Mys­tic, On­The­Wa­ter

Re­gat­tas bring row­ing to the peo­ple

The Day - Sound & Country - - On The Water - By KATE CAREY-TRULL Spe­cial to The Day

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.

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