Adults row in pilot gigs

Adult Rowing Returns to the Snow Row

By Andrew Rainville, Adult Rowing Club Member and Youth Rowing Coach

Earlier this month, as winter ice continues to clog the waterways of Lake Champlain, an intrepid group of adult rowers from Lake Champlain Maritime Museum descended on Hull, Massachusetts for the Hull Lifesaving Museum’s aptly-named regional rowing race, the Snow Row, open to human-powered rowing boats of all categories from hydrodynamic sliding-seat sculls to bulkier fixed-seat pilot gigs. Typically held annually in early March, this year’s race on March 5 marked the first Snow Row after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

View of gigs lined up at Windmill Point for the Snow Row 2022, photographed by Richard Green.
View of gigs lined up at Windmill Point for the Snow Row 2022, photographed by Richard Green.

The Snow Row is a 3.5 mile loop race in Hingham Bay from Hull’s Windmill Point, around Sheep Island to a marker, and back. This race also includes a unique twist – a Le Mans start. More common in auto-racing of yesteryear, the rowing version begins with each of the competing boats beached, typically in the bow. The coxswain (if applicable) stands in the floating stern while the bowman stands near the beached bow, and the remainder of the crew further up the beach. On the starter’s call, the crew runs down the beach, hopping into the boat and taking their seats while the bowman pushes off and jumps in. The boat then turns 180° before completing the aforementioned race course. The chaos and collisions of the start are familiar to experienced Snow Row-ers. As one describes it, “the only way to lose off the start is to break something.”

Getting ready for the start of the Snow Row 2022, photographed by Sean Baggett.
Getting ready for the start of the Snow Row 2022, photographed by Sean Baggett.

The Museum was represented by three crews from our adult rowing clubs, each rowing one of the newest Museum pilot gigs built by winter boat building students. Rowing Frank Beckett were Mary Hennessey, Tim Cowan, Gretchen Richer, David Brynn, Aiden Lavigne, and Sandra Murphy, coxed by Ben Mayock. Annie O was rowed by Charlie Beyer, Jack Chappel, Isaac Bingham, Tim Hodson, Oak Fonte, and Don Dewees, and coxed by Nick Patch. Finally, the crew of Rising Tide consisted of Becky D’Avignon, Maria Cimonetti, Corinthia Richards, Carol Roberts, Shining Chang, and Lynn Stewart-Parker, coxed by Andrew Rainville.

Beginning promptly at noon, under calm and sunny blue skies, the first wave (which was composed of single and double fixed seat crews) began, followed three minutes later by four-oared fixed seat crews. At 12:06, it was time for the pilot gigs, including the three Museum crews, to start. With the sound of the horn, the rowers rushed to their boats and quickly launched in the hopes of avoiding any serious clashes. Off the line, the gig field was led by a crew from Belfast, ME. Meanwhile, Annie O led the Museum crews, followed by Rising Tide, with Frank Beckett toward the rear of the pack. After collisions during the turning phase, however, the Museum crews were reordered to Frank Beckett leading, followed by Annie O and Rising Tide, scattered across the flotilla of gigs.

Over the ensuing 3+ miles, the gig crews navigated in the field of 51 total vessels, accounting for 219 competitors. The first Museum gig to breach the finish line was Annie O with a time of 40:00. Closely following, the crew of Frank Beckett crossed just nine seconds behind. Six minutes later, Rising Tide finished with a time of 46:02 after passing a whaleboat and gig in the final minutes. Our crews ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 9th, respectively, in the division of 14 adult pilot gigs. Full Snow Row results are posted here, thanks to the Hull Lifesaving Museum.

Aiden Lavigne, a youth rowing alumnus from Mt. Abraham High, recounted his race in Frank Beckett, “This race was finger-numbingly cold, exceptionally exhausting, and the most fun experience I’ve had this year so far. Despite it being a few months since I’ve last rowed with my awesome teammates and friends, as soon as I stepped foot on the sandy beach of Windmill Point, it felt like it had only been a few hours since our last row together. We all rowed hard, strived for our greatest this race, and I had a good time doing it!”

The Snow Row was the first race for Rising Tide crew member Corinthia Richards. Following the race, she said that she is “looking forward to getting back out there regularly,” emphasizing her excitement for this season of adult rowing, including SkiffieWorlds, the St. Ayles Skiff World Championship Race held every three years. The 2022 SkiffieWorlds will be held in the Netherlands and the Museum’s adult rowing clubs will be sending multiple teams to compete.

For the time being, our adult rowing clubs will have to wait a little longer before hitting the water back here in Lake Champlain as ice restricts lake accessibility until mid-April. Once that time arrives, everyone is invited to join the community rowers weekly, regardless of experience; find more information here: www.lcmm.org/adult-rowing/

Photos of the Snow Row 2022 below by Andrew Rainville, Nick Patch, Corinthia Richards, Joe Berkeley, and Sean Baggett.