Georgia Tech Crew competitive despite “club” designation

Photo Courtesy of Sergio Acuna Garcia

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote “Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.”

While most of us would consider Sartre’s phrase to be a simple, profound bit of insight, these words are simply not an option for the members of the Georgia Tech Crew team.

Georgia Tech Crew, founded in 1986, is the largest club sport offered here at Tech. Although the group has a “club” designation and is made up of mainly walk-on athletes, the team still competes at a very high level against scholarship athletes from other schools – and successfully so.

The club is split into Men’s and Women’s teams and each of these teams fields a group that competes at the Varsity and Novice levels at each meet. Every meet is made up of different events where these teams’ rowers either compete as a set of four or as a set of eight rowers (sometimes, even two) under the lead of their boat’s coxswain. The coxswain is responsible for strategizing – both pre-race and on the spot – when the rowers need to row faster or relax a little. In the non-linear 5000 meter races, the coxswain is also responsible for determining the best line for the boat to take. The rowers follow the pace and rhythm set by the coxswain in order to be as synchronized as possible with the rowing of their fellow teammates. In the light-hearted words of head coxswain Holly Richer, “the coxswains are the brain and the rowers are the brawn.”

In order to compete at this level, a substantial amount of dedication and time is required of all team members. The team practices a total of six times a week together, both on land using the rowing machines in the CRC and on the water at a facility in Roswell. Due to this substantial commitment of both effort and time, the team has developed an identity and camaraderie not unlike that of a fraternity. For varsity rower Hayden Cogswell, crew is more than just those exciting final 250 meters of a race. For him, it’s being able to compete against and meet other rowers at Regattas, being able to spend time with his teammates, and being able to row on the water at the end of the day. When asked to wrap up what Crew is to him in one sentence, he said “it’s the hardest thing you will ever do but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

This past weekend, the team competed this past weekend in Chattanooga’s Head of the Hooch regatta, the largest two-day rowing event in the southeast, and came away in third among all participating colleges and first against all ACC schools. In the years to come, the team hopes to be able to field all the events at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the culminating event for Crew teams nationwide.

As long as everybody keeps rowing, it should be calm waters until that day.