Regattas bring rowing to the people
WWhether you are a diehard fan of rowing or new to the sport, the Mystic Weekend of Rowing offers a chance to watch international rowers as well as local teams compete for bragging rights. Mystic Seaport hosts the weekend, which includes the Battle Between the Bridges, on Sept. 13 and Coastweeks on Sept. 14.
Battle Between the Bridges is an invitation-only regatta for international competitors or those training for that level. It is a 500-meter straightaway and is for single sculls only. There are four categories, with eight sculls each. Initially, eight in each class will race to identify their speed, and then they will race against each other, such as the fastest races the next fastest. Three medals are awarded in each of the categories. The race is from the Amtrak bridge to the Mystic drawbridge.
“It is an incredibly fast race and a lot of fun to watch,” said Hart Perry, adjunct curator for rowing at Mystic Seaport and director of the National Rowing Foundation. “We have an impressive field attending this year. There really is nothing like it in the country.”
People can watch the races from the town park and the Mystic Arts Center.
“The athletes like it because it is a much shorter distance than they usually compete, so they go all out,” Perry said. “We started the event to show the sport of rowing to everyone in town and it has grown over the years.”
Mystic Seaport is now the location of the National Rowing Hall of Fame, so spectators also can learn about the history of the sport. It opened in March as a permanent exhibit in the former library building.
Dean Macris, co-chairman of the Battle Between the Bridges, said Coastweeks is one of the best-kept secrets at Mystic Seaport. Coastweeks started more than 15 years ago and then the Battle Between the Bridges started about six years ago.
“We didn’t want to start a whole new regatta, so we thought a weekend of rowing would help promote the sport in the community,” Macris said. “Coastweeks is the ‘People’s Regatta,’ because registration is open to everyone.”
Coastweeks is longer, a 2,000-meter race, which is a head race, meaning they stagger the start times and then time the rowers. Bystanders can watch the race from the Seamen’s Inne, or Macris said there is a good vantage point from River Road on the other side of the river.
The Regatta offers events in a range of masters, open, collegiate and junior categories. Singles, doubles, and fours will race; participants must pre-register and bring their own shells.
Macris said the sport of rowing has
become more popular in the area. There is a community rowing program for adults at the Mystic YMCA and the Groton Parks and Recreation also has a program. Stonington and Fitch both have high school teams, so they become involved in Coastweeks as well. Blood Street Sculls from Lyme and Maritime Rowing from Norwalk compete in the regatta.
Crew teams from Connecticut College and Coast Guard Academy also support the event. Coaches from the teams volunteer for race day. Roger Williams University rowers also compete.
“On Saturday, you can see worldclass athletes compete and on Sunday, you can participate yourself,” Macris said. “There really is something for everyone.”
Pete Tebeau is the volunteer registration coordinator for Coastweeks. “Orginally when we started we would have 12 to 20 entries. This year we have more than 200,” Tebeau said. “It has gone from a local event to a recognized regatta in New England.”
It is the first head race of the season, so Tebeau said it gives racers a chance to “knock the rust off for other events.”
Coastweeks is a daylong event, from about 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., depending on low tide.
“It is a fun row. It is not taken as seriously as some other events, but it is a great way to enjoy the sport on a fall afternoon in Mystic,” Tebeau said.