NBC Masters Win Medals at Amsterdam Regatta March 16, 2012

Amsterdam/March 10-11: NBC masters Kit Wise, Eric Watne and Peter Gross joined Cambridge Boat Club rowers John Lambert, Steve Hamilton, John Yasaits, Ed Ford, and cox Chris Boit plus Chicago-based John Streuer to race in the Heineken Roeivierkamp in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on March 10 and 11. Cambridge has sent crews to this race for many years and this year decided to send an F (over 60) 8 in addition to their entry for the E 8. Luckily for NBC, Cambridge couldn't fill the F boat without recruiting some of these NBC members. 

With the great winter weather the crew (with the exception of John Streuer, for whom John Cotter substituted) managed to get together for 4 workouts on the Charles before we flew over, all on the same flight, on the night of March 8. 

On arrival in Amsterdam the group took a train to the city center and a tram to our hotel, where they were settled in by 10:00 in the morning. After a short rest they took another tram to the Nereus boathouse about 20 minutes away on the Amstel River. Nereus, the host club for the race, is a student-only club; the entire race appears to be managed by 19 and 20 year-olds, who did a great job despite easy access to a lot of the sponsor's product. Heineken is a really good beer.

Nereus provided the Americans with a pretty decent but older Empacher 8 and a set of familiar C2 sweep oars. They set up the boat and pushed off for a practice row on the winding and bridge-benighted river. With John Streuer, whom none of the group had met before, had just flown in from Chicago. This was their first time together as a complete crew. It was an excellent first workout, and Chris Boit, the coxswain, got a run-through on how to handle the turns and the bridge arches.

Dinner Friday night was at an Indonesian restaurant, followed by an early bedtime. The races Saturday began with a 2,500 meter head-style race. There were thirteen boats in our men's F8 class - all Dutch, except for this American crew. The other classes in the race included the usual range of juniors through masters, men and women, but only in eights and coxed quads. There were several "flights" of races during the day. Several classes would row upstream to the start, gather above the line, and set off at short intervals, as usual in a head race. The finish was right at Nereus boathouse. After crossing the finish, we paddled farther downstream and gathered in a mass of boats again until all crews in our flight had finished the 2,500, at which point we were set off back upstream, 2 by 2, for a 250 meter sprint to the finish line at the boathouse. This may sound confusing, but it worked out pretty well.

When they returned to the dock, the Americans had learned soon enough that they had finished 2nd in their class in the 2,500 meters and 4th in the 250. The scoring was a little peculiar. The time for each race was calculated on the average 250 meter split for that race, so our 250 meter sprint time was added to one-tenth of our time for the 2,500 meter race. This left the American crew in third place overall after 2 of the 3 races. 

They again enjoyed samples of the sponsor's brew, returned to the hotel and then joined the Cambridge E crew for very pleasant dinner at the home of Dutch former member of CBC. The Sunday 5,000m race wasn't until after noon, so Peter and Kit risked some fatigue in their legs and took a long walk through the city, over the canals and through the squares in brilliant sunshine. The tram took them back to Nereus-on-Amstel, where they launched the boat and rowed 5k upstream into the countryside just beyond the start, where they waited among a large flotilla of boats.  

Because of the scoring system which strongly favored the fast boats in the 250, the Americans knew they couldn't row the 5k fast enough to move to first place overall, and probably couldn't achieve second place overall, but they knew they stood a chance of winning the 5k leg. They had only come second by 5 seconds in the 2,500. 

It's not clear how the order of start for the 5k was determined - it was supposed to be slowest boat first, fastest last. In any case the boat starting ahead of us was from a younger category. Chris, the coxswain, steered a perfect line through the first tight turn to port while the boat ahead steered wide, allowing the US crew to catch them quickly. It turned out they were actually faster than the Americans and eventually pulled away, but this helped to establish an aggressive pace for the race. As they approached the finish line, the Americans nearly caught the boat that started two places ahead. 

The Cambridge/Narragansett Crew had the fastest 5k time in their F (60-64) class event, earning them a medal, but they still remained in third place overall in the final tally. The Cambridge E (55-59) crew squeaked out a first place finish by one tenth of a point. 

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