The Textile River Regatta, now the largest one-day rowing event in the country, has come a long way since it first began in the 1980s. High-speed cameras and computers have replaced stopwatches and index cards for time-keeping. Organizers have had to make changes to keep up with the hundreds of crew boats now racing down the Merrimack River each fall.
Jay Feenan, co-director of the regatta and a rower out of the Bellegarde Boathouse since the late ’80s, says this year’s 32nd annual regatta was their most successful yet.
“Our email inbox has been flooded with positive emails with no complaints yet, which for an event of this size is quite an achievement,” says Feenan, who has already begun planning for the 2012 event with the other organizers.
The weekend’s uncooperative weather caused several nearby regattas to cancel their Saturday events. Acting quickly, the Lowell organizers opened up spaces in their Sunday race roster to allow displaced teams to compete, swelling the regatta to a record-breaking 650 boats from across the region.
UMass Lowell Takes the Gold
“The UMass Lowell crew team had a great time and had its best races since I’ve joined the program,” says Veronika Platzer, head rowing coach and director of the boathouse, who came to the University three years ago when the women’s team returned to varsity sport status.
First-year student and Lowell native Erinn McLaughlin took home the program’s first gold medal in the women’s novice sculling competition, passing six boats in less-than-ideal conditions to cover the nearly three-mile course in 25:45.
The women’s varsity eight placed third in their category, coming in just 16 seconds behind the University of Vermont, an improvement of more than four minutes over their time last year, which was their first experience rowing in their new NCAA Division II class.
“These results were huge accomplishments but we’re just warming up,” says Platzer, “We’ve been invited to compete in the Head of the Charles and will be in great shape for our spring season. But their achievement is bigger than how fast they are, it’s about how the behave and have worked hard; if you act the part you’ll see the results you want. ”
The men’s club team also had a strong showing with several rowers improving their times, including graduate student Daniel Brooks who placed fifth in the highly competitive men’s open sculling race.
Reception with a View
For the first time, the UMass Lowell hosted a special viewing reception to offer spectators a stunning view of the races and an opportunity to see the recent improvements made to the boathouse. Feenan said that reception will continue in future years and appreciates the University’s work to improve the facility. Having rowed and worked in the boathouse for many years, he’s proud of the progress made.
“UMass Lowell and the boathouse management have really turned the place around,” Feenan says. “We’re looking forward to working with our partners to maintain and improve the boathouse and rowing opportunities for the community and students.”