Rowing the Bay!
This feeling was experienced by several first- time rowers during the fall as the Merrymeeting Community Rowing Association, coached by rowing veteran Roger Duncan of Bath, took to the water.
“We had 50 adults involved in three sessions of ‘Learn to Row’ classes, plus we had six high school students get their feet wet this year,” said Duncan, who brings extensive experience to this fun activity.
“If you can lift the boat, you can do this activity and learn a new skill,” said Duncan. “It doesn’t take brute strength to participate in rowing a ‘shell,’ or boat. It takes teamwork. This is something anyone, no matter their age, can do.
“The shell weighs between 150 and 200 pounds, and teams of four- five rowers carry the boat to the water. This sport is not like football, where you are potentially damaging joints and breaking bones. Most of our members are above 40- years old. We teach the technical side of the sport.
“Will you go faster if the people rowing the boat are strong? Sure! But, a crew that is technically proficient can go just as fast.”
The U.S. Navy reserve chief petty officer discovered his love for rowing in high school at Belmont Hill School outside of Boston. Duncan joined a team there before heading to Turkey through the Student Exchange Program.
“I was on the national team as an alternate, and learned a great deal about what it takes to coach a team and have success,” Duncan said.
Next up for the world traveler was college, as he headed off to Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisc.
“ Lawrence was not a big rowing town, but that was where my parents went to school,” said Duncan, who quickly discovered a campus rowing club. “ We were a small group, but we started rowing together, and during my junior and senior years, I was selected as the captain of the team. I also coached novice programs for beginners, and after college I was hired to coach the men’s and women’s programs at the University of Chicago.”
Duncan continued his love for the sport as his teams hit the road for regattas throughout the U.S.
“The Chicago team traveled widely, taking part in several regattas, including one in Philadelphia that we did two straight years. We had success, but more importantly it was a lot of fun.”
Duncan decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy, beginning as a photographer and moving on to mass media, a Navy rating that combines journalists, draftsmen and photographers. One weekend a month and two weeks during the summer, Duncan is sent to various Navy events with camera — both digital video and still — in tow, and currenty works for the Forecaster as a photographer.
The non-profit organization is focused on recreational and competitive rowing for youths and adults, and has a facility at the Water Street ramp in Brunswick (the walking path), which offers access to Merrymeeting Bay.
He became the organization’s “coach,” responsible for building the program and teaching the proper techniques, on and off the water.
“This piece of water is flat year-round with a relatively calm current, and being enclosed as it is, the water doesn’t become real choppy, which makes it nice for beginners,” said Duncan. “We offered the program free to beginners in the fall if they brought a friend, hoping those participating will become interested in the sport and bring even more people into the program, with the goal one day to begin competing in events.
“Our goal is get people out there and do something outdoors that is both fun and athletic. I will say that rowing requires some fitness. This is an aerobic activity, where you are using both your arms and legs to propel a boat.”
According to the Association website, “It’s all about balance, timing and teamwork. Slipping into a boat and rowing solo or with a team develops muscle power, endurance and great friendships. It is a low impact sport, unless of course you feel a need to go faster.
“All major muscle groups are used and the constant effort produces an excellent cardiovascular workout. Boats are propelled through the water by pulling on one oar (sweeping) or by pulling two oars (sculling) as a single or in crews of two, four or eight.”
Duncan has big plans for the spring, once Merrymeeting Bay thaws after the winter season. Spring sessions begin in May. The cost for Learn to Row participants is $85 for the fourweek course, which will be held on Saturdays in June.
Sessions for more experienced rowers begin in May. Session I runs from May 19- July 14 at a cost of $100, with the next two sessions (July 15- Sept. 8, and Sept. 9 through November) running $150. Participants who choose to pay for all three sessions will pay $350, a savings of $50.
“ We are hoping to have more slots filled and row at least four times a week,” said Duncan. “You will get wet, both putting and taking the boat out of the water, and while you are rowing. But, you will have fun, get in shape and learn something that you can do at any age.”
For more information, log onto the Merrymeeting Community Rowing Association website, or call Duncan at 443- 9665.