BY TED POTRIKUS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Four members of Otsego Area Rowing (OAR) will go to Boston, Massachusetts this weekend to race in the world’s biggest two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles Regatta.
Lang Keith, Laura Kilty, Joe Novitski, and OAR founder and coach Andrea Thies, a two-time Olympian, compete with international rowers in mixed-double and single-rower events taking place on the city’s famed Charles River.
One week later, OAR sends more rowers, including youth members Creighton Williams, Charlotte Feury and Isabel Dudek to the Head of the Fish event on the Fish River, a few miles outside Saratoga Springs. Thies, Alison Lord, Faith Gay and Abby Rodd will race in the Women’s Masters Quad.
The club, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2017 to introduce local residents to the sport, is based at Brookwood Point on Otsego Lake.
OAR is open to rowers of all ages and any level of experience. This year, OAR hosted more than a dozen adults new to rowing and a similar number of youth rowers during week-long summer camps. OAR racers come from Cooperstown, Oneonta, Cherry Valley, Richfield Springs and West Winfield.
“We try to find a way to make rowing more approachable,” Thies said. “A big part of our mission is to give access to the equipment, to knock down the barriers and work with people who might not think about rowing as a lifetime sport they can enjoy.”
OAR stresses a safety-first regimen focused on rowing basics, steering, proper procedure and navigation. The club’s leaders, Thies and Steve Bohler, are certified U.S. Rowing Level 2 coaches.
“When you’re out racing, it can get pretty intense,” Thies said. “It’s not necessarily a Zen-like experience. You’re going to pass or be passed by other rowers. You’ve got buoys, bridges, and other boats. On the lake, we coach our rowers to be aware of motorboats, swimmers, sailboats.”
Thies said she and the board members guiding OAR hope to expand outreach to area schools, and revisit adaptive programs with revamped equipment for rowers who might require additional assistance.
“Rowing really is for anyone who loves to be outdoors,” she said, recounting her own experience as a Paralympic coach.
“People here had been rowing on their own for years,” Theis continued. “OAR tries to bring them all together in an organized way. Little by little it’s starting to happen. So many people are pulling up their sleeves to literally build this club from the bottom up, and they make my own experience of rowing a joy.”