Race Recap: Stars vs. Stripes


Little known fact: Riverside Boat Club has a sister down south. Potomac Boat Club--which was also founded in 1869--actually has a partnership with us, in so far as each club allows the other access to ergs and facilities when a member of the opposite team is in town. But it’s also safe to say that the stars and stripes have had a nice little rivalry over the past few years, particularly between the men’s sweeps teams. At HOCR50, our men’s club 8 finished .054 seconds behind Potomac’s boat for a 3rd place finish. In 2015, at HOCR51, Potomac finished in second behind Riverside by just over 2 seconds.  

At the end of this summer, a few of our sweeps guys decided to hop in some boats at Master’s Nationals. As we sat around, licking our post-race wounds in the beer tent, we began talking to the Potomac rowers who were drinking for more celebratory reasons. We realized that not only had there been a decent amount of cross-over between the two clubs in the past few years as guys moved between D.C. and Boston for work, but that a lot of us had actually rowed with, or against each other in high school and college. Discussing our “sisterhood” and how tight our competition had been at HOCR in years past, Potomac captain Mike Kummer quickly suggested a scrimmage—they would provide us with housing, equipment, and a guaranteed entry in the Head of the Potomac Regatta and all we had to do was get our team down there. We agreed and a few months later, eight representatives of the Meatwagon were boarding cut-rate shuttle flights and hassling airline hostesses for those little bottles of wine and extra bags of peanuts.

The weekend promised a busy itinerary. Saturday at 10am would be a 4k race, going in the opposite direction of Sunday’s Regatta. Sunday would see the Meatwagon entered first in the club 8 event and then in the open 8 event. Having politely declined Potomac’s offer of housing (what if they tried to smother us with pillows in our sleep, thereby securing HOCR gold?), Riverside Air BnB’d a three story meat-locker right in the heart of D.C., crushed a few hours of sleep, and then made their way to PBC’s boathouse.

New equipment, an untested lineup, extraordinarily choppy conditions, and a borrowed coxswain who may or may not have been instructed to sabotage our piece (“pretty rough out here today, you sure you guys can handle this??”), did not yield the best results for RBC. The piece got off to a rocky start and ended with Potomac’s first boat a few lengths up on RBC who in turn finished a few lengths up on Potomac’s second boat. We had lost our first inaugural dual race to Potomac…and the worst was yet to come: the award ceremony.

As a token of good will, the Meatwagon spent hours crafting a trophy they felt would be fitting for such an historic occasion. Crisp blue and white stripes contrasted beautifully with the red and white star of Potomac’s blade. The oar was just the right size to fit in a carry on, and a prize any team would be honored to take home. Potomac Boat Club is now the proud and rightful owner of that trophy, but they also brought a contribution of their own to the race.

A bronze figure  goes to the loser of the race and it is required that the recipient not only engrave their names, but display it in their boathouse until they redeem themselves by winning the next match up. While men’s sweeps is still deciding what to call this new addition to the team and what to do with him, it goes without saying that he will be a constant reminder to us as we train going forward.

 And RBC took home the loser's trophy, which will be proudly displayed until the 2017 Head of the Kevin Series, when Potomac will make their way to Boston for the 2nd-annual Stars vs. Stripes Regatta and the Meatwagon will have an opportunity to redeem themselves .

Saturday was a long morning and the Riverside men had a lot to think about. Huddling in the locker room, the boys decided on a plan of action in order to peak for Sunday’s regatta: food, nap, football, beer, food, one Botabox of wine, and sleep. Mostly in that order. Reassess in the morning. Turns out, that was just what the doctor ordered. A second row in the lineup, as well as a chance to get used to the new hull and different blades allowed for a much better piece than Saturday’s scrimmage. While timing results may have been an issue due to confusion caused by our borrowed Potomac blades, it looks like Riverside came in 2nd (or 5th ?) in the club event, and 10th overall in the open event. Happy with our improvement from Saturday, we shook hands with the Potomac guys, traded some unis, tapped a keg, had some shower beers, then hit the road.

Overall it was a great event. We went down, got to get a bench mark on speed going into HOCR, caught up with some old friends, made some new ones, and strengthened our relationship with a great group of people. We can’t wait to see Potomac at Head of The Charles this year and we are really excited to have them come up and race an HOK in 2017, giving us a chance to win our oar back!

Call it the 1869 Classic, The Stars and Stripes Dual Race, The PBC v. RBC showdown—whatever it is, it’s a great event and hopefully the beginning of a new and longstanding tradition between the two clubs.

By: Graeme Calloway