This month, 70 students from Addison and Chittenden counties rowed in the second annual Otter Creek Challenge, a 2.5-mile-long rowing race sponsored by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's Champlain Longboats program.
Eleven crews rowed in two heats, starting at the Vergennes Basin, rowing one and a half miles downstream, turning around a race marker and pulling hard upstream against a rain-swollen current, finishing with a dramatic 180 degree turn in front of the raging Vergennes Falls.
Participating schools included Middlebury High School, Vergennes Middle and High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Mt. Abraham Union High School, South Burlington High School and Burlington High School. Vergennes Middle and High School finished first overall and first in the experienced six-oar division with a time of 24:26. South Burlington High School finished first in the novice six-oar division with a time of 26:29 and Middlebury High School finished first in the novice four-oar division with a time of 29:25.
The event challenged all who participated. The temperature outdoors was in the mid-30s at race time and all the crews had to battle a very stiff current on the upstream leg of the race. To complicate matters there were two 180-degree turns in the race, which is a difficult maneuver in a 32' rowing boat. Every crew exhibited stellar seamanship and rowed with heart.
The sleek, colorful boats used in this race are all student-built boats constructed in the Champlain Longboats program at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. A new team of students will begin work on the next Champlain Longboat in January 2011. More information about Champlain Longboats can be found on the museum's web site and blog at www.lcmm.org.