RNY Masters Race Their Hearts Out at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta!

RNY Masters Race Their Hearts Out at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta!

by Director of Community Rowing, Matt Logue

On August 2nd, the Row New York’s Competitive Masters competed in the 133rd Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.  18 athletes, our largest travel contingent to date, entered the Henley Island arena and represented Row New York in 10 events against 48 clubs from the United States, Canada and Australia!

The regatta started off with sunny skies and flat water.  Morning races for Row New York included our Men’s F 2x (Bob Benjamin and Peter Armstrong), our Mixed Under 50 2x (Simon Billinge and Claudia Loeber), our Men’s F 4x (Bob Benjamin, Peter Armstrong, Richard Sabean, and Carl Taeusch) and our Men’s D 4+ that was a composite entry with two masters from the West Side Rowing Club.

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Row New York’s Mixed Under 50 2x race with Simon Billinge and Claudia Loeber.

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Bob Benjamin and Peter Armstrong in the Men’s F 2x event.

The Women’s A 4+ of Claudia Loeber, Mel Abler, Meredith Avery, Marianne Bers, and coxswain Kira Forrester became RNY’s first all- women’s crew to compete at the Canadian Henley Regatta.  The crew represented Row New York well, solidifying a second place finish in their final– 33 seconds ahead of the 3rd place boat!

The Men’s C 4x of Richard Sabean, Thomas Lutazi, Tobias Westermann, and Simon Billinge secured a second place finish in their final by a mere .22 seconds over a strong crew from Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto, Canada.  Little did we know, this race would foreshadow a showdown later in the day between these same two clubs…

As the day continued, the winds picked up.  By the time the Men’s B 8+ of Patrick Fernbach, Simon Billinge, Michael Kohlhaas, Thomas Lutazi, Craig Fithian, Brian Albright, Tim Stephens, Carl Taeusch and coxswain Catherine Hicks hit the water for their duel with the crew from Argonaut Rowing Club, the waves were gunnel high and white capping around both boats. The crew from Argonaut jumped out to a slight lead in this mid-afternoon duel despite the choppy conditions. Row New York made a strong push at the halfway point of the race which set up a near photo-finish, but Argonaut edged out Row New York by six-tenths of a second.  When the Row New York crew landed back on Henley Island, bow-seat Carl Taeusch (age 70!) proclaimed that “this race was the best race I have been in since the 1967 Eastern Sprint finals!”

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Six-tenths of a second made the difference for this photo finish.

There is something paradoxical about a close rowing race. The race takes every bit of physical and mental energy out of your body but the result, win or lose, quickly reinvigorates the soul with a profound sense of accomplishment.  This sensation can only be experienced when the crew you are racing forces you (and your crew) to create another level of excellence that you did not know was within you.  No matter the result, every person at the end of that race is better than they were at the start.

Our racing concluded with a Mixed 4x of Michael Kohlhaas, Tobias Westerman, Mel Abler, and Marianne Bers finishing second to an international all-star composite crew from Canada and Australia while dominating over five other crews in the race.

As the crew loaded the trailer, it was clear that everyone ended the day better and more experienced than they began.  The races and experiences, the ups and downs, the camaraderie and representation of Row New York all add up to an incredibly successful weekend in a very competitive arena.  These are experiences that codify the entire Row New York community – they show that hard work is essential at all stages of life and that positive takeaways can be found in any situation, both on and off the water.
Next stop for the Row New York Competitive Masters will be the USRowing Masters National (August 13-16) in Camden, NJ!