Sports

Rowers set to go around the island

The Sound Rowers Open Water Rowing and Paddling Club holds its 24th annual Bainbridge Island Marathon this Saturday.

Starting at Fay Bainbridge State Park at 9:30 a.m., boaters will race around the entire island – measured at 26.2 miles – and finish back at the park. A shorter course starts at Fort Ward State Park and finishes at Fay Bainbridge. Marathoners can choose to go clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on how they feel about the tide conditions, Sound Rowers volunteer Debbie Natelson said.

The race is open to anyone with a human-powered boat like a kayak or canoe, fixed and sliding seat rowing shells, pedal craft and “dragon boats.”

All vessels must be Coast Guard certified. Boaters are required to have a personal flotation device, a whistle and be capable of self-righting their boat. They are also required to attend a pre-race meeting at 8:45 a.m.

There is a $7 fee for members, while non-members get in for $10.

“Its fun for people to come out,” Natelson said. “It’s a mass start, like one big flotilla and it’s just exciting to see.”

There is no age limit, but the younger kids do have to sign a waiver and are encouraged to try the half marathon.

“We have people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, even in their 70s come out (to participate),” Natelson said. “Some of our fastest guys are in that age. There’s a heck of a lot of experience in those years.”

Natelson, who has been racing in the marathon for three years, said there are some danger spots to watch out for, such as Blakely Rocks, Rich Passage and crossing in front of the ferries.

“Always give way to the ferry boats,” she said. “Merchant boats, craft boats, they all create a wake. “

After the race, there will be a chowder feed and an awards ceremony at which director Steve Bennett will hand out awards hand-carved from maple burl into the shape of the island, with the rower’s name and time carved into it.

More volunteers are needed for “chase boats” to help rowers who run into trouble. Sound Rowers will pay for fuel, Natelson said. For information, contact Bennett at (206) 524-1496 or (360) 651-7563.

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