By Martha Ewing ’26
On Sunday, October 30th, 2022, The Frederick Gunn School crew team left campus at 5am for Saratoga Springs, NY. It was an early start and a long two and a half hour drive to reach their final destination: the Head of the Fish Regatta. Head races are 2-5k races in which boats are released in increments and are timed to see how fast they can complete the course, rather than racing next to other teams. This regatta in particular, is one of the busiest East Coast races in the fall. Thousands of rowers, parents, and onlookers attended and the river was packed with boats.
Gunn brought nine boats in total – all of which were coxed fours. These boats have four rowers and a coxswain in the bow, who steers the boat and tells the rowers what to do. The pre-race nerves were evident around the Gunn trailer as students chatted excitedly whilst rigging the boats. Before racing, each team went for a short warm up run around the parking lot, dodging boats being carried by other teams, and jumping over oars. After the run, they stretched out and gathered their hats, sunglasses, bottles, and anything else they would need in the boat with them.
Finally it was time to launch. The Girl’s 2v team lifted their boat, “The White Knight”, onto their shoulders and slowly carried it to the dock. There was a 60 seconds on the dock rule, so they had to be quick. They fastened their oars into the oarlocks, put one foot in the boat, and shoved off the dock. They quickly rowed out and started their journey to the top of the race, parallel to boats racing down the course. This race in particular was 3.2 kilometers – relatively short for a Fall race course. For the girl’s 2v team, this warm up row included classic drills and exercises such as “five and glides” and “plop” as well as a short, twenty second practice race piece.
There were a lot of different boats from all the racing categories going up and down the course. The traffic made navigation confusing for the coxswain, Sierra Cortes ‘23, but she managed to get the boat to the start of the course with no difficulty. The team started to build their speed and stroke rate and eventually passed the start line at race-pace. They were off.
Within the first couple minutes of the race, the White Knight began to gain on the boat in front of it. Sierra called a “power ten” and Gunn overtook the other team. The conditions were ideal. The water wasn’t too choppy, and there was a light headwind to help stabilize the boat. The past few practices hadn’t been great for the 2v team, but everything came together in this race, and it was the best they had ever rowed together. Within the span of 13 minutes and 52 seconds, they overtook two more boats and gained water on a fourth, beating them and coming in 5th place out of 14 boats. This was a victory for the Gunn crew team, as three of the boats that had beaten them were from Greenwich Crew, who were national champions and had only won by four seconds.
The other varsity boats did well too. The Girls 1v got tenth place in their race out of 29 boats, with a time of 13 minutes and 30 seconds, Boys 1v placed 18th out of 31 with a time of 12 minutes and 32 seconds, and Boys 2v placed tenth out of 24 with a time of 12 minutes and 58 seconds. The JV and novice teams also raced well, despite technical difficulties such as a loss of steering in one boat. They placed high up in their races and rowed brilliantly. Overall, it was a big victory for Gunn.