30for30: A Spirit of Camaraderie, Competition, and Service

By Jen Ney and Lain Wilson

Participants from across Capital’s programs, along with rowers from DC Strokes, came out this past weekend for the a bioswale cleanup and the annual scrimmage. Rowers from the two clubs competed in mixed lineups in sculling and sweep races and enjoyed a barbeque afterward.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the Boathouse and the spirit of camaraderie, competition, and service fostered by the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association (ACBA). ACBA is an umbrella organization made up of nine member group: four high schools, American University, and four community-based organizations. All nine groups offer rowing and paddling programming and are working to encourage responsible environmental stewardship of the river through increased recreational access and opportunity.  

The first ACBA member to provide rowing opportunities on the Anacostia River was Bob Day and the Organization for Anacostia Rowing and Sculling (OARS) in 1988. OARS’s mission was to establish and nurture the sport of rowing for the benefit of the community, and they introduced students from Anacostia Senior High School and Frederick Douglass Junior High School to the sport. Capital Rowing Club was founded in the same year, but was originally based out of Thompson Boat Center on the Potomac River. Thompson was an overcrowded facility, and Capital required more equipment and space.

In 1995, OARS invited Capital to move its operations over the Anacostia, to a site at 11th and O Streets SE. OARS saw this as a way to increase rowing on the Anacostia, and Capital recognized the excellent growth potential and superior rowing conditions that the Anacostia River presented.

After the move occurred, the membership of Capital worked in partnership with OARS to improve the site, building boat racks and improving the docks underneath the old 11th Street Bridges. Capital adopted the OARS community mission and began offering “learn to row” programs for area residents, with a particular emphasis on reaching out to students in the DC public schools and to people who had not had access to rowing programs previously.

In 2001, the National Capital Area Women’s Paddling Association (NCAWPA) relocated their operations from Thompson to the Anacostia, and along with Capital, OARS, and the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS), helped to found ACBA. In 2002, the District of Columbia began to lease parts of the 11th and O Street site to ACBA, recognizing more formally the value of nonmotorized recreation on the Anacostia to the community and to the environmental restoration of the river.

ACBA’s programs and membership continued to grow and, in 2004, ACBA added American University Crew, Bishop Ireton High School, and DC Strokes Rowing Club. In 2010, ACBA moved to its present home at 1900 M Street SE, where it continues to offer access to the river for 9 different clubs and nearly 1,000 rowers and paddlers.

Learn more about the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association on their website, and watch out for future posts about the history of Capital and ACBA over the past 30 years.

30for30: Bliss

By Emma Floyd

When I think about the two years I have spent at Capital, there is no one memory that stands out to me, but rather a collection of brief moments, where, in the instant, I have felt pure bliss.

The moments when everything in the boat is working perfectly and no one says it but there is an overwhelming feeling of triumph surging through everyone. The time on the bus ride back from a regatta when Erin tried about a hundred times to take a boomerang of the whole bus — and almost fell in the process. The awe I feel watching the sunset on the Anacostia, and the brilliant blazes of orange and pink and purple that paint the sky as the team leaves for the night. When, at the other side of the bridge, after our runs, we do piggyback and wheelbarrow races (don’t tell Nathan). The exhaustion and glee my girls 8 felt when we placed third at Mid-Atlantics, after having rowed in wind and rain. The bustle of the boathouse as boats come in and out. Just sitting in a circle as a team doing scullies and talking and laughing.

Crew is an incredible amount of work and sweat and pain and pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Honestly, sometimes you want to give up and quit. The team, coaches, and the love of being on the water is what keeps you going. I have met some of the most amazing people and created some of the most amazing memories while being on this team, and for me, all those moments are what Capital is about.

30for30: The Bratichkos’ Vision

By Guennadi and Elena Bratichko, with Clara Elias

Guennadi and Elena Bratichko came to Capital 25 years ago and are the club’s longest-running coaches. Guennadi had formally coached the Russian junior men’s team, and Elena was on the Russian national team, competing at the 1980 Olympics (watch her in lane 1, 2 seat). Their decision to coach that Capital, when it was young and less competitive, and their long-term dedication to Capital have made made a huge impact on the growth of the entire club.

Capital has significantly changed since 1994/95, when Elena and I started coaching here. Back then, we were not sending crews to national-level competitions like Masters Nationals and Head of the Charles River on regular basis. The first year we went to Masters Nationals was in 1997: a small group of rowers went to Long Beach, California, winning two medals, a gold and a silver.

