Battling severe headwind and choppy water, the Andover Boys Crew boat of four rowers smoothly pulled its oars through the water, crossing the finish line of the three-mile course to place 46th out of 85 boats in the 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) on Saturday.
“Wind was a challenge for sure, but all rowers know to expect anything on race day,” wrote Laurel Wain ’17, the boat’s coxswain, in an email to The Phillipian. “We have definitely seen worse conditions. If anything, it added a little more excitement and pressure, in a good way. The question on race day is really who can persevere through conditions and who will succumb to them. On a course like the Head of the Charles this played a major role in the outcome. I was pleased with how we handled it. We knew what to expect.”
For the first time in over 20 years Andover had rowers at the regatta including Wain, Captain Luke Bitler ’17, Colin Lata ’17, Aidan Driscoll ’17, and Bennett Slibeck ’17.
“Our main goal going into this event was simple: to represent Andover, showing everyone around us what an Andover crew would look like,” said Bitler. “[This] regatta is considered the most renowned in the U.S. Hundreds and hundreds of boat clubs come from around the world to compete, including most of the schools we race in the spring. It only makes sense that we go as well.”
Andover’s boat was inhibited by some disadvantages, including its lack of experience in extreme-length races and not having too much practice time leading up to the regatta.
Lata said, “Our preparation was a combination of erging and water practices that started about mid-September. Because of our busy schedules and outside conflicting commitments, the group could only squeeze in two practices a week on the water, which isn’t really a lot compared to most crews like Salisbury, Exeter, and Kent, who send crews every year to the HOCR and practice 5-6 times a week.”
“On the water, we’d do some drills to improve and fine-tune our technique, and then do a 20-minute piece to help adjust ourselves for the race; the HOCR course is 4.8 kilometers and takes about 18 to 20 minutes to finish for most crews, which makes it more than three times as long as any race that Andover does in the spring, which is why it was important to prepare as none of us had rowed in a race that long before,” he continued.
The thrill associated with a higher level of competition and the three-mile HOCR race motivated Andover’s boat to push even harder throughout the race.
Driscoll wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “The race was such a rush because we were constantly passing [and being passed by] other crews. We did get passed by the Tabor crew that actually clashed oars with us, which was both exciting, startling, and annoying. Part of the hype during the race also came from how our coxswain Laurel steered it practically perfectly. So despite finishing middle of the pack, I thought the race was a success.”
Both Head Coach Dale Hurley and the greater Andover Crew team supported the rowers competing in the race.
“Mr. Hurley was initially tentative, since he has to run Fall Instructional Crew, but agreed to let us row if we essentially handled the logistics by ourselves. Coach Hurley did provide great support, and offered to coach us for two practices, and also organized how to transport the boat to the race, and made sure that all the equipment in the boat was all fixed up. The team was also very supportive, and I think that is possibly because us entering the HOCR opens the opportunity for future crews to do the race as well,” said Driscoll.
One of the main reasons why Andover chose to race was that the rowers wanted an opportunity to hone their skills for the upcoming season.
Lata said, “I think the best thing everyone can do to prepare for the spring is to keep working on the erg over the winter term in Winter Crew. Winter Crew is where a lot of rowers make big improvements, and it will help prepare you [in terms of] cardiovascular [strength] for competitive racing.”
Driscoll said, “I think we can all learn how to really throw ourselves into the race more and commit to each stroke with full power, but that comes with more practice time. We have the talent and commitment to get to the point where we can be very competitive with other schools.”