Early on the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving, dozens of youth rowers descended on the Hull Lifesaving Museum’s Boston Rowing Center for HLM’s annual Icebreaker Youth Race. Billed as the Northeast Regional Youth Open-Water Rowing Championships, Icebreaker draws middle school and high school age rowers to Fort Point Channel in downtown Boston. Participants row coxed fours and sixes in four categories: middle school crews, first boats (the equivalent of varsity level), second boats (the equivalent of junior varsity level), and novice crews. The race features two events — the Crewmaster Sprints and a distance challenge (the Nautical Mile for first and second boats) — with winners announced for each event.
After several years’ of races cancelled due to COVID, this was the first Icebreaker race held in three years. Fortunately, our crews were accompanied and coached by Stone Su, an alumnus of VCB’s youth programming. A dedicated rower and participant in VCB’s youth boatbuilding program, Stone was able to share his firsthand Icebreaker experience with our coxswains. The following is his race recap:
We got to the Barking Crab restaurant pretty early after a brisk and cold walk from the hotel. The organizers gave a quick speech about the return of the race after the pandemic, highlighting the fact that for the vast majority of rowers/coxswains, it was their first time at Icebreaker.
After that it was straight into the first heat of the three sprints, where the second crew (Chris Dong, David Siniscalco, Jonathan Valdez, Mason Yam and coxed by Michelle Huang) would race against Sound School. Both boats had some troubles with navigating the race course yet in the end, VCB trailed Sound School by about half a minute.
Following a short break and some frustration fueled pancakes and syrup, VCB rallied back and blew the competition out of the water, finishing almost two and a half minutes ahead of their competition and fastest among their division for that round. The third round was a nail biter. VCB lead only by a boat length or so for most of the course and after some magnificent turning maneuvers from both coxswains, it was a neck and neck battle down the home stretch. In a last ditch stretch of powers and synchronized shouts, VCB edged out another win by only a few seconds.
Concurrently, the first crew (Daniel Elliott, Hanson He, Abi Johnson, Preston Thomsen and coxed by Mary Harvey) had their races follow just a few minutes after the second crew’s. With a slightly different race course than the seconds, course navigation mishaps struck again for VCB and their competitors from Burlington High School. But after some corrections and a lot of hard rowing, VCB cruised comfortably to the finish. The second round was very similar, both crews putting up consistent times and VCB punching in another win. In the third sprint, VCB decided to turn the engines up a notch, slicing through the water and recording the fastest time of the day for the coxed fours.
Finally came the nautical mile. After a dominant day with the sprints, the VCB first crew crushed everyone in the final race. A single white boat with a coxswain wearing a white hat, VCB came out to a huge lead and managed to keep it as every other boat chased after their wakes.
With their strong performance at the races, VCB’s youth crews brought home Icebreaker hardware to put into the trophy case for the first time in over five years! VCB’s first boat crew won a first place plaque and the John E. Lawrence Nautical Mile Coxed Four trophy. VCB’s second boat crew earned a second place plaque. The plaques will remain at the Boathouse, but our crews will bring the Nautical Mile trophy back to Boston next year to defend their title!