First Rowing Regatta Held at Beaver Creek Reservoir

Ashley Gale at the Dam Turn Regatta at Beaver Creek on Nov. 17.
Ashley Gale at the Dam Turn Regatta at Beaver Creek on Nov. 17.

The inaugural Dam Turn Regatta, a race for rowers, was held Nov. 17 on the Beaver Creek Reservoir in Crozet. Sponsored by the Beaver Creek Sculling Club, the race, on a relatively short course, 2,500 meters, wrapped up the rowing season and drew clubs from across the state. The club is a private nonprofit group that supports the Western Albemarle High School crew but also includes rowers from all over the county. It has 27 members, seven coaches and several parent volunteers. It was founded by rowing fanatic Miriam Pitts, who spearheaded crew at WAHS, and is the only rowing club in Central Virginia.

The River City Rowing Club came from Richmond. Juniper Rowing Club came from Chesapeake. Old Dominion Boat Club came from Alexandria, Western Reserve Boat Club came from Cleveland, Ohio, and Rivanna Rowing from Charlottesville was there. Beaver Creek Sculling Club had 25 rowers in the regatta, all wearing lime-green jerseys. Their logo shows a beaver skull with crossed oars behind it. The race was held on flat water in misty, 60-degree air.

Rowers took off from the dock below the boathouse and rowed to the west end of the lake. There they crossed the start line, ducked into a cove to the right, then sprinted down the lake 2,500 meters to the finish line near the dam valve. The race was called a “head race” in which rowers go against the clock and do not face direct competition along side. In sprint races rowers are pitted against other rowers.

Races on Occoquan Creek in northern Virginia, a popular venue for rowing races, are typically 5,000 meters, said Lee Gale, parent of a club racer. That is the normal distance for the teams that came to Beaver Creek. High school rowers race 1,500 meters and collegians row 2,000 meters in matches.

Scullers, in one-or two-person boats, hold an oar in each hand. In sweep races, in boats holding four or eight rowers, each crew member holds a single oar.

Dam Turn Regatta, WAHS vs. AHS
Dam Turn Regatta, WAHS vs. AHS

Reactions to the regatta from visiting clubs were favorable and race director Eric Antmann said he expects the race to be held again next year. Lynne Corrigan, a coach for Juniper, whose club trains on the Intra-coastal Waterway, said the race was “a nice day trip at the ends of the season.”

The races are fun to watch, said BCSC parent Wiley Martin. “You see the effort they are making and the beautiful glide it makes.”

Forty-seven races were held and culminated in a spontaneous challenge between the Western Albemarle quad crew and the Albemarle high school quad crew. It looked like Western had beaten their club mates from AHS, crossing the line with a one-and-a-half-boat length lead, but timing showed that the AHS had crossed the start line seven seconds later and may have been faster. Pitts refused to declare a winner at the award ceremony at the end of the races.

Nine awards were given out, five to juniors (under age 18) and four to masters. WAHS senior Ashley Gale won the junior womens race. She signed to row for the University of Virginia next fall at a ceremony at WAHS a few days later.

The club would like to increase membership but has a limited number of seats for rowers and is trying to add boats.