UR Rowing kicked off their fall season this weekend at the 31st annual Head of the Genesee Regatta.
A slight breeze flowed over the river, lifting a translucent white haze up out of the water to contrast with the clear blue sky overhead. The sun was still just beginning to warm the day from the 39-degree weather that chilled the rowers as they prepared for the first race of the day.
The Men’s 4+ race kicked off the day. UR placed 11th with just over 20 minutes in the five-kilometer race. The Men’s and Women’s 8+ teams fared somewhat better, placing 5th and 6th in their respective heats. The Women were just barely edged out of 5th place by Ithaca College, who finished 20 seconds faster.
The women’s rowing team is particularly young, but has room to grow. There are only three juniors, and coxswain Lily Huntoon is the sole senior. Despite the turnover, the team looked prepared and smooth as they glided over the water to complete the race in just under 20 minutes. Many of the younger rowers have significant experience at the high school level, preparing them for collegiate competition.
“The team works well because everyone is accountable [for themselves]” junior Emma Poulin, a veteran of women’s rowing, said.
The race marked the beginning of the season for both men and women. The fall season is shorter, but consists of longer races. UR Women’s rowing only has two five-kilometer races this fall, but in the spring they will have several shorter, two-kilometer races. “Spring is actually considered our main season and then fall is just kind of getting ready,” said Poulin.
There are several different categories at most events. Races usually consist of Varsity and Novice 8+, as well as 4+ races. The numbers refer to the number of rowers in the boat, excluding the coxswain who is responsible for steering. Courses vary, but this one follows the Genesee River from the Genesee Waterways Center almost to the Elmwood Avenue Bridge just off campus. In a head race, boats are released in turn, and the winner is decided by who completes the race in the shortest time (as opposed to a side-by-side, in which boats are released simultaneously and the first to finish wins).
Within the boat, team members have varying roles. The coxswain sits at the stern (back) of the boat, facing forward, unlike the rowers. The rower closest to them is the stroke, a technically sound and physically strong leader who sets the pace for the team. The more central rowers often focus on power, providing more of the push to gain and maintain speed. At the bow ( front), there is a greater focus on technique, to maintain balance and direction.
The women’s team will race the same course Genesee again on Oct. 19. The men will next race on Oct. 26 in Saratoga Springs.