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Is It a World Record?
An Epic Tale of "Flying" an Eight
by Alexis Northwood
posted on August 25, 2000

My name is Alexis Northwood. I'm rowing with the lightweight program at the West Side Rowing Club in Buffalo, New York this summer and our 8 pulled off quite a feat today that I just must share with the world. There is an outstanding record for who could let it fly the longest; the precious record was held by the previous years' heavyweight men (I think), whose boat was filled with all the bigheaded (yet quite sexy) guys who knew they were hot stuff, so needless to say we were all for beating their record of letting it fly for 13+ minutes.

Now when I say "letting it fly the longest," I mean that when the boat 'let's it fly' (meaning put their oars to the gunnel and not letting them touch the water on either side), they are timed from the moment those oars hit the gunnel to when one oar, port or starboard, hits the water. The men who held it for 13+ minutes didn't let their oars touch the water at all for this period of time. Nothing touched them and they didn't touch anything (the wall, another boat, a motor boat, etc.). Who is God's name would want to beat such a lame, pointless record? Well, my friends, our 8 took it upon ourselves to try.

So today, August 11, 2000, after an hour-long practice of starts and pieces, our coxswain Katie Johnson announced that we had one last 5 on 20 start and then we would time our let it fly, as we sometimes do. So our 8, with Amy Becht in stroke, Katie Schmitt in 7, myself; Alexis Northwood in 6, Erin Klass in 5, Tami (I forget!) in 4, Megan Barnett in 3, Keri Kanaley in 2, and Rosemary (I forget!) in bow, all except Rosemary in our sweats (we have to average for Henley this weekend) and the sun in our eyes, we started our first five to Katie's calls of "half!... half!.... three-quarter!..." and continued into our hard twenty and then into the "let it fly," at which our coach started the stopwatch. (Since we have tried before, we have a routine where our coach times us, so it is pretty accurate).

Now, we have held it for a long time before, probably for four or five minutes, but this time seemed to be incredibly long. Every rower can agree that the wooden seats in a shell with their two holes are far from comfortable, and after about 1.5-2 hours of rowing, they tend to get to you. Imagine sitting, oars at the gunnel, for an unknown but seemingly long amount of time, in silence as your coach's boat slowly stays with you. Our piece was with the current, so as we slowed with the lack of pulling, we began to coast along with the current which carried us about 1500 meters before our coach, Robert Becht, yelled out "You have broken 15 minutes ladies!!" At that point, our silence was broken with a few giggles and complaints of "my ass hurts!" but we still kept it going. The next five minutes were a little easier to bear, simply because we knew we had beaten our club record, and because we were all becoming a little more chatty. Mr. Becht gave us the next time: 20 minutes, and going. At this point our stroke and coxie announced that at 30 minutes we would retire no matter what. Needless to say, at this point the rest of the boat was less than enthused at "flying" for another ten minutes, but the thought of doubling the boys' previous record kept us going.

So we flew for another 5 minutes and 50 seconds until our port-side oars glazed the water. About half of the boat, myself included, groaned and laid down to relax our tired butt/back/ stomach/etc. muscles after the 25 minute stretch. We were pretty pumped, but more-or-less tired from practice and from the never-ending let-it-fly. So we took it in as always and practice ended after our weigh-ins and tank-room chat. We commended ourselves by writing "On August 11th, the LTWTS let it fly for 25 minutes and 50 seconds!!" in the corner of the boat house chalk board, hoping many would catch a glimpse and congratulate us on our astonishing and slightly amusing feat.

Some people think rowing is crazy; getting up at the crack of dawn, not eating for days in order to make weight, and killing yourself for a seat in the boat. Others don't think it qualifies as a sport; "sitting on your ass going backwards is stupid." But if you ask me, sitting slightly back on a wooden seat in a fiberglass shell with your legs outstretched and your feet tied down with your hands gripping a wooden oar while a little person stares right back at you and every so often calls out "set it set it set it!!" while the sun hits your face and makes you sweat because you have ten layers of clothes on because you have to lose 5 pounds by tomorrow for 25+ minutes is the absolute LIFE!!!! Maybe we're not really normal... but that's okay; we row.

Now my question to you is: is this a world record? Because we have witnesses (yes!!!).