By Yanshu Li
This is not a story of winning. But it would be dishonest to say that the Partez Rowing Club took a 15-hour flight from Tokyo to Boston only to wear lane number 46, for their ninth time racing in Head Of The Charles Regatta (HOCR).
At 10:46 a.m. on Saturday, the crew of Partez Rowing Club was standing by for the Men’s Senior Master [50+] Fours. Four crew members and a cox, the Partez team was an average aged of 59, and their goal was to finish the top half of the field of 54 clubs this year.
The crew arrived in Boston on Oct. 16, with only one spare day for adjusting. “But luckily our race is in the morning. If the race is in the afternoon, it will be tough,” Nobu Ishizuka said.
Being the youngest in this crew, Ishizuka, 54, is a Japanese-American. He thinks HOCR is a classic race, with diverse rowers and spectacular view. “The speed of boats, the national class and the international class athletes. It’s totally different level of rowing,” he said.
HOCR is racing on Charles River, where there were five major turns of the river between two lines. As a cox, Akio Kakishita appreciated this course.
Kakishita, 61, looks small but vigorous. His eyes look bright under the vision of his cap. He said, “The course is very hard for a cox. And it’s really good for me to develop my coxing skills, because the course is so demanding.”
This year, Partez Rowing Club decided the crewmembers in June, and started training once a week for three hours. Hearning to cooperate to compete the Regatta, took a longer time. “Last week, we finally felt like we are rowing well as a team, as a boat,” Mr. Ishizuka said. “It took a long time to find the proper rhythm and the pace for the members.”
Rowing is not popular in Japan. “Because you need boats, you need river. In U.S., there are so many rivers, and so many boathouses. So, anybody who wants to try, they can go.” Ishizaka said. “But in Tokyo there’s only one or two places to do this.” During the Head of Charles Regatta, the crew enjoyed the spectators being very close. “They are on the bridges, they are on the river banks. So you can hear they cheering and everything. That’s a really exciting feeling for the crew. And they don’t have this race in Japan,” Ishizaka said.
Partez Rowing Club was established in 2000. It’s a young club. They traveled all the way to America to challenge the curvy river. Besides that goal, rowing meant different things for each of them.
Kakishita, the cox, said he finds the feeling at the race was very exciting. When everybody rows together, and the crew achieves its goal after a race, Kakishita said, “That’s what I like about it, the important feeling.”
Masayuki Kumagai, 60, was on stroke side. Wearing silver frame glasses, he has grey sideburns and kind smiles. Kumagai likes the clash of blades. “When the boats get really close, the blades clash. It’s fun for me.” He said.
Takashi Nohmura, 58, said he first started rowing in universities, which was 40 years ago. Personally the reason rowing is so important for him, Nohmura said, “It’s the only thing I’ve done.”
The morning was sunny. The referee yelled to start. The Partez crew rowed and stroked, under command of the cox Kakishita. They soon rowed under Boston University Bridge, with tightened muscle and fiercely concentrated look, headed to the first turn of the curvy river.
The first Master Fours club finished the three miles in 17 minutes and seven seconds. Partez rowed 21 minutes and three seconds. They didn’t make it to the top half.
Tanaka said after the race, “It was tough race indeed. Our dream is over again.” But he added, “the Regatta is always challenging, and we enjoyed the race today.”