Navy Day Regatta draws many to Schuylkill to cheer on rowers

At the Navy Regatta on the Schuylkill, Alexis Franklin (right) with crewmates (from left) Judy Kaplow, Ann Couwenhoven, Mary Berry, and Janit Gorka. Some awake at 4 a.m. for practice. APRIL SAUL /Staff Photographer
At the Navy Regatta on the Schuylkill, Alexis Franklin (right) with crewmates (from left) Judy Kaplow, Ann Couwenhoven, Mary Berry, and Janit Gorka. Some awake at 4 a.m. for practice. APRIL SAUL /Staff Photographer
Posted: October 15, 2012

For Alexis Franklin and her fellow members of Vesper Boat Club's over-55 women's eight, a disappointing day on the Schuylkill was still a good time for all.

The crew did not produce its best time at Saturday's Navy Day Regatta, but the women remained positive heading into next weekend's Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston.

The boat has rowers from Virginia, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, some of whom wake up as early as 4 a.m. to travel to Philadelphia for practices and competitions. Competing in the oldest division in organized rowing, the crew has three members in their 70s.

"We call them our super-veterans," Franklin said of her three more-senior teammates. "The rest of us are really inspired by their determination and passion for the sport of rowing."

In celebrating the birth of the U.S. Navy, 2,500 rowers from 52 cities and seven states participated in the 26th installment of the regatta. The 2.5-mile course proved to be challenging for the rowers because of a wide turn.

High school and university crews competed, in addition to members of rowing clubs from Boathouse Row and beyond.

"This regatta is truly a part of the Philadelphia racing tradition," said Clete Graham, former commodore of the Schuylkill Navy and official timekeeper for the Navy Day Regatta. "It's a good kickoff to the fall regatta season, and is also good preparation for the Head of the Charles and Head of the Schuylkill Regattas later this month. It's a pretty relaxed day for the family and spectators here to watch the races."

Like other race days during the sport's peak season in spring, Boathouse Row came alive with spectators watching the races from their tents set up along Kelly Drive.

Families gathered to watch their loved ones and cheer them on to victory on the brisk Saturday afternoon. Fellow Boathouse members and coaches biked along the trail to critique their teammates' strokes and scout the competition.

"Do not be spectators out there today," Franklin warned her boat in a prerace, pump-up speech. "Disregard the turtles, the birds, the people, and just focus on our race."

Confusion about the location of the finish line cost the women of Vesper's eight. They lost to the only other boat in their division despite a prearranged 20-second advantage due to their age.

"There are some things we can fix," Franklin said afterward. "We had a good stroke rate and our start was fine, but a wide turn and our questions about the finish line affected our time."

If there was time for experimentation and adjustments, the Navy Day Regatta was the race to do so. With next weekend's Head of the Charles Regatta considered one of the most prestigious and competitive races in the world, Franklin and her boat need to be at their best to achieve success.


Contract Joe Trinacria

at 215-854-2771 or jtrinacria@phillynews.com.

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