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Something to row about The 15th annual Covered Bridge Regatta promises a weekend of much ado about crew

BY  MIKE STAHLBERG

The Register-Guard

Posted to Web:  TuesdayApr 7, 2009 10:17AM 
Appeared in print:  TuesdayApr 7, 2009, page E2

LOWELL — Like any 15-year-old, the Covered Bridge Regatta seems to keep growing and growing.

Oregon’s premier flat-water rowing event will celebrate its crystal anniversary here this weekend with more racing lanes and more to do.

Several hundred rowers representing at least 25 clubs from Oregon, Washington and California are expected to “Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” their way to the finish line in 40 different events Saturday.

>Racing starts at 7:30 a.m. and continues with a race about every 10 minutes through late afternoon. There is no charge for spectators, who can opt to watch the start of races from the causeway near the historic covered bridge that gives the event its name or the finish from the park and marina just west of Lowell.

“I think it’s a fabulous sport to watch,” said race director Anita Larson, president of the host Oregon Association of Rowers (OAR) club.

The Dexter event features side-by-side races, including men’s and women’s high school, college, “masters” and “open” divisions. One example of the Covered Bridge Regatta’s continued growth is the addition of Friday evening tune-up races, plus a social event, for Masters category (post-collegiate) rowers.

The “Dexter Dash and Dinner” at 5:30 p.m. Friday will include a series of 500-meter races followed by a chicken barbecue. Featured will be men’s and women’s “first-time sculling races” designed to give people who ordinarily row in two-, four-, or eight-person boats an opportunity to “row it alone.”

The Friday evening event was added to the schedule to give rowers from around the region a chance to socialize and to have some fun working travel kinks out before the serious racing begins, Larson said. It also gives singles rowers two opportunities to race. Other rowers often race in both four- and eight-person shells.

On Saturday, racers will notice buoy-marking of the course has been improved for the second consecutive year.

“We did receive another grant from Lane County … so we’re adding two more lanes to the race course,” Larson said.

Dexter Lake’s status as a rowing destination has grown with the addition of buoy-marked lanes, of which the course now has seven of the nine it needs to have a “fully buoyed” eight-lane course.

“It makes such a difference in terms of fairness of racing,” said Suzanne Walther, who rowed for the U.S. National team in 2000 and 2001.

Walter helps coach — and rows for — OAR while working on a doctorate degree at the University of Oregon.

“People are excited to race here because we don’t have that many laned courses in the Northwest,” Walther said.

Indeed, Dexter Lake is the only rowing venue between Sacramento and Seattle that offers permanent marked lanes. (Stainless steel cables separate each of the 2,000-meter-long rowing lanes. The cables lie on the bottom of the lake when not in use and are raised and suspended several feet below the lake’s surface when buoys are attached for a race. Prior to installation of the cables, the course had to be re-surveyed each year.)

Oregon rowers are also excited about the Covered Bridge Regatta because it is the first major event of the season for most of them. The other major rowing events in Oregon are all held on the Willamette River in late summer and fall, when the current is not as fast as during the spring runoff.

For spectators, the Covered Bridge Regatta provides the spectacle of an exciting side-by-side sprint of 1,000 (for Masters events) or 2,000 yards (for junior, collegiate and open division races).

Most other crew events in Oregon are head races, in which competitors race 2,000 to 12,000 yards against the clock.

The course improvements at Dexter Lake were funded largely by $23,000 in Lane County Tourism grants OAR received over the last four years. The grants were based on the fact that rowing attracts people to the area.

And not just for the Covered Bridge Regatta. Several college races have been held on the lake — including one in which crews from California and Washington met half way to race in Lowell.

If OAR can raise money for two more 2,000-meter cables and buoys, its home course will qualify to host major regional crew events.

“Something like the Pac-10 championships would be very possible,” Larson said.

The University of Oregon does not have an NCAA crew program with scholarship rowers, but its club sports crew team does compete in the Pac-10 championships.

Of the Pac-10 schools with rowing, none has the ability to host the Pac-10 championships.

Oregon State, for instance, trains on the choppy Willamette River, while Washington competes on Lake Washington. Neither venue can provide a buoyed course wide enough for eight boats.

Thus, the Pac-10 women’s championships are held annually on Lake Natoma near Sacramento.

But Dexter Lake has a built-in advocate among Pac-10 coaches.

Yasmin “Yaz” Farooq, a long-time OAR member/coach with Olympic credentials (as a coxswain and later as a TV commentator), is now the crew coach at Stanford.

“I’ve raced on some of the best water in the world and I can tell you, Dexter is in the top five in the nation, and easily the best on the West Coast if you consider the climate,” Farooq said while still in Eugene.

At Stanford, she liked Dexter Lake well enough to bring her team there to row against Gonzaga University.

Trophies are awarded for the junior and college teams that accumulate the most points over the regatta. In the adult category, the Ed Offchiss Memorial Trophy will be awarded to the winner of the men’s Masters Single. The trophy honors an OAR member who died during the 2003 “Row for the Cure” in Portland.

