row2k Features
Trials are Different - or, the First Time I Appeared on row2k
May 10, 2024
Tom Mannle

Tom Mannle (photo by

I was a Trials official from 2001 through 2016, first as deputy and then Trials Coordinator, and Chief Referee more than a few times. As the saying goes, "Trials are Different"...

I was following the second of two finals races for the Lightweight Women's Quadruple Sculls (LW4x) at the 2006 World Championship Trials at Mercer Lake in West Windsor, New Jersey. At Trials it's single Referee coverage, and during that period the crew selected to represent the United States in international competition had to win two out of three final races. Three crews who had participated in final #1 the previous day were on the line; the crew finishing last in final #1 was eliminated. The crew in Lane 4 to my left was a composite crew­Riverside and Union Boat Clubs from Boston, and Undine and Penn AC from Philadelphia's Boathouse Row; they were rowing out of the Vesper boathouse on the Row. For the Vesper crew, it was win final #2 or go home.

At 1100 meters, Vesper appeared to have a slight lead over the other crews; a short time later I saw a big splash out of the corner of my left eye, and an oar go up in the air. Vesper stopped rowing...I directed my driver to proceed to the Vesper crew until I could get within hailing distance...he wanted to know if I was going to stop the race? Not yet, but we motored closer.

"Vesper! Do you have breakage?" one moved head side to side, one head moved up and down. No help.

My driver told me to look at bow, who had her hands over her face; when she brought them down, her face was all bloody. At which point I stopped the race by waving my red flag and sounding a siren on my megaphone. Not that the other two crews cared, they were already 250 meters further on, hell bent for the finish line.

I called the Chief Referee, Bill Collins, and related what happened, indicated I had stopped the race, injured rower, etc. There was a pause.

"Tom. Was the crew in contention?"


"How do you know?"

"They were leading at 1100 meters and stopped just before 1200 meters."

"OK. How do you know the rower is injured?"

"Because there's blood everywhere!"

Unbeknownst to me, Bill was standing in one of the bays, surrounded by coaches, and this transmission was heard by all and sundry, including Ed Hewitt, the founder of the widely-read website. Which is how I made row2k for the first, but not the last time.

At the time, my authority for stopping a Trials race in process stemmed from a provision in the Rules known as the "misadventure rule" (since deleted):

6-306 The Race

a. The referee following a race may order that a race in progress be stopped, whenever he or she judges that some misadventure draws into question the validity of the race in determining the most competitive crew. Such misadventure need not be otherwise recognizable under USRowing Rules of Rowing. In particular, a race in progress may be stopped when a crew that is in contention to win or advance capsizes, suffers broken equipment, or suffers injury or illness, at any time during the race.

b. A race stopped before completion under subsection (a) above shall be re-rowed from the start with all the original crews participating, after a suitable interval has elapsed.

Post-race there was a lot of discussion with myself, the Trials Director (the ultimate decision maker in these situations) and the coaches of all three crews. The coaches of the two crews who finished the race argued that their results should stand; their position was that since we had emphasized at the pre-race meeting that "a crab is not misadventure, it's bad rowing," and therefore I should not have stopped the race.

But the explicit mention of "injury" in the Rule, without clarification about its cause, proved dispositive. The Trials Director ruled that the race had never existed, once it had been stopped, so there could be no results. It would be re-rowed the next day, The injured rower had deep lacerations above her left eye, the bridge of her nose, and her left cheek; she had to be medically evaluated to be able to continue, and the physician would not clear her due to the possibility of concussion. Fortunately, Vesper had included a spare on their lineup, who was able to substitute in; they didn't win the re-row, but they gave it their best shot and very much appreciated the opportunity to try again.

The Trials Director told me privately that it was the first time he had seen the misadventure rule applied correctly.

Bill Collins
Bill Collins

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