Frosty weather can’t slow down the Otter Creek Challenge 2019

By Nick Patch, Champlain Longboats Director

On Saturday, November 9, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Champlain Longboats program held its annual Otter Creek Challenge youth rowing race at the Vergennes Basin just below Vergennes Falls. The race had been scheduled for November 2, but we had a record-breaking rain event two days before the race date that made Otter Creek inaccessible and the current so swift that a decision was made to postpone the race until Saturday November 9.

The Vergennes Falls and flooded park area on November 1, 2019

By November 9, the current had calmed down, the weather was gorgeous but, the temperature was predicted to barely break 32 degrees. This turned out to be no impediment to great rowing. One hundred and sixty-six rowers from eight Champlain Valley schools turned out to form twenty-seven hardy crews. Teams hailed from Vergennes Middle and High School, Mt. Abraham Middle and High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, South Burlington High School, Rice Memorial High School and Burlington High School.

With the thundering Vergennes Falls in the background, intermediate and experienced crews rowed a three mile course while the novice boats rowed a two mile course. While the current had dropped significantly from the previous weekend it was still very powerful and all the crews earned a badge of honor for rowing the upstream leg of the race.

South Burlington High School team heads to the start of the race
Video footage of the 2019 Otter Creek Challenge courtesy of Dovid Yagoda

In the novice six-oar division we had for the first time in twenty years of racing a tie for first place with both Burlington High School and Champlain Valley Union High School posting a time of 25:41. In the intermediate six-oar division South Burlington High School was victorious with a time of 33:55.  Vergennes took first place in the experienced six-oar division with the fastest time of the day on the three-mile course of 29:19. South Burlington was again the winner in the novice four-oar division with a time of 23:54. In the intermediate four-oar division Vergennes triumphed with a time of 40:15 and Mt. Abraham was the victor in the experienced four-oar division with a time of 36:05.

Our Champlain Longboats rowing season will culminate with the Icebreaker a regional youth rowing race in Boston Harbor on Saturday November 23. Hang on to your hats and mittens as these vigorous youth rowing teams practice on Lake Champlain for the next two weeks. Preparing for the final event of the season. The youth rowing season will start again in the spring in Mid-April once all the ice has cleared.

Special thanks to the City of Vergennes for allowing us to use this extraordinary venue and to Tom and Shelly Eriksen of Tom’s Marine for providing snack bags for all of the one hundred and sixty-six rowers. See below for more photos from the race. Race photos courtesy of Buzz Kuhns.