BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
For more than 100 years, this time of year has featured rowing’s summer party: the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. Crews from both sides of the border, plus more from farther away, gather for a week of hundreds of races on Martindale Pond’s historic racecourse. Racing “The Henley” is a rite of passage no rower should miss. But this year, of course, it’s something we’re all going to miss, and perhaps the fall season as well.
This is not our sport’s first brush with global adversity, however. As the world’s original intercollegiate athletic event (the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race began in 1829), and America’s first as well (Harvard-Yale, 1852), rowing has lasted through a succession of historic crises: the 1918 pandemic, two world wars, the Great Depression and Recession. As always, we’ll come back and race on. We’ll do it the same way we do our sport–with hard, cooperative work over the long term that focuses on future reward in the face of current suffering. From the pain cave of the third 500, we emerge to cross the line, every time.
During this terrible pandemic, we are coping by adapting. Single sculling and erging are booming, and athletes in other sports are turning to rowing because it’s safer than football and soccer, basketball and ice hockey. Clark Dean, the two-time world rowing junior champion, began rowing because he wasn’t having fun playing lacrosse. The appeal of our sport never dies.
In his last editor’s letter, the late Ed Winchester spoke of “rowing’s inherent optimism” and sounded a note of hope. “If I’m certain of one thing,” he declared, “it’s that we’ll keep moving forward, one optimistic stroke at a time.”
He was right.