Stuyvesant Rowing Cinches First Win

Seniors Mark Winter and Sophia Day led the Stuyvesant rowing team to their first victory this season and are optimistic for the upcoming months.

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This past October, seniors Mark Winter and Sophia Day led the Stuyvesant rowing team to its first official victory at the Head of the Weir Race in Hull, Massachusetts. The team raced the five-mile long course through the salt marshes and edged out their top competitors, Sound School, for the win.

“They're difficult to compete against because they have coaches and their school directly oversees their training and practices. We are student-run and relatively amatuer compared to them, so it was really exciting to beat them,” Day said.

The team displayed extraordinary effort, rising above the uncertain conditions they were faced with. For one, Stuy’s boat of coxed fours (four rowers and one coxswain) was able to sprint at the finish to pass Sound School’s coxed six, an incredibly impressive feat. In addition, they had to adjust to rowing dories (flat bottomed rowboats with a high bow and stern) for the first time. The dories were lighter with an inlaid rubber and much faster than the Whitehall gigs they normally row in along the Hudson.

Winter and Day have been committed members of the rowing club since they joined in their freshman and sophomore years, respectively. They have both become certified coxswains and have competed in races with the club, which has existed for over a decade and produced strong youth competitors since its creation.

“When we were invited to create a team within the club we jumped at the chance,” Day said. “We formally created the team this year with the intent of representing their organization better with a more involved training schedule and more frequent workout days.”

With no coaches, mentors, or previous example of how to run a rowing team, the two have had to navigate the rough waters of tryouts, gym days, practices, and overall coordination of both rowers and races. They recruited heavily in the beginning of the year and have trained promising oarsmen in a short amount of time.

“One of the most difficult parts of rowing is staying in stroke—following the length and speed of the stroke oar, the oarsmen at the front of the boat. When all four rowers row together in tempo, it not only looks graceful, but the boat also goes much faster and cuts smoothly through the water, making it easier to steer,” Winter said.

Winter and Day have also been working to improve the form of their rowers. “Kayaking and canoeing, which some people who row with us have experience with, is done with the arms. Crew, on the other hand, is all about using your back and body weight to provide force through the oar to propel the boat, making it easier to maintain pace through the hour-long races we compete in,” Winter said. “The concept of rowing is simple: just pull the oar through the water. But there's a lot of delicate technique involved.”

Several completely new rowers on the B Team have shown promise in the few months they have been rowing. “Massimo Pensabene, Junhao Su, and Jacky Chen have been dazzling us with their quick learning and skill,” Day said.

The rowing season extends from April to November, including the summer. The team hosts practices at the Village Community Boathouse (VCB) at Pier 40 on Wednesdays and Sundays. Crews row along the Hudson River, often all the way to New Jersey and back.

“One of the fun things which has really brought us together is [rowing] to New Jersey!” Day said. “There’s a beach we land at which is near a froyo place and a Starbucks, and we get food and play cards. We have a couple of games we play on the boats as well, and traveling for races has really helped us get close.”

“Being in a team means that you see people at their worst and their best, and you get to share so many emotional moments: wins, and losses, and everything in between,” Winter said. “We’ve been up at 1:00 a.m. getting fries the night before a race and still been excited at 6:00 a.m. the next morning when we gather for terrible bagels and coffee. It’s just really great to be a part of such a tightly knit group of people.”