Great Rowing, Great Fun, Great Beer.
By Genevieve Carrillo • March 16, 2017
With over 350 years of experience between them, Alden Zecha (cox), Rich Sampson, Chris Richards, Tiff Wood, Charlie Hamlin, Roger Borggaard, Chuck Piper, Gregg Stone and Mike Tebay took the Heineken Roeivierkamp by storm on March 11-12 in the men’s G 8+, making their way through boats of men a third their age.
Running through the center of Amsterdam, the Heineken Roeivierkamp combines beautiful scenery, competitive racing and never-empty glasses of ice cold beer.
The men’s boat won their G division (65+) well over a minute ahead of the second-place team. Their time would have won the F (60+) division by a length and placed fourth in the E (55+) division.
According to seven-seat Chris Richards, the diversity and talent of the CBC competitors keep things competitive both on and off the water, as many of the rowers had raced with or against each other on a collegiate or national level. “More than sixty people representing something like eight different nations and goodness knows how many National Teams and World and Olympic medals, all united by their love of the sport and enjoyment of competing together. It was pretty special.”
“I think of the nine guys in our crew, only three of us, including me, were not former National/Olympic Team members or World Record Holders on the erg. It is a rather accomplished group, and I’m glad they let me row with them!”
The regatta is run over two days and is made up of four different races. The regatta features races that reflect distances used in speed skating – a sport the Netherlands dominates: 250m, 750m, 2500m and 5000m. In the 5000m race, competitors race past farms, windmills and skyscrapers, an up-close tour of the changing scenery of Amsterdam.
The regatta incorporates a unique scoring system: the winner of the regatta is the boat that maintains the lowest 500m split over all the events. Competitors race 2500m on Saturday and then immediately get into a queue to duel another boat for the 250m race – a hectic transition of avoiding racing boats, bridges, and buoys to sit and wait for the most important 35 strokes of the weekend.
Alden Zecha, national team alum, says the format of the regatta makes it an especially daunting task for a coxswain, “The format for both head races puts the crews in reverse speed order – slowest first- which always makes for very exciting racing, especially on the 5k when all the men’s masters crews are mixed from A-G age ranges.”
This means that there is often a lot of passing which adds to the fun. It also makes it a much more strategy-based race for coxes who need to determine when and how to try and pass given that each turn is in the opposite direction to the previous one.”
With 3,500 participants from all over the world and 10,000 spectators, the Heineken Roeivierkamp is the largest rowing regatta in the Netherlands and the official start of Dutch rowing season.
Cambridge Boat Club has been bringing a boat to this regatta for 21 years. This year, CBC swept the competition with eight boats: three women’s quads and five men’s eights. With the pedigree of the athletes, impressive domination of the regatta is almost expected of Cambridge Boat Club, the only American crew to take on the event. Boats are tightly packed with Olympians, former national team members and record-setters; men and women who have been very talented for a very long time, from eight different nations, all racing for Cambridge.
“The regatta is fantastic fun, as expected for an event run by college students and sponsored by a brewery,” said John Lambert, the man behind organizing CBC’s involvement at the Roeivierkamp and member of the F 8+. “There is nothing else like it in the USA, nor could there ever be!
“The students put on a world-class race – the closest race in scale and grandeur is the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston – yet run it with such joie de vivre. The youthful, warm and welcoming embrace of the generous hospitality of the student organizers keeps us veteran rowers young at heart and coming back for more,” he said.
Following racing on Sunday, the masters gathered at a quaint Amsterdam restaurant along the Amstel for a night full of boasts and toasts from all eight crews, as well as some early planning for 2018’s regatta.
What is referred to as the “perfect weekend” most CBC rowers will continue to bring them back year after year, and who could blame them? The beer is fresh and flows continuously, the students who run the regatta keep things warm and welcoming and the event itself is the perfect mix of chaos and competition. Unlike most head race-length regattas, at the Heineken Roeivierkamp rowers spend more time on the water than they do off. A task which may seem exhausting to most is just another exciting weekend for Cambridge Boat Club.