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BA-B crews race on water for the first time in nearly a year

Bromfield Acton-Boxborough crews scrimmaged Greater Lawrence Community Rowing on the Merrimack River on Sunday, Oct. 11. It was the team’s first competition in nearly a year, due to the pandemic. Sixteen boys and eight girls sculled in singles (one-person boats) and recorded their own times; host Greater Lawrence marked out a course long enough for kids to submit those results to the first-ever virtual Head of the Charles.

Mitch McManus, who coached the BA-B novice boys during the 2018-2019 school year, is now the head coach at Greater Lawrence. He organized the event, with separate docks for each team, and buddies to row against. Spectating was strongly discouraged.

Even without the traditional food tent and, perhaps, thanks to the lack of cowbell-wielding parents along the riverbanks, the kids started and ended the day with smiles, elated to be back on the water. “We have a fairly young team—lots of 10th-graders—so this was a chance for them to feel those pre-race nerves and experience getting ready to race a competitor. Just knowing you have another team injects a feeling they haven’t had since fall of 2019, and it was exciting for them,” said Holly Hatton, the team’s rowing program director and girls varsity coach.

BA-B crews are accustomed to competing on the Merrimack in Lowell, but the Lawrence location was new for them. They sculled a bend in the river past the Essex Rowing and Phillips Andover boathouses in Methuen, finishing near Greater Lawrence’s facility in Lawrence, negotiating one bridge along the way. The unfamiliarity, together with tail current and brisk tail winds, provided a fresh challenge for the rowers, who have been back and forth across Bare Hill Pond more times than they could possibly count. No one flipped in the notoriously tippy small boats. “Rowing the single in choppy water can be difficult, especially in a race,” said boys varsity coach Brian DeDominici. “This was the first race in a single for many of the boys, and they all handled the rough water very well and gained valuable experience that will help them in future races.”

On the pond, the longest distance the team can row without turning around is 1,200 meters, so it’s hard to simulate the classic longer, head-style races of the fall season. At the scrimmage, athletes brought their cell phones with them in the boats, timing themselves with the Strava app. If they choose, they can submit their results to the 2020 Head of the Charles Regatta Global Remote Event, which is open to anyone around the world who wants to erg or row on water and log a time.

The team’s last day on the water in Harvard is Halloween. They will circumnavigate the pond in an intersquad regatta, competing for both time and in a costume contest. After that, they’ll be using their muscles for their leaf-raking fundraiser, held this year on Nov. 7, 8, 14, 15, and 21; visit for details.

Jill Maxwell is an Acton resident and BHRA parent. She has covered crew for the Press since 2017.

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