Using the “Is the glass half empty or half full?” question in regard to local sports, it is too easy to look at the empty stands at unused baseball fields, the rimless backboards at basketball courts, or the cavernous crescent at Schoellkopf Field that will not host football games this fall and feel the emptiness.
Or one can look out on the Cayuga Inlet and embrace the familiar and encouraging sight of rowing shells gliding across the water, as they have for decades. There are opportunities for new rowers to get on the water this summer, and that makes the glass feel fuller.
Until this year, many of those sleek vessels featured lettering from Cornell or Ithaca College, and while those boats are idle, those emblazoned with the words “Cascadilla Boat Club” are in service, providing rowing opportunities for everyone from Olympic gold medalists to first-timers. According to Emily Rockett, the President of the CBC’s Board of Directors, “In the midst of this pandemic, rowing is a sport that is safe, as sculling in singles comes with built-in social distancing.” She added, “Our boathouse rules require folks to wear face coverings when not in their boat, maintain distance and disinfect shared items.”
Emily pointed out that while all races have been canceled for the foreseeable future, some CBC members have decided to hold competitions of their own. She said, “We run an informal head race on Saturday mornings for all comers called the ‘Head of the Cayuga.’ We line up at the bottom of the inlet, slowest first and fastest last, with 30 seconds or so in between starts, and race to the white lighthouse.” While the events are not drawing massive numbers of spectators like the crew races of yesteryear, they are gaining momentum. “Last week,” Rockett offered, “we had nine participants, including three-time Olympic medalist Caryn Davies, national team hopeful and recent IC grad Savannah Brija, and Cornell coach Drew Tennant. It's a pretty competitive event for being informal, self-timed and open to all.”
I asked Emily how she got involved with the CBC, and she said, “I wandered down there in the fall of 2011 when I was in law school, and I was coaching the next year.” A former cross-country runner, Emily was recruited to try rowing during her undergrad years at Williams College. “Being 6 feet tall, it was a natural transition,” she told me, “and I rowed at Oxford University during my junior year abroad.”
As stated, there is quite a range of rowers on the water these days, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Davies is back in town. I remember a story I did in 2008, when Caryn and Andrew Byrne came to a CBC event to celebrate the Olympic gold medals they had won in Beijing. Both got their start at the CBC, and to see two local athletes winning Olympic gold was an amazing experience. I remember a group of young children peering up and Andrew (who is 6’7”) and Caryn (6’4”) and marveling at their physicality while touching their gold medals in awe.
According to Emily, “Caryn retired, and then she unretired. She was at the Olympic training facility in Princeton, and when they shut that down in May, she came back here.”
For anyone who has thought about getting on the water, this summer is a great time to do so. According to Rockett, “We've started Adult Learn to Row classes—three weeks of two-day-a-week sessions on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, designed to teach the basics of single sculling.”
Also, Scholastic Sculling starts this week for athletes who have participated in the scholastic program (single sculling only) and Youth Learn to Row classes (ages 11-14) starts this week (week-long sessions 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., designed to teach the basics of rowing to beginners).
The CBC has brought in a number of coaches who have long histories with the group, and some have elite-level experience as competitors. For more information about connecting with the CBC, you can email Emily at email@example.com, or visit the website at www.cascadillaboatclub.org.