Vets, new wave of rowers propel HB crew

The Hollis Brookline High School crew team’s fifth season began back in November with the help of assistant coach Mark Furler.

Rowers and coxswains intending to be on the team were given the opportunity to continue (or begin) train­ing over the winter three days a week at the Hol­lis Brookline High School gym. This was a critical part of preparing for spring row­ing, since the season is very short and regattas start soon after ice-out, leaving too lit­tle time for getting in shape before racing begins.

As an additional training opportunity, Concord Crew graciously offered HB Crew the chance to join them at Camp Bob Cooper in South Carolina this past Febru­ary. Ten HB rowers, three coxswains, two coaches,and ones chaperone boarded the train in Westwood with members of Concord’s team for a week of all-rowing-all-the-time camp. The boats and equipment were driven in separate trips by chaper­ones and coaches.

Camp Bob Cooper is run by Clemson University and hosts a wide range of camps and retreats in Summer­ton, S.C. Alas, it was less of a vacation than most were hoping, as the temperatures were low for South Carolina in February, but the rowers and coxswains had a fan­tastic time and already look forward to next year. Thanks to Coach Furler’s generosi­ty with his time and exper­tise, spring rowers were well ahead of the training curve when practice officially started on March 16.

Crew’s spring 2015 season kickoff event was the Man­chester Queen City Ergatta: An indoor competition on March 22 using rowing ma­chines. Several local teams competed and there were also events for coaches and parents. It was a fun way to get back into the competi­tive mindset.

The first on-the-water regatta was the 11th annual Lowell Invitational on May 9, with 42 clubs participat­ing, almost 500 entries. The top 3 winners of each heat on Saturday returned on Sunday for semifinals and finals.

Saturday was a windy day with choppy water and it took extra time to get the starting line set, making for a long day, but the Bellegarde Boathouse site offers great viewing of the Merrimack and it was a most enjoyable regatta. Of HB Crew’s four entries, one boat returned on Sunday: the boys varsity B 8+ (second team, eight row­ers plus their coxswain).

According to head coach Mark Lewis, given the num­ber of entries, this was an excellent showing. They did not make the cut-off of their heat, but did drop 12 sec­onds off their Saturday time, a huge improvement.

May 16 was the first-ever HB Crew home event, the Lone Pine Invitational, a scrimmage with Souhegan Crew Club. Despite the nar­rowness of the river, which required each race to have only two lanes, a lot of rac­ing took place with compos­ite boats (mixed rowers from each club) as well as straight crew (set lineups) boats.

Lone Pine Hunters Club proved to be more than ad­equate for hosting a great day of rowing and all went beautifully. A total of 17 rac­es were scheduled; of those, six were straight HB Crew vs. SCC and each club won three. It was a friendly and cooperative day, with a de­licious potluck lunch and prize "silver" platters award­ed to winning teams. Assis­tant Coach Erin Furler ran the dock seamlessly.

Spring season events brought medals, including gold at Sleigh Cup

The next two back-to-back events, a scrimmage with Lebanon and the much anticipated Hanover Invi­tational (Sleigh Cup), took place up north in Hanover. The relaxing drive and lovely scenery at Lebanon’s home water are bonuses to the excellent hosts and terrific stretch of Connecticut River to be rowed.

At the Lebanon scrim­mage, several of the races were once again done with mixed boats, this time with three clubs, as Pinkerton joined in for its first spring season. There were nine straight-club races and HB Crew won three of them, including its first time en­tering a 4xquad, a four-man boat rowed without a cox­swain’s guidance and each rower with two oars. The bow rower controls the rud­der with his foot and looks over his shoulder to steer. The four boys, though not very experienced with this type of boat (borrowed for this race), are terrific rowers individually as well as a team and won handily.

The next weekend there were nine teams competing for the Sleigh Cup. Concord Crew took home the wom­en’s cup and Hanover won the men’s, but HB Crew fin­ished in the top three in five of the 12 races and the boys first varsity 4+ took gold. The final results show how far HB Crew has come in just five seasons, able to hold its own with other well-estab­lished teams.

HB crew names boats

Since all of HB crew’s fleet is donated from other teams or bought used, all of the boats are already named. This season HB crew decided it had enough time under its belt to rename three boats. This is a seriously considered decision, as boats are the pride and joy of a team. Each boat was renamed after a critical component of getting the team off the dock.

Without any of these there would be no HB crew: Lone Pine, our home water hosts; Eric J. Horton, our first head coach; and Nicho­las S. Sengstaken, the found­er of the Hollis Brookline High School Crew Club, a current rower whose tireless efforts, dedication and en­thusiasm kept things going when others were skeptical.

Learn to Row Daya success

Looking forward, almost a third of the team grad­uated this past June. One senior, captain Chris Laz­ich, received a sizable crew scholarship to a D1 school and several others plan to row in college. This has left plenty of room for new-to-the-sport athletes to fall in love with crew.

Students interested in crew got their first taste at the Learn To Row day at Lone Pine on June 20. This free opportunity put pro­spective rowers in boats with experienced rowers to allow emphasis on some basic stroke instruction from our coaches without worrying about steering and balance too much. About 25 stu­dents and a few parents took advantage of this chance to get out on the water.

HB crew summer row going on now

The rowers and coxes never seem to want to stay off the river, so a short sum­mer program is again being offered. Last year 15 or 20 rowers signed on to do a few weeks of rowing; this year will be six days in July and six in August over six weeks where they get the chance to row with different lineups and work on their rowing fitness and technique. Al­ternatively, some go to row­ing camps, such as Boston University, Naval Academy, Cornell and Stanford Uni­versity, just to name a few.

This year, the summer program was opened up to middle schoolers and new fall rowers instead of just experienced team members.

With a lower coach-to-rower ratio the participants are getting more individual­ized attention. New rowers are learning boat and oar handling and erg technique as well as how to listen to the coxswain’s instructions and function as a unit on a boat; experienced rowers are retaining or refining skills.

Session 2 begins Aug. 4, and spots are still available. Visit HBCrew.org to register.

Middle school program in the works

Similar to the trend in Concord and Souhegan, the fall team balance is shifting from mainly boys to half boys and half girls; Assistant Coach Marcia Beckett may have to share some of her girls-coach duties.

For younger recruits, plans are being made to start a middle school feeder program and HB Crew has purchased its own quad to kick off this new venture. It is recommended that rowers under the age of 14 scull, as opposed to sweep, which is rowing with both hands on one oar. This is to prevent one side or the other being over-stressed or overdevel­oped because in sweeping, one arm does most of the pulling and the other ma­nipulates the oar blade. It also helps instill good tech­nique and allows the boat to be manned by rowers of a similar ability since there are fewer of them.

Boathouse on the horizon

As funds are raised to build the much anticipat­ed boathouse to store HB Crew’s fleet of boats and equipment and the middle school feeder program be­comes more established, HB Crew will continue to grow as a sport in our communi­ty for some time. Donations can be made on the team website.

Anyone interested in helping with fundraising is encouraged to contact HB Crew fundraising director Farrah Coady at Farrah@ HBCrew.org, and those wanting to help with plans for the endeavour are wel­come to contact HB Crew President John Sengstaken at John@HBCrew.org.

Look for HB Crew in the upcoming Hollis Old Homes Day parade on the weekend of Sept. 18-19 showcasing a selection of boats or stop by the booth at Nichols Field.

For more information, please visit www.hbcrew.org.