The weekend weather was kind to the folks at the New Haven Rowing Club and the City of Middletown, and the Head of the Housatonic and the Head of the Connecticut regattas enjoyed the best of October in the Northeast: sun, flat water, only occasional wind (Sunday mid-day) and cheerful competitors. Most were not even bothered by the extremely rigid fellow they wrangled for the post at the entry to the Indian Well State Park (that guy was impressive). And most, even the HS boy's novice 4+'s, could make it down the course at the Connecticut without refueling with glucose. This was an apparent necessity for the event in 2005, when one of the aforementioned boats took 59 minutes to make it to the finish line.
Your row2k correspondent passed through Connecticut hastily and with a unisuit on, which keeps reporting to a minimum, but a quick nod to weekend races in the Constitution state is included here:
The Housatonic had to enforce some entry restrictions to keep the park less crowded and the beach area less hazardous with shell entry and departure. Chief Referee Norm Thetford said they turned away “somewhere between 30 and 50 entries,” and they maxed out their available trailer space. An additional conduit from trailer area to beach seemed to help launch and recovery, as did Mitz Carr (NHRC) with a megaphone, who can make you laugh while she tells you to hurry the heck up and get off her beach.
Early timing problems at the Housatonic were due to the timing company's (Powerhouse Timing) inability to access a shore point to install a camera after an uncooperative neighbor slowed things down. The NHRC had permission to set up the start line and eventually got to it, but the first few races were manually timed just to get things moving along.
And several crews did move along on the Housatonic. Saugatuck's trailer must have had every rack occupied - they dominated categories of all ages and genders, and would have been my guess as the victor should New Haven deliver a team point trophy. The D1 college races were as last year, with Yale and Northeastern crews doing fast training pieces, and everyone else trying to keep pace.
High school races here are gutsy and interesting - a broad demographic range of crews threw down on the Housa, with participation in many of these races exceeding 30 boats, it was anyone's game this early in the season, and coxswains had some steering to do as boats bunched up around the turns. See results here at www.row2k.com/results
The Connecticut has suffered greatly from some horrible conditions and regatta management problems in 2005, as well as previous years to be honest. But the organizing committee was hoping for a shiny and new regatta that could wipe away the painful, wet and white-capped memories. They are certainly making strides in that direction. The City of Middletown contacted Norwalk River Rowing Club, a little over an hour away for the venue, for some technical support and knowledgeable (rowing) volunteers.
They also brought in about every fire and rescue team that was available in the city - there were more badges and uniforms than you'd expect at a regatta, but their presence was key to safety, asserts Jim Cooper, Operations Manager at the HOTC. For the record, he says there were two Middletown Police boats, two Coast Guard Auxiliary, as well as the Middletown Harbormaster. To complete this motorized flotilla: 15 launches with marshals and referees. No shortage of folks to tell you when you go off course between the bridges, to be sure! The reversal of direction on the River made the times swift, the rating high and spectator viewing on the Middletown riverfront a satisfying experience.
There haven't been any negative comments yet, says Cooper, but many of the larger programs were not there to cause a stir. Chances are they are waiting this year out to get the verdict. From the perspective of a crew that drove a couple hours to get to Connecticut for the Housatonic: why not enjoy another day of racing? Next year's date is already set at October 12, with the possible return of the Cromwell launch site as it grows, and hopefully, more than 250 bow numbers. Early buzz is that this race will be back on many team's calendars for next year.