This past weekend was the annual Head of the Ohio regatta up in Pittsburgh, PA. Since it's our home town race, the Duquesne crew team has always used this as our Alumni race as well, and for four of the last five years now I've managed to get up to the race for a reminder of just how painful a 5k race can be in a boat (the exception was last year when the 1/2 IM in New Jersey conflicted with the HOTO, pain was still to be found).
This year's race was looking to be a good one. The day was sunny and fairly warm with highs in the mid-sixties, though the wind was looking like it could pose some issues. After a warm up from the finish up to the start (I already had a couple of large blisters on my feathering hand), we abruptly cooled back off sitting in the chilling wind waiting for our race to start, joking with some other crews (our cox even convinced a bowman from Mercyhurst they'd be disqualified if they didn't get their bow number back on the boat after it fell off and was floating five feet out from the side of the boat. He actually climbed out on the bow to put it back into the number slot on the tip of the bow... I could see the boat breaking underneath him...)
We finally got near the shoot and eventually were heading for the course, the blare of the starting horn and CMU's alumni 8 ramping things up behind us putting us all back in the zone we'd been away from for so long. The next thing you know we hit the remnants of the recent tsunamis and water was crashing over the gunnel's from both sides simultaneously, hitting riggers, oars and anything else that stood in it's way, including Joe's (coxswain) face and open mouth, leaving him spitting and sputtering as we headed down the river.
A few hundred meters in I was thinking to myself how these were by far the worst conditions I'd ever rowed in and I couldn't believe how badly it was going. On the other hand we were walking away from CMU without a problem so we must still have been doing relatively well. Just as Im thinking that I notice a shoe and a shirt float by, just inside the reach of our oars. Then another shoe... Isn't that... Ours??? Teddy's?
Huh, now that's strange, why'd he do that? We going to see him floating by next?
Hundred or so yards further and the water pouring in from behind me filled in the blanks on that one. Teddy's shoe's floated out of the boat, Teddy himself was rowing essentially underwater and the remainder of the boat was quickly joining him. It took a few seconds for everything to happen but soon we were sitting chest deep in the shell floating 6 inches underwater waiting for the officials and rescue boats to load us up and pull the boat back to the boat house. While we were sitting there waiting at least one other boat swamped further down the course and later we heard the remainder of the races were canceled after our Men's Open 8 race.
It was an interesting thing to experience though in retrospect that was the first crew race I (we) ever started that we didn't finish. It hits a lot harder when I thought of it like that. Last year the race was called while the alumni were sitting in the starting area waiting to start so this is two consecutive years with no finish for the alum. What's even worse is we were still walking away from those punks at CMU even with a few hundred extra pounds in our boat, yet they still beat us (with their dead last finish in the race). Ouch... Next year, not only do we finish, but we beat the PANTS off of CMU. You hear that boys? I'm calling you all out!
To bad we swamped so far up river their are no pics of us sinking or sunk... Hopefully soon I'll have some bailing water shots to share. Careful though, I'm warning you now; I'm not wearing a shirt in them.