Mathias wins silver rowing 13.1 miles aroud Wye Island
QUEENSTOWN — The 13.1mile race around Wye Island is always a test of grit, even on pleasant days, but the weather gods threw nasty headwinds, choppy seas and a boatload of rain at the competitors at this year’s nautical half-marathon.
Rowing most of his race in a frog-strangling deluge, Chester River Rowing Club’s Ted Mathias claimed second place in his single, finishing less than two minutes behind Rush Fisher of the Wilmington Rowing Center in a seven-boat field. Mathias raced for 1 hour, 52 minutes and 25 seconds, besting the third-place boat by 43 seconds.
“As I was walking with my shell to launch in a downpour, I thought the conditions could only get better,” Mathias recalled. “Then, coming around the bottom of the island, the wind and chop picking up, I thought everyone else had to get through this, so I pulled as hard as I could.”
After finishing, Mathias learned that results wouldn’t be posted at the venue, so he and everyone else went home to dry out and check their computers.
“I surprised myself when two days later I found out I had finished second,” he said.
In all, Chester River sent three racing shells — Mathias’ single, a men’s four and a women’s eight — to the Wye Island endurance test Saturday, Sept. 8. Sponsored by the Annapolis Rowing Club, this year’s regatta attracted 78 entries from as far away as Pittsburgh and North Carolina.
As always, there was a wide array of people-powered craft, from stand-up paddle boards, canoes and kayaks to traditional rowboats, wide-bottomed recreational shells and sleek, round-bottom racers.
Chester River’s Josh Gannon, Jack Davis and Mickey Elsberg recruited Wilmington’s Doug Green to stroke and Mary Cassidy to cox their men’s four. Cassidy steered through near-blinding rain for half the race as the crew battled relentless headwinds, crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 49 minutes and 47 seconds. CRRC was a little more than eight minutes behind Bull Run Rowing Club, the only other boat in the class.
Chester River’s women’s eight got a reprieve from the driving rain, heading for the starting line a few minutes after the storm let up, but still facing headwinds and choppy water. Dinah Riordan set the pace as stroke with Patti Nash, Tina Connolly, Ethel Armstrong, Margie Elsberg, Linda Reed, Lucy Mitchell and Sue Collins rounding out the crew.
Likely the oldest crew in the field, the eight from Chestertown finished sixth out of nine boats in 1 hour and 50 minutes. The winning boat, from Three Rivers Rowing Association in Pittsburgh, rounded the island in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 59 seconds.
Olivia Robb, a Washington College coxswain, steered a course so precise that the boat’s GPS meter measured the crew’s path around Wye Island at just under the regatta’s official 13.1 miles. She said she had never coxed a masters crew before, only high school and collegiate rowers.
“I’ve never met a crew that wanted to test how far they could push themselves in such a unique way. This race drains you completely halfway through, and you still have to find the energy to put power behind every stroke,” Robb said. “These ladies finished this 13.1-mile race at 30 strokes per minute, and it was strong.”
Chester River Rowing Club’s women’s eight completed the 13.1-mile tour around Wye Island in 1 hour, 50 minutes. From left are: coach John Wagner, Margie Elsberg, Lucy Mitchell, Linda Reed, Patti Nash, Sue Collins, Dinah Riordan, coxswain Olivia Robb, Tina Connolly and Ethel Armstrong.