On a brisk autumn weekend, a racing contingent from the Village Community Boathouse made its annual fall journey to Hull, Massachusetts to participate in the Hull Lifesaving Museum’s Head of the Weir River Race. The race course is a spectacular five and a half mile stretch that takes participants from the head of the Weir River, under a bridge lined by cheering spectators, through Hingham Bay, and finally to the finish line marked by the pier at HLM’s Pemberton Point boathouse.
A last minute change to the race course, made amid concerns of erosion caused by crews walking on the boggy marsh, shortened the race by a quarter mile. All participating craft queued up to await the horn that signaled the start of each boat’s time. Rowers were sent off in the traditional order: singles, doubles, coxed fours, then the behemoth pilot gigs that would attempt the chase down the field.
This year’s youth crew comprised of a mix of familiar faces and first time racers. Coxed by Youth Rowing Coordinator Mary Harvey, who started rowing in VCB’s youth program pre-COVID, the youth crew placed first in their category with an enviable time of 1:01:06. So skilled was this crew, not even the adult coxed four crews were able to catch up!
With short notice leading to a limited number of rowers available, VCB’s adult crew became an amalgam of rowers from New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. This hodgepodge performed admirably, finishing with a time of 57:35, which landed the crew in the middle of the pack — the fleet of pilot gigs finished with times ranging from 51:59 to 1:45:52 — not bad for a group that hadn’t met each other until the day of the race!
Gratitude to Don Betts for lending VCB the use of his boats for this race. Image credit Sean Baggett Photography.
After scuttled plans for Snow Row 2020 amid a rowing season lost to COVID, the Hull Lifesaving Museum hosted their 35th annual Head of the Weir River Race on November 6, 2021. The race course was set, the medals painted, and the goodie bags equipped with a reusable HLM cloth face mask — the only question was whether race participants would return to Hull after skipped season.
And return they did! Nearly four dozen boats containing over a hundred of the finest open water rowers from New England and the Atlantic Northeast gathered at the start line on an unexpectedly warm morning. Surrounded by the changing foliage, boats jockeyed for position in this “head of the river” start format. A horn sounded every thirty seconds to start the timer for each boat and signal its departure.
Once free of the starting scrum, participants navigated through the marsh, flooded by an uncharacteristically high tide. Several enterprising boats with shallow drafts took advantage of this newfound “waterway” and carved new tangents around the race course. Once through the marsh and under the George Washington Boulevard Bridge, rowers navigated across world’s end and into the three mile stretch of open water to the finish line where waving spectators waited to greet tired crews.
Rowers from the Village Community Boathouse were eager to race again and test their ability against the region’s best crews. Traditionally, VCB sends a youth crew and an adult crew to races in which it participates. Mindful of our youth rowers who missed their senior racing season last year, we decided to forego an adult crew and instead create a mixed youth/adult crew to accompany our youth crew to Hull.
Racing in Warrior, a coxed four stretch gunning dory, VCB’s relatively inexperienced youth crew performed admirably and won their category with a time of fifty-seven minutes and fifty seconds. Head of the Weir was the first race for all but one of the youth rowers, making this victory all the more impressive. With most members of the crew eligible to return next season, the future of VCB youth rowing looks bright!
Racing in Pete Seeger, a Whitehall gig built in house by VCB volunteers, the mixed youth/adult crew overcame a rocky start to finish the race in fifty-four minutes and twenty-two seconds. This time was the fastest in the mixed coxed four fixed seat category and earned the crew their golden clamshells. So impressive was this time that it was second overall in the entire coxed four, sweep oar, fixed seat class, registering a mere twelve seconds behind the first place finisher.
After the race, with the youth on their way home, the few participants who remained on the beach at Pemberton Point were treated to an exquisite sunset. We all look forward to making the trek back for the Hull Lifesaving Museum’s Snow Row early next year!