In addition to the local connections with our sibling organizations at the Anacostia Community Boathouse, Capital is also part of a larger rowing world. We see each other—and compete against each other—at regattas, and the opportunity to row composite lineups with other clubs helps to reinforce these relationships and allows us to serve as ambassadors for Capital, its members, and its mission.
Two small groups recently competed at regattas in both
all-Capital and composite lineups.
On September 9, 12 members of the afternoon sweep program made their way to Chicago for the Chicago River Half-Marathon, hosted by Lincoln Park Boat Club. The course meandered from Lincoln Park’s new Eleanor Street boathouse in Bridgeport through industrial areas and the beautiful downtown, turning at the Chicago Harbor Locks.
Temporarily trading out the Washington swamp for fairer climes, Capital fielded a mixed 8+ and a composite Mixed 8+ with rowers from Ann Arbor Rowing Club and Chicago Rowing Foundation. Also participating in the Mixed 8+ category was a crew from Great Miami Rowing Center, while several lineups from New Trier High School and entries from co-hosts Lincoln Park and the University of Chicago rounded out the men’s and women’s categories. With perfect early fall weather, stunning sights, and fantastic hospitality, a great time was had by all. (The Mixed 8+ victory didn’t hurt either!)
On September 15, a few members of Capital’s competitive team traveled to Cleveland to row in the Head of the Cuyahoga, recently named one of the 10 largest regattas in the country. Rowing in one women’s 4+ steered by a local coxswain, and two more composite boats joined by various members of the Western Reserve Rowing Association, Capital finished within the top 5 of each event they participated in. The Capital Women’s Masters 4+ finished 4th out of 16, the Capital women/Western Reserve men Mixed Open 8+ composite boat was able to take gold in their event, and the Men’s Masters 4+ composite boat finished in 5th place.
The members of Capital Rowing Club who were able to make the trip to both Chicago and Cleveland this year welcome the interest and participation of fellow Capital members in 2019 and thank Lincoln Park and Western Reserve for hosting us at enjoyable and successful regattas!
“Now I can die in peace!” Those were the words gasped by then 73-year-old Duncan Spencer from the bow seat as we beat Palm Beach Rowing Club in the Men’s E4 Open Final at the Masters Nationals Regatta in Sarasota, Florida, in 2013. It was a photo finish and we didn’t know we won by a bow ball until our teammates shouted the glorious news from the shoreline. Palm Beach is a rolodex club, meaning they bring in talent of rowing pedigree to major regattas. Duncan knew them all as they, like Duncan, were former elite rowers . . . which made the victory sweeter for all of us but especially for Duncan. The line up was Ralph Stedman, myself, Mark Comtois, Duncan, and my wife Susan McKay. This race was the most memorable of all my medals at Masters National competitions since 2006.
Why? Three years earlier, the same four rowers, but with my daughter Steffanie coxing, won the event at the 2010 Masters Nationals Regatta in a come-from-behind victory over the Occoquan Boat Club. In that race, Duncan was stroking the boat and I was again 3 seat. I remember Steffanie encouraging us as we clawed our way back from a half boat length deficit at the 500 meter mark. Inch by inch we came back. Then with 150 meters to go, she yelled, “We can do this . . . but you have to pull harder than you have ever pulled before!” “Bring up the rating!” she yelled. I hear her scream, “I got 37, we got 39, 41!” I’m gasping and thinking, “I can’t do this.” Then I realize the stroke sitting in front of me bringing up that rating is 70 years old, 19 years older than me. “To hell with it, let’s do this!” I tell myself. Again, it was a photo-finish victory. It was similar to the Sarasota race, but at Sarasota we were ahead and Palm Beach was inching up on us!
We were so proud of that first win, we commissioned a trophy for the event and named the trophy the Spencer Cup. The inscription reads, “In honor of Duncan Spencer, A good oar, good man, and good friend.” It took us three years to win the trophy back, and we did it at Sarasota in the only way Duncan would have wanted it. Duncan has been rowing more years than I have been alive and he is a role model for every rower at Capital and across the nation. Last year at the Masters Nationals in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I again had the honor of rowing a four to victory with Duncan, but it was up one age group to the Men’s F4. It was a great win but a much easier win as we had open water at the finish.
This is what I love about Capital. Training hard throughout the year, building camaraderie and lasting friendships with teammates with mutual goals, then peaking at the National Championships to race—and beat!— top clubs from across the country. I rowed four years in college, took 25 years off, then resuscitated my rowing skills and conditioning with Club AM for a year, finally moving to the Comp Program where I have been enjoying my passion for rowing ever since! Go Capital!