Meanwhile, look for rowing to keep on growing at Dexter Lake.

“We’re in the process of getting permits and approval to build another boathouse next to our current boathouse,” Larson said. The existing boathouse was built in 1994 near the lake’s northwest corner.

“The state has put rowing into its master plan for Dexter Lake and we hope to continue to grow our facilities for OAR as well as work with the UO club sports program for crew,” she said.

The Oregon Association of Rowers, which has about 80 adult members and 70 junior members, welcomes new rowers. The best time for newcomers to get involved is during the summer months, when the club offers a three-week introductory series of lessons.

“That’s the best time to do it,” Walther said. “You’re starting out with other beginners, and the weather’s much better. It’s a nicer experience.”

While most people are attracted to rowing “by the recreational and fitness aspects,” Walther said, “some people catch the competitive bug and really enjoy the camaraderie of race day.”

For additional information on OAR’s junior and adult rowing programs, log on to www.oarowers.org/rowing.

Copyright © 2009 — The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA


Story photo and/or graphic

CARL DAVAZ/THE REGISTER-GUARD

Sweepers dig their oars into the waters of Dexter Lake during the women's eights race at the 2008 Covered Bridge Regatta.  The 15th annual event is Saturday.

Story photo and/or graphic

CARL DAVAZ/THE REGISTER-GUARD

Hundreds of rowers from all over the West Coast will descend on Dexter Lake, one of the finest facilities in the U.S.

Story photo and/or graphic

CARL DAVAZ/THE REGISTER-GUARD

Competitors prepare to launch a two-person sculling shell during the 2008 Covered Bridge Regatta at Dexter Lake.

The Register-Guard 

http://www.registerguard.com/

Shells by the lakeshore 

The 15th annual rowing event draws nearly 500 competitors from up and down the West Coast

By Chris Hansen

The Register-Guard

Posted to Web: Saturday, Apr 11, 2009 09:36PM
Appeared in print: Sunday, Apr 12, 2009, page C3

LOWELL — With a smile and a grunt, James Beasley pulled his single-man racing shell out of the water, hoisted it onto his right shoulder and casually strolled off the dock.

It was a pleasurable return to Dexter Lake for the Boston architect, if not a winning one.

Nearly a year after Beasley left Eugene to head east, the University of Oregon alum cashed in a graduation present and came back to compete in the Covered Bridge Regatta.

He joined approximately 500 other high school, collegiate and post-collegiate (“masters”) rowers representing 25 clubs from Oregon, Washington and California, who participated in the day-long, 40-race event that celebrated its 15th year on Saturday under a mostly sunny — and dry — sky.

“It’s fun. It’s beautiful here. I’m really sad I left,” Beasley said. “It’s absolutely fantastic. As a lake, I mean, there’s days you go out there and it’s sunny with a rainbow, (or) it’s snowing or warm. You get everything at once. It’s just a great place to be.”

During his three years of graduate school at Oregon, Beasley was a coach at Dexter Lake for the Oregon Association of Rowers (OAR), the club team that hosts the Covered Bridge Regatta.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Beasley, 32, a Boston native. “Coming from the East Coast where rowing is more established, this is a much more community-oriented event. It feels very comfortable, and it seems to draw everyone from the Northwest to come here. This just doesn’t happen anywhere else. (OAR is) a fairly unique club in its openness and acceptance of other people and encouragement of rowing. It’s really cool.”

OAR had about 100 members competing on Saturday, including race director and club president Anita Larson, whose women’s Masters eight-plus “B” team finished fifth in a race won by the OAR “A” team.

“We had a great row,” Larson said.

Beasley didn’t have the same feeling about his performance.

“I was all over the course,” said Beasley, who finished fifth in the men’s Masters singles. “I lost my oar twice.”

Seattle Pacific University coach Keith Jefferson had better luck with his team.

By mid-morning, the Falcons men’s team had a pair of second-place finishes and a victory in the men’s collegiate quad.

“The water today has been fantastic, and the wind’s been cooperative,” Jefferson said. “It was a little bit squirrelly at the start … but after you got out of the starting area, it was absolutely terrific.”

Seattle Pacific was one of nine college teams at the regatta, including the UO crew club team.

“This is definitely one of the better courses (in the Northwest),” said Jefferson, who is in his 21st season at Seattle Pacific. “Most of these things are pretty austere, and it’s not a great spectator sport, I’ll be honest. But the community seems to really embrace it well and they’re very cooperative, and in fact, very helpful and positive and welcoming. … In that respect, we love it.”

Jefferson said he also appreciates that Dexter Lake is the only course between Seattle and Sacramento that has permanently marked lanes.

“That’s fairly rare, even for our sport, to get a course that’s fully buoyed,” Jefferson said. “It’s real easy to stay in your lane and get a true test … It’s hard to find a cooperative course that’s 2,000 meters true that has good weather, good water and is a fully bouyed course. It’s just really hard to find.”

Complete regatta results will be published in the April 20 Community Sports section of The Register-Guard.

Copyright © 2009 — The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA



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