Bainbridge Island Rowing honors founder | Slideshow

  • Saturday, October 17, 2009 2:58am
  • Sports
Bainbridge Island Rowing honors founder | Slideshow

Despite never having rowed a day in his life, Thom Hamilton found himself immortalized in Bainbridge rowing history last weekend.

Bainbridge Island Rowing dedicated its new $34,000, 56-foot racing shell to Hamilton, and formally christened the shell with a ceremony at Eagle Harbor.

BIR, which started out with a $500 boat and only six rowers, now struggles to accommodate more than 110 members on the water.

“It’s a level of recognition one never expects to receive,” Hamilton said. “You don’t go into something like this with that in mind.”

Hamilton, an avid sailor and shipbuilder, purchased his first wooden sailboat in 1967. After working in the corporate sector, he and his wife, Karen, decided to take their children on a five-year sailing tour.

When the Hamiltons returned, they moved to Bainbridge. Their daughter, Kacy Struzzieri – then Kacy Hamilton – enrolled in Bainbridge High School as a sophomore in 2000, and brought a new sport with her.

“I was fed up with the competitive nature of Bainbridge High School,” Struzzieri said. “As long as we have bodies (for rowing), that’s all I really cared about.”

When Struzzieri told her father she wanted to start a rowing team, he jumped behind the idea, even though he knew little of rowing.

“You always have to have someone step up to the plate,” Hamilton said. “I put a lot of focus on kids to try to nurture their wants, and point them in the right direction.”

Even though the informational meeting attracted at least 20 students, the grueling practice schedule deflated most of the interest.

“Everyone was gung-ho until they found out you had to get up at 4:30,” Struzzieri said. “Everyone left – literally, they all just walked out.”

Despite only having six rowers – including Struzzieri – BIR was formed.

“It was within 90 days from the concept, to where we had equipment,” Hamilton said. “Fortunately, I had full time I could I devote.”

On winter mornings, the team held meetings huddled in the glow of Hamilton’s headlights as they prepared for cross-training at Battle Point Park.

“We went running, did the stairs at the stadium, did whatever we could do,” Struzzieri said. “We got better and better and more and more people started to show up. That’s when you get people talking about it.”

Before the rowers could hit the water, they had to learn proper rowing techniques by practicing on ergometers, or rowing machines.

While most teams have intermediate and advanced rowers to help novices, Bainbridge used ergometers.

“(Usually) every third person is advanced,” Struzzieri said. “They’re stabilizing for you and you’re watching them, you’re following their motions. But we didn’t have that, so we used the ergs for techniques. We showed people the motions before we even got into the boat.”

Since BIR did not own any ergometers at first, Hamilton struck a deal with a local gym. BIR would raise funds to purchase their own ergs, and the gym would match the purchase.

“We’ll let you use them, and we start our workout program there,” Hamilton said.

The rowing machines also became pivotal in fund raising. In addition to car washes, the team conducted “ergo-thons” at the Pavilion, where rowers raced to 5k.

“Some were marathons, and you got 10 cents per (kilometer)” Struzzieri said.

The rowers soon became impatient to get on the water, and Hamilton was there to obtain boats and oars.

“He’d always be the mind behind the fund raising,” Struzzieri said. “He started things rolling with equipment, the ergs, the rowing machines.”

The team raised enough money to purchase a $500 shell, and another was donated.

The original shell was a 65-foot-long sectional, which could split in half for transportation.

Once the rowers hit the water, however, they had to contend with the dangers of an unprotected harbor.

“We had no launch because we were on the south end of the island,” Struzzieri said. “So we had huge waves, ferry waves to deal with, little boats. We got swamped at least twice and had to call for rescue.”

Hamilton, however, was always there to help.

“He’d be down there every practice on the beach at 4:30 in the morning,” Struzzieri said. “He’d watch us and make sure we didn’t flip or do anything crazy.”

Less than a decade later, BIR has grown to more than 70 junior rowers, and has added a master’s program of nearly 40 adults. It owns 13 boats of various sizes, and now rows in Eagle Harbor.

“We have more butts than seats,” BIR board president Grant Dull said. “We’re actually leasing a boat from Seattle just so we have enough seats to accommodate the number of junior programs. We desperately need more seats.”

BIR plans to purchase another competitive shell similar to the Thom Hamilton.

From his Eagle Harbor home, Hamilton can see the results of his work racing by.

“I’m in boats every day, vicariously,” Hamilton said. “As I look out on the water, I see Thom Hamilton go by with a load of young kids. How cool is that?”

More in Sports

Olympic’s Joshua Gauyan evades the defense of Port Angeles’ Jeremiah Hall on Friday night in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Prep Football: Week 8 roundup

Sequim 33, Kingston 20 The Bucs opened the game with a successful… Continue reading

The North Kitsap passing game struggled Thursday, but quarterback Colton Bower rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s 32-0 win over Bainbridge. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Weather forces NK to use ground game in 32-0 win over BI

If North Kitsap hopes to go far in the state high school… Continue reading

Bainbridge quarterback Jack Grant, left, hands off to Garrett Goade as Port Angeles defender Jeremiah Hall closes in on Friday night in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Football Roundup: Week 7

Port Angeles 27, Bainbridge 7 The Spartans had their opportunities, but the… Continue reading

Bainbridge senior Eden Michael took home a second-place finish in the final regular season cross country league meet at Battle Point Park. Michael’s performance helped lead Bainbridge to a team victory. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group photos)
Bainbridge girls win final league meet

NK girls, Kingston boys each run to 2nd place

Bainbridge senior Maddy Brown looks to pry the ball loose from a Sequim player during her team’s 1-0 win Thursday night. Mark Krulish/Bainbridge Island Review photos
Bainbridge maintains top spot with 1-0 win over Sequim

Keeping the positive momentum going was the order of the day for… Continue reading

Mark Krulish
Prep playoffs could mirror Mariners excitement

If you were one of the 44,164 folks who attended the Mariners… Continue reading

Bainbridge middle blocker Allie Wildsmith blasts a shot through Kingston’s defense in her team’s three-set win Tuesday night. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Spartans defense feeds offense in win over Kingston

Offense might get a lot of attention in volleyball, but without good… Continue reading

Bremerton quarterback Josh Tapangco threw a pair of touchdown passes in his team’s 32-0 win over Bainbridge on Friday night. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Football Roundup: Week 6

North Kitsap 49, Sequim 7 The Vikings continued their march through the… Continue reading

Bainbridge’s Caleb Durrance closes in on fallen Bremerton quarterback Joshua Tapangco during the Spartans 32-0 loss to the Knights. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
10 turnovers help Bremerton blank BI

It was Friday night and Homecoming night at Memorial Stadium on Bainbridge… Continue reading

Bainbridge sophomore Kathryn Houseman swims to victory in the 500-yard freestyle in Tuesday’s tri-meet against North Kitsap and Kingston. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
BHS swimmers dominating on road to state

With a reloaded roster full of experienced underclassmen, the Bainbridge girls swim… Continue reading

Finn Miller plays defense against his Mercer Island counterpart, Finn Friedland (7), in Monday night’s water polo match agains the Islanders. Bainbridge won 17-8. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
BHS water polo beats Mercer Island to remain undefeated

In the 50-year history of boys high school water polo in Washington… Continue reading

North Kitsap improved to 4-0 on the season with a 42-7 win over Olympic on Friday. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Football roundup: Week 5

North Kitsap 42, Olympic 7 The Trojans hung tough for a while,… Continue reading