A mixed crew of men and women from Belfast’s Come Boating! took first place in the Fixed Multi Rowing Boat class in the annual Essex River Race May 19 in Massachusetts.

Come Boating!’s Cornish pilot gig Selkie beat six other boats in its class on the 5.5-plus-mile open water course down the Essex River from Essex, out behind the barrier beaches of Ipswich, and back. Selkie’s time was 52:12, a substantial 2:34 ahead of Team Saquish from Plymouth, which took second place.

This year was Come Boating!’s first time in the Essex River Race, and the crew’s unfamiliarity with the course presented challenges. The meandering river, which is narrow in some areas, has many sandbars that must be avoided.

Selkie, the fourth boat out at the staggered start, passed the Cape Ann Sailing Club gig within a few minutes but stayed on the tail of Team Saquish’s Interceptor to find the deepest water. About half way into the course, while rounding the island at the mouth of the river, Selkie, its crew now confident in the course, overtook Interceptor.

“Rowing upriver was tricky because the many racing and recreational kayaks, paddleboards, and racing shells were coming downriver, and we had to avoid them,” said Belfast coxswain Rick Fitzsimmons.

Selkie kept ahead of Interceptor. The Cohasset Maritime Institute boat, the first to start the race, crossed the finish line ahead of Selkie, but Selkie had the winning time.

Come Boating!’s winning rowers were Wes Reddick, Amy Grant, John Dillenbeck, Jonathan Fulford, Monica Piccinini and Jim Bahoosh. Fitzsimmons was coxswain. Belfast’s first-place finish in the Essex River Race follows two firsts in the March Snow Row in Hull, Mass.

More information about Come Boating!, including its racing program, is available online at comeboating.org.

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.