Come Boating! Belle Fast rows to first at Essex River Race

By Staff | May 24, 2013
Courtesy of: Come Boating! Come Boating!'s Belle Fast on the Essex River. From left, Rick Fitzsimmons, coxswain, John Dillenbeck, Kiffin Dolliver, Jonathan Fulford, Ethan Shaw, Greg Stafford (hidden) and Monica Piccinini

Essex, Mass. — Come Boating! continued its long winning streak by taking first place in its class in the May 18 Essex River Race, an event sponsored by the Cape Ann Rowing Club.

The Belle Fast was among 10 boats competing in the Fixed Seat Multi class, which included seven Cornish gigs and three Ocean 4s (four-oar boats similar to gigs).

The race course followed the meandering Essex River through salt marshes and tidal flats to its mouth, around an island, and back to the start point.

At the start of the race, the announcer said that because of the tide the usual 5.5-mile race would be longer, and there might not be enough water to clear the sand bars. His information proved accurate because the length of the race ultimately was 6.6 miles, and a number of boats, including the Belle Fast, grounded on sand bars while negotiating the mouth of the river.

The Belfast boat was in the lead until the mishap, and it took time and considerable effort to get the gig into deeper water. The Belle Fast crew found itself in fifth place after rejoining the fleet, with a rising wind and current against them.

By the midway point, the lead boat was about a quarter mile ahead. Belfast coxswain Rick Fitzsimmons chose a route that avoided sand bars on the return segment, and, with a grueling test of endurance, the Belle Fast rowers finally overtook the gig in the lead, the Gannet from the Gloucester Rowers, about a half mile from the finish.

Come Boating!’s winning time was 1:01:22, just 53 seconds ahead of the Gannet. Third across the finish line was the Mike Jenness Sr. from Plymouth, Mass., with a time of 1:02:04.

Come Boating! racers were John Dillenbeck, Kyffin Dolliver, Jonathan Fulford, Monica Piccinini, Ethan Shaw and Greg Stafford, with Fitzsimmons as cox.

Come Boating! racers are training for the annual Blackburn Challenge, a 20-mile rowing race in Massachusetts, held July 20.

Come Boating!’s free community rowing program will begin Saturday, June 1. Twenty rows will be offered each week, including exercise and power rows for rowers looking for a more strenuous workout than the regular community rows.

Those wishing to row need to sign-up in advance in the notebook at the Come Boating! boat shed near the public boat launch on Belfast Harbor.

For more information about Come Boating!, visit its website at

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