After starting his summer at World Rowing Cup I and the Henley Royal Regatta, U.S. single sculler John Graves traveled home in July to Cincinnati. But his journey was really just beginning.
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Graves, one of the most promising scullers in the United States, had returned to southeast Ohio to prepare for the USRowing Club National Championships. Any other year, this would be a significant race, but now it could be the first step toward a $14,000 grand prize.
On July 3, USRowing announced a new “triple crown” of single sculling, known as the Lotman Challenge, in partnership with the Head of the Charles, the Head of the Schuylkill, and the Philadelphia Gold Challenge Cup Foundation to Support Single Sculling. Club Nationals is the first leg of the challenge.
“Right when I heard about it I reached out to them and told them I think it’s great and I really want to be involved,” said Graves.
For Graves and many other single scullers, the allure of cash prizes for the top three ranking men’s and women’s finishers makes the decision to pursue single sculling an even more worthwhile endeavor. First place will receive $9,000, second earns $3,500, and third takes home a $1,500 purse. A clean sweep of all three regattas—club nationals, the Head of the Charles, and Head of the Schuylkill—nets the $14,000 check.
“There’s no question that this offers an incentive, and that incentive hasn’t really existed in the last four to five years,” Graves said. As scullers foot their own bills, the cash influx could be a boon to training and travel.
The Head of the Charles announced it will reserve spaces for Lotman Challenge racers in its prestigious championship single category. For the Schuylkill, the historic Gold Cup race will serve as the capstone to the contest. This challenge is named for Herb Lotman, a Philadelphia philanthropist who acquired the Gold Cup and helped revive the storied race.
“This is such a big step in allowing U.S. scullers to approach rowing a little bit more professionally,” Graves said. “It’s a pretty big step.”