Saturday afternoon found Lake Wononpakook in beautiful condition for racing as Taft, Choate and Chase Collegiate arrived at Berkshire Crew’s home. Noticeably, and thankfully, absent were the forecasted 25 mile per hour winds and rain showers, leaving the pond with a fair and row-able course. Before racing began there was a boat christening ceremony for the Steven Lloyd, the new girls’ boat, named after the founder and first coach of Berkshire Crew. The boys’ team looked on, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new boat in the coming weeks which will alleviate, although not entirely solve, the equipment scarcity that has kept some of the boys’ crews from practicing in race lineups.
Starting off the day for the boys was the 6th boat race. This is the first year in recent memory the team has had the numbers to field a 6th boat and the combination of Gerry Gimenez-Valdez, Alex Dechellis, Kevin Kim and Rad Savage represented well. Due to equipment and other circumstances they hadn’t practiced in a four man boat together other than during the warmup for the race, but they gelled quickly. Led by the experienced coxswain Sam Rusoff, they managed to maintain contact with Choate’s boat until the second half of the 1500 meter race, finishing second in a time of 6:35 to Choate’s 6:11.
The 5th boat for Berkshire was made up of four novice rowers who have all shown an early aptitude for the sport. Stroked by third-former Max Beauroyre-Hofmann, who set an excellent base rhythm for fourth-formers James Donovan, Will MacClarence and fifth-former and former coxswain Devon Kessler to follow, the race was competitive from start to finish. Choate managed to pull ahead of the field at the half way point, but Taft and Berkshire traded blows until the finish, with Taft edging the young Berkshire boat by four seconds.
At the 4th boat level, Berkshire again came in to the race with limited practice in a four man boat, but had a good row during the Friday practice, and were ready to put forth their full effort. The crew, made up of coxswain Ben Lang, returning rowers Jake Elowitz and Colin Fuss in stern pair and third form roommates Jake McLanahan and Derrick Burt in bow pair, came off the line with Choate, chasing Taft, who was overstroking the competition by several beats per minute. Berkshire’s limited race experience worked against them as the crew found it difficult to focus all of their energies toward moving the boat. The race ended with Berkshire trailing Choate and Taft by a healthy margin, but all Berkshire rowers game for the challenges that lay ahead.
In a promising showing, the 3rd boat rowed to a 3rd place finish in 5:46, behind Choate and Taft. The oarsmen in the 3rd boat have come together exceptionally well in the opening weeks of the season and work together in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Lead by the international stern pair of Eric Smith and Pedro Escobar, newcomer John Leasure and returning rower Austin Hovey have been pushing the top two boats and look to continue to improve and close the gap with the competition.
The 2nd boat had an adventure of a race and proved themselves to be not only capable oarsmen, but effective problem solvers as well. After lining up against the competition and getting off to their normal blistering start, the backstay of the two seat rigger popped off the pin, which left novice rower Peter Dunn grasping for his oar before it drifted out of reach. Luckily, with the breakage happening early enough in the race to fall under the breakage rule restart, the boys still had a chance to compete; they just needed to put their boat back together. With no coaches available to help since they were preoccupied with running the rest of the regatta, dynamite novice coxswain Josiah Tolvo guided the boat back to the dock and the experience and knowledge of returning rowers Richard Riegel, Juan Escobar and Sam Friedman allowed them to quickly mend the detached rigger and get back on the water. Racing back to the line, they made it just before their rescheduled race went off. After all the effort it took just to get to the line, the crew didn’t have enough left in the tank to push the competition, finishing in third, but a great lesson in being ready for anything was learned and the crew left the boathouse eager to show their true speed in the coming weeks.
In the biggest race of the day, the boys’ 1st boat took on the 1st boats from Taft, Choate, and Chase Collegiate. Veteran coxswain Nick Asaro had his crew on the line, ready to go at race time, but the Taft and Choate crews could not manage to get lined up in the difficult crosswind, leaving the Bears waiting for minutes and minutes to show their speed. After finally getting more or less lined up, the race was off, with Choate forcing Taft from their lane onto the starting buoy within the first few strokes. When the crews hit the body of the race, all crews were even as they barreled down the course at Wononpakook. Dylan O’Connor set a solid rhythm in stroke seat for boat mates Wil Knight, Roy Faigenbaum and Lars Robinson to follow, but Berkshire’s base speed in their first race of the year wasn’t yet enough to keep contact with race-hardened Taft and Choate crews. Left to duke it out with Chase, Berkshire's finishing sprint fell just short of Chase Collegiate's 5:18, leaving the Bears in fourth with a time of 5:20 . Out in front, Taft, despite Choate’s best efforts from start to finish, took the closest and most important race of the day by one second in a very fast early season time of 5:05. Berkshire looks forward to applying the hard earned lessons of Saturday to their next race at Pomfret on Wednesday.