Turning the Stake

Once upon a time the stake race was a staple of American rowing. Local professional rowers entered these races, there was extensive betting, and the sport was as shady and dirty as underground boxing is today. A stake race is started and finished from the same location. Crews race out to a turnaround (the Stake) and then back to where they started from. The turn is of paramount importance in executing a good race.

This weekend we’ve got several entries in the Head of the Dog (HotDog), a local stake race. There’s two prizes at stake (pun entirely intended). First, we want our athletes to have a good head race piece and perform well against the mixed competition made up of masters, juniors, and open entries. To that end we practiced our turns this morning, working on the watermanship required to rapidly reverse direction around the stake. Skills like this increase confidence in boat handling and help crews develop cohesion in how they move together. I’m a great believer in athletes having a well-rounded set of skills and growing past just rowing fast in a straight line.

The second prize is “Best of Breed”. Awarded each year by the previous year’s winners, the best of breed prize goes to the crew (not individual!) with the best costume. I’ve been warning our athletes not to take this competition lightly; it’s a major prize in the local rowing community and many take it very seriously. I’ll have the camera out Saturday and expect some high-quality entertainment.

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