Crew Keeps Rowing

Published by Madeleine Smith on February 19, 2010 at 10:10PM

Almost any college athlete will say that his or her sport’s season lasts all year long no matter what the official schedule might say. Between the summer training, preseason exhibitions, weight lifting, conference games, and postseason tournaments, there’s little time left.

This is especially true for the Harvard men’s and women’s crew teams. Although they are officially spring sports, both train during the summer break, participate in fall races such as the Head of the Charles, and even keep competing throughout the winter months.

That said, the teams usually head to more hospitable environments to avoid Cambridge’s frigid temperatures and the frozen river. A training trip to Miami was a welcome excursion for the squads during winter break, and just last weekend some Crimson rowers headed to Boston University’s Agganis Arena to compete in the CRASH-Bs World Indoor Rowing Championships.

In the annual event, participants take to the aisles of erg machines lined up across the arena’s floor to individually sprint 2Ks against the clock. Although world-class rowers have set several records at the event, most competitors recognize that the indoor set-up is most likely not the best measure of how an athlete will fair in a real regatta.

With this dilemma in mind, some rowers have come up with another solution for what to do when their usual waterways freeze over: row on ice.

While the new technique isn’t exactly widespread, some rowing groups have pioneered newly designed “boats” especially for such practice. They have attached blades to the bottom of the boat and use ice picks in place of oars to help the boat glide smoothly across a frozen river or lake.

One Massachusetts man has even patented his own design that he describes on his website as a combination of elements from iceboats, bicycles, and rowing shells to create a vehicle powered by traditional rowing movements.

Harvard’s teams may not be adopting the novel idea anytime soon, but don’t be surprised if you see a daredevil or two trying it out on a nearby pond or even a still-solid section of the Charles.