Seven pilot gigs rowed by high school students race across Lake Champlain

High spirits and warm weather at the Spring Wave 2021

On Saturday June 5, we welcomed 84 rowers from eight regional school teams back to the Museum to participate in the Spring Wave, the annual spring race for our youth rowing league, Champlain Longboats. It was a beautiful hot summer day and everyone – rowers, coaches, staff, and onlookers – seemed thrilled to be back in some sort of normalcy and together for a rowing event. Participating schools include Burlington High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Mt. Abraham Union Middle and High Schools, Rice Memorial High School, South Burlington High School, and Vergennes Middle and High Schools.

All photographs courtesy of Buzz Kuhns

The Spring Wave is a series of races that are the culmination and final challenge of the short spring rowing season. Teams compete in novice, intermediate, and experienced four and six-oar divisions. It is a combined time event with all teams rowing in two races, the first being an out and back ¾ mile race and the second a triangular 1.25 mile race. The energy level was high as teams from Mt. Abraham Union High School, Rice Memorial High School, Burlington High School went on to win their divisions. They were cheered on by families and coaches. See below for a full list of times for each team.

As part of the Spring Wave race each year, we present the Bradley Cunningham Award to a deserving graduating senior rower nominated by a coach. Brad was a participant and then junior leader in our Champlain Discovery summer kayak program for five years. He also rowed and raced in our first pilot gig Spirit of Otter Creek launched in 1999. Brad was passionate about our on-water programs, knew how to lead by example, and was a bright light of positivity for all who knew him. He tragically died in a ski accident in January 2001. We offer this award annually to the graduating senior rower that stood out as a positive role model and leader for our Champlain Longboats youth rowing league. Along with the award and honor, the recipient also gets a small financial award and their name is engraved on a brass plaque in our Museum Visitor Center. This year’s Bradley Cunningham Award winner was Aiden Levigne from the Mt. Abraham Union Middle and High School Rowing team. As his coach, Andrew Rainville, noted:

“For over eight seasons, Aiden has been a mainstay of the Mt. Abraham team, coming to practices looking to improve and arriving at races ready to give his greatest effort. His willingness to give up personal pride and accolades for the betterment of the team (a fundamental pillar of rowing) is always on full display as he works to build up his teammates and teach them the tricks and techniques that he learned along the way. When the team was short on coxswains, Aiden was one of two rowers who stepped up to the challenge and learned the position so that the rest of the team could continue to row. We have been able to count on Aiden to fill gaps in race crews (sometimes double-rowing), shift positions mid-practice, and provide constructive analysis to the coaches and his teammates. No matter which seat he’s in, or what weather the team is contending with, or who else is in his boat, Aiden’s positive attitude and full embodiment of the rowing spirit is always a breath of fresh air.”

In addition to the Bradley Cunningham Award and the awards for first place, we also honored our 35 graduating senior rowers and presented them each with a reproduction deck light prism. Historically, deck prisms were used to allow daylight to enter the living quarters on large ships. Today, we give them as a gift and a symbol to help graduating seniors shine a light on their future adventures. It is always bittersweet to say goodbye to our seniors but we appreciate all they bring to the rowing community and we wish them fair winds and following seas.

We are grateful to all our rowers, coaches, volunteers, donors, and staff that come together to make this uniquely engaging, team-building, community activity happen here at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Many thanks to Buzz Kuhns for photographing this event.

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