Each year, hundreds of high school and middle school students join teams in the Museum’s open-water youth rowing program. These hardy rowers meet for weekly practices and rowing sessions on Lake Champlain (or tributaries) each spring and fall, and at the end of each season we hold regional races for all.
Our fall 2021 rowing season was one to remember and we couldn’t be prouder of the middle school and high school rowers who gave this season their all! We’ve gathered up some of our favorite highlights of this fall’s memorable (and weather-filled) season featuring the James Wakefield Rescue Row and the Otter Creek Challenge Race. Enjoy this season recap, and we’ll look forward to seeing you all out on the water in the spring!
Fall 2021 Rowing
The fall season started at the end of August for most of our young rowers. Teams from Burlington, Champlain Valley Union High, Mt. Abraham, Rice, South Burlington, and Vergennes all met for regular practice rows after school. New team members and seasoned rowers worked together to train for our fall races. Photos below thanks to Nick Patch, Director of Maritime Programs at the Museum, and Andrew Rainville, Mt. Abraham Rowing Coach (Click on an image to enlarge).
James Wakefield Rescue Row
One of the two annual youth rowing races held in the fall, the James Wakefield Rescue Row is held in memory of James Wakefield who rescued survivors of the General Butler shipwreck just off the breakwater in Burlington in 1876. Although this race is usually held in Burlington Harbor, the volatile weather forecast for this year’s race date led to the hard decision to move the race location to the Museum’s North Harbor. Burlington is unprotected from the south wind and offers no shelter from the rain, while the Museum’s harbor is more protected and calmer for rowers and onlookers alike.
Over 140 rowers from Mt. Abraham Middle and High School, Vergennes Middle and High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Rice Memorial High School, South Burlington High School and Burlington High School rowed on this epic day. The weather was rainy but gorgeous as Lake Champlain can be when you least expect it. Rowers competed in two races: one ½ mile heat out around a buoy and back to North Harbor, and a triangular course with two turns that was 1 mile long. The day provided many well-rowed contests and we were proud of all of our rowers for the energy, commitment, and positive attitudes they bring to the Champlain longboats rowing community!
Photos courtesy of Buzz Kuhns, drone footage courtesy of Bo Tran (Click on an image to enlarge).
Otter Creek Challenge Race
The final race of the fall youth rowing season, the Otter Creek Challenge Race is held on the last Saturday in October, against the dramatic backdrop of the Vergennes Falls. Storms once again threatened the day, but luckily most of the weather held off until the following day, with rain coming and going all day but keeping Otter Creek relatively calm for the race.
As part of an increasingly popular new tradition, we once again made this race a Halloween special and teams competed in costume! Over 100 rowers from Mt. Abraham Middle and High School, Vergennes Middle and High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Rice Memorial High School, South Burlington High School and Burlington High School participated in this fall race.
Photos courtesy of Buzz Kuhns (Click on an image to enlarge)
We are grateful to all our coaches, volunteers, donors, and staff who helped make this season memorable, engaging, and welcoming for all. And a big congratulations to our youth rowers who show up every day (no matter the weather) to have a great row, pull hard, and be together on Lake Champlain. Many thanks to Buzz Kuhns for photographing our season races.
In their own words, here are some testimonials from our rowers and their parents this season: