by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward
The Saratoga State Boat Launch has a new neighbor. Sharing the launch’s driveway is the Saratoga Rowing Association’s Regatta and Training Center. The Saratoga Rowing Association has a prominent presence on Saratoga Lake, particularly, on Fish Creek – the northerly ‘drain’ for the lake. Standing at the launch, looking northward up Fish Creek, you can make out several lanes, used for regattas and rowing races, and early in the day, you can even catch some of the rowing practices, as the crew teams row their boat as fast as they can up the stream. (It remains unclear as to whether or not the crew maintains a merrily demeanor while rowing.)
Rowing is an ancient sport, and arguable the first method of mass transport. Rowing vessels can be dated back to almost 4,000 years ago, to the earliest days of civilization. Such vessels were used to transport goods and people between ports. The earliest proof of competitive rowing comes from the funeral markings of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep II, from 1430 BC, depicting the pharaoh defeating other nobles in a rowing race. The Greek Orator Virgil also told of a rowing competition as part of the funerary games, honoring the death of the mythic Greek hero Aeneas.
Rowing continued to be practiced throughout the Roman Empire, and Europe’s Dark Ages, but competitive rowing saw its revival during the Middle Ages in the port city of Venice, known for its streets of water. Competitive Rowing was revived during the fourteenth century, during a Carnevale celebration (comparable to Mardi Gras, Carnevale ends with the beginning of Lent in the Christian faith). The first races at Carnevale involved individuals and teams of rowers racing through the canals of Venice. Competitive rowing made its way through Europe, and the first modern regatta happened in England around 1454, where guilds sponsored boats and racers in “Lord Mayor’s Water Procession”. “Doggett’s Coat and Badge” race, which is the oldest continuously held regatta, started in 1715, and races from London Bridge to Chelsea Harbor.
The 1700s brought about a new ‘wave’ of crew teams, as the sport was introduced into the American Colonies. The first recorded American regatta happened in New York City around 1756, and the sport gained popularity among college student with Oxford University currently boasting the oldest standing crew team, being founded in 1815, and a notable rivalry with Cambridge University starting in 1832. The sports popularity among college students carried over to the states, and the gained a lot of attention when Yale challenged Harvard to a race in 1852. Rowing has since remained a staple sport on many college campuses.
Rowing became an Olympic Sport at the second modern Olympic games in 1900 in Paris, France, leading to the founding of the International Rowing Association in 1903 (later joined with the NCAA). Rowing was once the most popular collegiate sport, even dominating over football, but there has been a sharp decline of public interest in rowing over the last hundred years.
In the Olympic Games, the rowing events occur in local rivers and waterbodies- in Rio you can expect to watch the teams row in the scenic Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
For more information:
Olympic Rowing (Rio)