HB crew team is on to 2016

Hollis Brookline crew, now entering its seventh season, continues to evolve. June 2015 saw the graduation of 21 seniors, 10 from the inaugural Spring 2013 team of 23. Hence, last summer there was an influx of 27 brand­new rowers and coxswains, 22 of them freshmen. Some got a head start on their rowing instruction by attending one or both of the summer 2015 rowing sessions, others were completely new to the sport on the first day of practice. The gender balance of the team moved toward more girls, from one­third last season to almost one­half this season. Long­time lineups were changed and new boats were introduced.

Though fall 2015 practice started as soon after the beginning of school as possible, New England seasons are short and the first regatta scheduled was less than one week after practices began, which was not nearly enough time for the coaches to prepare the incoming novices for how to handle the boats in a race. The "newbies" sat the Concord Regatta out but gained valuable experience preparing boats for transport to and from the regatta and getting them ready to put into the water. They also received instruction on the race course and the overall regatta routine.

Four boats were entered into races, most having solid showings for it being so early on the calendar, and one of HB’s singles rowers, senior Nick Sengstaken, placed first in his race of five competitors soon after having rowed 3,000 meters in a previous four­man boat race. Freshman Madoc Lewis, came in 3rd place. Eight New Hampshire clubs participated in the day’s racing.

The next three regattas followed in one-­week intervals. Manchester Community Rowing hosted the

Waterworks Regatta on Lake Massabesic, with 11 teams competing last year. HB again had a solid day in spite of windy conditions shifting the marking buoys around, and, in the case of one of the women’s eight­person boats, illness necessitating the emergency help from alumna Hope Sutton, who currently rows for Assumption College. She had come to watch and cheer, but quickly found herself filling in so the novice rowers could get some experience in a race (the time was not recorded as pre­arranged by coach Mark Lewis with race officials).

The biggest race of the season, Textile River Regatta, was held in Lowell, Mass. the next week. Over 80 clubs and 600 entries are logged for this race­filled day. After a bright and sunny morning, during which the men’s varsity eight­man boat had what they described as their "best row ever" in terms of synchronicity and set, the weather conditions quickly turned bad, with the wind creating waves that swamped several boats; those ultimately required towing in to the dock by safety launches. Only three of HB’s eight could complete their races before the rest of the regatta was cancelled for safety reasons. HB’s alert coaches were some of the first to scratch their club’s entries because of the unsafe conditions.

Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond was the venue of the final regatta of the season, the New England Championships. HB had its biggest success of the season there – silver medals in the men’s novice 4+ (field of 14 boats) went to coxswain Daniel Fallon, stroke seat Jackson Murrin, Oliver Fetter, Ryan Farquhar and bow seat Madoc Lewis. This regatta features entries from several teams HB does not usually race against, clubs from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although some incidents that slow a boat down can’t be helped, like a broken rudder, other times HB was just seconds from beating the boat ahead of them.

HB did enter the lottery for a slot at the world­famous Head of the Charles Regatta, but did not get picked. Instead they rooted for Souhegan, Friends of Concord Crew, Bedford Crew and Great Bay in their entries, and for Lewis’s college team, the UMass Lowell women’s 4+.

As the season wound down, the coaches were mixing up boat lineups, trying rowers in different positions and with different boatmates, working on fine­tuning technique and having in­house races on the Nashua River. Winter training is available once again this year to fall rowers not participating in another sport, with a new mid­season goal of competing at HB crew’s first annual Winter Warmer Ergatta, an indoor rowing contest held with ergometers (rowing machines), that was held on Jan. 16 at Hollis Brookline High School. It was such a success that area rowers are already looking forward to next year.

Meanwhile, as the high schoolers had Fridays off, the first season of the middle school program swung into gear. HBacquired two quads, which are four­person boats with two oars per person.

This kind of rowing, called sculling, avoids strain on one side of the body and is easier to transition to sweeping (each person with one oar) than the other way around. Twelve middle schoolers got instruction on rowing technique, both on the ergometer and in the boat, and several switched in and out of the coxswain role. A few of these rowers also participated in the summer rowing sessions.

Reflecting on the season and looking ahead to spring 2016, returning rowers improved and novice rowers made progress. With the large turnover this season, the club as a whole could not maintain its strong varsity presence, in large part because of simple lack of numbers, but quite a few novices are showing real promise and the kind of commitment that will keep HB competitive. Maintaining the fleet and the equipment through the building of a boathouse is high on the priority list, as well as seeking more opportunities to be competitive at events such as the much-anticipated spring 2016 Hanover Invitational, and perhaps one day, the Head of the Charles.