+ powered its way to a 3rd-place finish. Our grand masters 4+ also had a great race, finishing second. The “youngsters” did us proud too – the masters 8+ pushed past many boats to finish 5th after starting at the back of the pack and the masters 4+ took 10th in a huge field.
A special shout-out to our extraordinary coxies who steered such fantastic courses and pulled us all together: Raj Petersson, Demi Good, Anita Sarrett, Wendy MacPherson, Lesleh Wright and Deb Lloyd.
One of the best spectator regattas of the year, the Head of the Hooch, was cold and rainy on Saturday but we still did really well and won the overall points trophy. The women’s 8+ won a barn-burner by .3 seconds while the men’s 8+ won easily. Joining together, the men and women took gold in the women’s 2x, mixed 8+, mixed 4x, and the mixed 4+.
To finish out the year we sent just a small contingent to the San Diego Fall Classic. What an ending to a great year! We were racing well in the women’s Open 8+ when we hit something coming through the last bridge (a sea lion? Probably a shark!). Without the skeg, Lesleh had to put her hand in the water to steer to avoid buoys and boats.
While in San Diego, Doc got to see the development center for all Chinook athletes on Fiesta Island, a new location for San Diego Chinook to row and train, and a future site of camps. This is a sunny and warm location that is open to all athletes to visit throughout the year, and get some time on the water with friends and teammates. We’re looking forward to many more adventures there – with or without the sea critters taking part.
Thanks so much to everyone for a hard year of work. It’s never easy to train apart but helps when so many of us followed Marlene Royle’s training program – we could commiserate when we had some of those killer erg pieces. We couldn’t have done so well without equipment support from Hudson Boat Works and Greg Doyle at Croker USA. We also appreciate St. Andrews Alumni Racing for their help at Diamond States and the super boatmen and equipment from A.G.S.R. Gyas in Europe.
Now that we’ve shown what Chinook winds can do, let’s keep it up and be even stronger and faster next year. Here’s to a wonderful, healthy and fun 2016.
Written by Deb Charles Chisholm