VUHS, Mt. Abe rowers compete in Burlington


VERGENNES UNION HIGH School rowers pull in a six-oar race that was part of the James Wakefield Rescue Row on Lake Champlain on Oct. 5. Photo by Buzz Kuhns

ROWERS ON THE Vergennes Union High School/Middle School teams cruise past the lighthouse off the Burlington waterfront on Oct. 5. Photo by Buzz Kuhns

SOUTH BURLINGTON HIGH School rowers in the Golden Oak are dwarfed by the Ethan Allen II ferry on Lake Champlain off the Burlington waterfront earlier this month. They were taking part in the James Wakefield Rescue Row. Photo by Holly Weber

UPDATE: Unfortunately we posted an old version of this story; here is the correct version.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s annual James Wakefield Rescue Row took place in Burlington Harbor on Saturday, October 3. Teams arrived in time slots equipped with masks and high energy. Organized in time-trial format, crews took to the lake one school at a time to compete against the clock. 134 masked rowers from 8 different Vermont middle and high schools completed either a 1.75-mile or 2.5-mile course along the Burlington Waterfront. Teams from Vergennes Union High School/Middle School, Mt. Abraham Union High School/Middle School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Rice Memorial High School, South Burlington High School, and Burlington High School were supported physically by spectators onshore and digitally through live updates on Instagram.

The race is held annually in tribute to James Wakefield, a man who, with his son, rescued passengers and crew aboard the General Butler when it sank on December 9, 1876. On that fateful day, an early winter storm caught the best of the General Butler and sent the vessel crashing into the south end of the breakwater in Burlington Harbor. With sinking imminent, those aboard the ship leapt onto the breakwater’s icy surface. People lined the shore as the scene unfolded, none of whom dared to make the commute into the raging storm to make a rescue. No one except for James Wakefield and his son. Together they commandeered a government lighthouse boat and rowed everyone to safety in the choppy waters. It is in the spirit of compassion and courage displayed by James Wakefield and his son Jack on that stormy winter day that we conduct this race.

Fortunately, the weather was outstanding for this year’s race. Conditions were glassy and the forecasted rain held off, making for excellent times. All boats lined up in front of Perkin’s Pier with the Novice bows facing south and the Intermediate/Experienced divisions facing North. When the start was called over the megaphone, the Novice crews took off to make a loop around the breakwater, a 1.75-mile course. The Intermediate/Experienced boats raced toward a buoy just beyond North Beach, made a port turn, and returned to where they started for a photo finish in front of spectators on shore, completing a 2.5-mile course.

Listed here are the first-place times with respective teams of each division:

-       Novice Four-Oar Division:  Mt. Abraham Union High School/ Middle School (time of 22:24)

-       Intermediate Four-Oar Division:  Champlain Valley Union High School (time of 34:19)

-       Experienced Four-Oar Division: Vergennes Union High School (time of 33:09)

-       Novice Six-Oar Division: Rice Memorial High School (time of 20:42)

-       Intermediate Six-Oar Division: South Burlington High School (time of 30:39)

-       Experienced Six-Oar Division: Burlington High School (time of 27:16)

Congratulations to all crews!

 

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