Since then, the number of rowers competing at Masters Nationals has continued to grow along with the number of medals we have won and overall team placement. The biggest change is that we have a steady flow of rowers joining the competitive program from our own club programs. At one of the recent Head of the Charles River we had five rowers in our women’s eight that learned to row at Capital!

Our vision for Capital is to improve everyday training and grow the club’s team system, which introduces new athletes to rowing and provides them with the necessary foundation to move onto more technical and competitive programs, if they are interested. It allows us to grow our own talents and bring in new rowing enthusiasts to our program.

The greatest strength—and best asset—of Capital is its people. We love working with people who share our love and commitment to the sport.

30for30: Anacostia Sprints—Bringing Rowers to the Nation’s Other River

By Mary McMenamin and Lily Elsner

Capital Rowing Club has been a presence on the Anacostia River since 1995, when it became a founding member of the Anacostia Community Boathouse, at the time located at 1115 M Street SE. The Anacostia Riverfront looked a lot different then: Capital didn’t have a lot of neighbors on either side of the river, let alone much boat traffic on the water. Today, the skyline along all of M Street—from the railroad bridge all the way down to Hains Point—is considerably different, boasting new businesses, new places to live and work, and new access points to explore the river.

Capital has changed, too. In 1988, Capital began with six adult members. Thirty years later, it comprises 11 rowing teams, providing comprehensive programming to over 400 rowers of all ages and abilities.

Capital Juniors is one of these 11 teams. Started 10 years ago by two masters rowers, Capital Juniors seeks to make rowing more accessible to students in the DC area. The team brings more than 60 middle and high school rowers to the Anacostia River each season. They learn not only how to row but also now to protect the river.

On Saturday, April 21, 2018, in celebration of the DC’s Year of the Anacostia and in honor of Earth Day, Capital Juniors partnered with the Anacostia Watershed Society to bring even more visibility to the Anacostia River. We invited neighboring teams to a day of community service and friendly competition.

Nearly 200 rowers from Capital Juniors, Georgetown Day School, Elizabeth Seton High School, Bishop Ireton High School, Sidwell Friends School, and Holton-Arms School participated in the service-learning project, where they were responsible for cleanup activities around the bioswale surrounding the boathouse. The teams collected dozens of bags of trash that would otherwise end up in the water or in the river habitat.

Following the riverfront cleanup, the rowers convened for the first annual Anacostia Sprints, Capital’s first juniors-only regatta. With over 50 entries, the regatta provided the athletes an opportunity to row on the Anacostia River, some for the first time. About half of the competitors practice and race on the Potomac River, so the Anacostia Sprints was a special way to introduce them to DC’s so-called Other River.

It was also special that all the participating teams took home some race hardware—button pins that featured some local DC history. The pins were adorned with the Anacostia Sprints logo: a rendition of the DC flag with an overlay of text based on a popular 1940s-era neon sign found in the Anacostia neighborhood. After all, Capital is committed to its mission of supporting and celebrating the community around the boathouse.

Looking forward, Capital Juniors is excited to invite even more rowers to the Anacostia River, in what we hope will become an annual tradition of community building and racing.

30for30: Stewardship in Action

By Mary Ellsworth and Lain Wilson

That grassy strip that you park next to and that you carry your boats across is a small area that does big work. The bioswale—the buffer between the boathouse and the river—is a first line of defense, soaking up stormwater runoff and filtering pollution before it enters the Anacostia.

This Earth Day, 260 volunteers from across the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association (ACBA) and Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) participated in cleanup efforts along the bioswale, collecting trash, removing invasive plants, and planting native, flood-resistant species like shadbush, red-twig dogwood, and blue flag iris.

 

In particular, as part of a nationwide effort and the theme of this year’s Earth Day—“No Plastic Straw Please”—volunteers picked up and counted plastic straws, one of the major contributors to ocean plastic. More than 320 plastics straws were collected from 33 sites during Saturday’s AWS-led cleanup. Destined to accumulate in the oceans, most of these straws were brought in by the river over the winter.   

This year also marks the “Year of the Anacostia,” celebrating the cleaner, healthier river that the Anacostia is becoming. Earth Day wasn’t the end of Capital rowers’ stewardship of the river. Bioswale work sessions, led by the indefatigable Mary Ellsworth and Jim Smailes, take place on the last Sunday of each month from 9:30 am to noon. So if you missed Earth Day—or want to continue contributing to the health of our river—sign up for a work session!

Learn more about our river—and how you can help protect it—at the Anacostia Watershed Society, the Year of the Anacostia,  and the ACBA Bioswale websites.