Head of the Weir
October 27, 2007
Heavy rain on Friday night failed to dampen
the determination of forty boat crews who arrived to participate
in the 20th Hear of the Weir row. The race begins at the highest
navigable point in the Weir River and runs to the Windmill
Point Boathouse at Hull Gut a distance of approximately 5.5
Members of the John Gardner Chapter have a long history of
participating in this event. Sean Bercaw and I had rowed the
Susan Holland last year to a first place finish among
the Livery Double boats over a storm shortened course. We
were anxious for the opportunity to see how Last Chance
would perform against a similar group of boats.
The four boats in our class were all hand built by rowers.
Not a single commercially manufactured boat in the group.
Jon Aborn, who usually rows his Monument River Wherry, arrived
with a Whitehall style double built by and on loan from the
Roderick brothers who were rowing their new double ender.
The father and son team of the Robinson’s were competing
again this year in La Baron Rouge. The fixed seat
rowing community is small, competitive and friendly.
Sean and Bill in Last Chance lined up for the start of
the Head of the Weir
A line of rain pelted the field just minutes before the start.
Boats were called to the line and went off in thirty second
intervals, typical for a “head race”. Sean and
I were the third fixed seat double to head out. The Roderick
brothers would follow us. The goal is to row hard enough to
shorten the gap to the leaders and out pace those in pursuit.
Called to the line, we took off rowing hard in hot pursuit
of Aborn and Fournier in the Whitehall. The start horn sounded
shortly after as the Rodericks began their quest to catch
us. The river winds though a salt swamp and it was only possible
to catch a brief glimpse of our opponents. Looking aft, I
could see the Rodericks miss the second turn. We later learned
that they had broken an oar but were able to finish the race
despite the handicap.
Rowing the forward seat, it is my responsibility to navigate
the course. Sean, in the Stroke Seat, sets the pace. We chewed
away at the gap to the Whitehall and overtook them while still
in the river. We ran a fairly good track with two exceptions.
We ran a little close to the reeds at one of the corners causing
the skeg to drag in the sandy bottom. Shortly after that we
almost ran into rocks which protruded from the shoreline.
Thanks to a call of warning from the Robinson’s we avoided
possible grounding. My GPS registered speed between 6 and
Upon exiting the river and entering the open water of Hull
Bay we were exposed to a quartering wind and a chop of about
a foot. Continuing to pull hard at the oars we overtook the
Red Baron and became the lead boat. Looking aft, we could
see a pilot gig closing on us. We were overtaken by the four
rowers in the Interceptor while less then a quarter of mile
from the finish. We were the second boat to cross the finish
line in a time of 50 minutes and 16 seconds. First in our
class by more then four minutes. Our average speed exceeded
Hot soup and brownies were provided by the Hull Lifesaving
Musuem crew in their boathouse. The Head
of the Weir marks the end of the
2007 rowing season for me. It has been a great year rowing
a new boat, Last Chance. The 2008 season kicks off with The
Snow Row at Windmill Point on March 1. I plan to be there!
-- Bill Armitage