The bass tournament practice session that launched just before the Fish Creek 5000 in Saratoga Springs, NY may have had more horse power, but not nearly the charm of this small but growing human-powered stake race on the creek September 15. After the 250 hp-sparkle-hulled monsters zoomed out to their desired spot to drop line (note: you have to hurry to get there and sit for five hours, this is an important part of bass fishing), the fleet of shells queued up just above the bridge at 9P, also a trajectory for coxswains at the upcoming Head of the Fish in late October.
This regatta, hosted by Skidmore Community Rowing, was inspired by two wonderful regattas for small boats: the Green Mountain Head (September, Vermont) and the Black Fly Regatta (June, Vermont) and is heading toward carving its own niche; no so much as the originally-planned masters-fest, but as a initiation for young scullers. Saratoga Rowing Association's Bob and Jean "Green Bean" Tarrant (who I noticed has a shell with that vegetable moniker now-nice!) , run a seasonal sculling program in Saratoga that brings in a load of budding oars-children to this race. They were joined by young rowers from near-by Niskayuna, Shenendahowa and Albany. These courageous young scullers just don't seem to mind course deviations and boat traffic, it's all fun. Well, I have to say one very serious-mind bowman in a boy's youth double did shout to his stroke at the stake turn: "execute turn!" ( I think he may have added: ..."sequence", but not sure. It would have sounded like a command from the bridge if so). Kudos to the Shenendahowa coach, who brought a talented group of athletes to this event.
Open and masters event entries were up this year as well, and times reflected how well the sculler picked a line over the 5k distance. The course was a straight out-and-back row along a buoy line, with a tight turn around an aging and smelly pontoon boat. ( I will attest to the smelly part, I sat there for several hours) Some folks went too far, (Albany Rowing Club's Knapp and Kennedy steered clear of traffic but ended up taking a tour of the creek in the process), other cut directly into the pontoon and shot out (West Lake's Women's master double of Moriarity and Ballaway "executed" perhaps the most impressive turn on the day and won- we'll link photos when the gallery posts in a few days).
The near log-jamb during the Men's Master's 1x race went off without a crash, but it was close. Kurt Bourchardt, who had been burned by the handicapping in the Master's event after getting the fastest raw time last year, took a stab at the Open event in the 1x and came out third with some very talented young scullers ahead of him. He did win the double event with local rower/radiologist Dan Chernoff by an impressive margin for a lightweight crew.
The regatta was co-directed by Lexie Bonitatebus and Jeanette Leibers of Skidmore Community Rowing, the former who is about to deliver her first child (within minutes it seems) and an uber-organizational wizard who did this kind of work when the Olympics were in Salt Lake; the latter a powerful 7-seat and baker of the most exquisite cookies on the planet---both are open to comments on the regatta if you care to share. Lexie may be a bit busy in the next few days though. A photo gallery will be posted here at www.row2k.com/gallery soon!