Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, PA - For the first time, Rockland Rowing Association sent five athletes to the Bayada Regatta, and the club enjoyed a very successful debut. Three of the five had never raced before, yet all showed confidence and grit on the 1,000 meter course. They brought home two golds, a silver and a bronze medal. “We had an amazing race day, and not only brought home more medals than we had expected, but best of all, five really happy athletes,” declared adaptive coach, Greta Nettleton.
Over the course of the past 36 years, the BAYADA Regatta has become the nation’s oldest and largest all-adaptive rowing competition for athletes with disabilities. This FISA/USRowing recognized event welcomes athletes from around the globe to join with rowers from all parts of the United States in friendly, but serious, competition on the water. Their motto is: “freedom on the river,” a beautiful idea that perfectly captures the grace and speed shown by the adaptive athletes during Saturday’s event.
The first race of the day for Rockland was the mens single PR1 (arms & shoulders), age category 50+. Ron Gold won the gold medal with a time of 07:25.84, finishing almost 24 seconds ahead of the second place winner. In the womens single PR2 (trunk and arms) race, Caren Landis took the silver medal with a time of 06:58.35.
Next up was the mens double PR3 (legs, trunk, arms). In our grey Wintech double, completely overhauled earlier in the morning by volunteers in Bayada’s amazing tech department, Dominic Romano rowed bow, and Jim Daine rowed stroke with sliding seats to earn fourth place with a time of 07:16.53. Next was a composite (adaptive + able-bodied rower) double PR3 in the same boat. Jannette Gonzalez, (stroke) won a bronze medal rowing with Greta Nettleton in bow with a time of 06:13.69.
After lunch, the mixed (male + female) double PR2 event required a quick equipment switch; sliding seats were removed and fixed seats were added to our trusty Wintech. Ron Gold, stroke and Caren Landis, bow, won gold with a time of 07:52.47. Then, Jim Daine was invited to row bow in a mixed 4+ PR3 in Heat 1 later in the afternoon; he rowed with athletes from Three Rivers, West Side RC, and Capital and finished in 04:48.61.
Volunteers made everything possible for the racers, starting with Justin Bohan, who helped load up the truck beforehand, and Alexander Lalire, who came to the race and helped rig and derig, load for departure, and who rode along on the return to Rockland Lake. Pam Hudson helped with unloading. Lucy Tasker and Melissa Boyd took over coaching duties during part of August, and many other RRA rowers from the masters and the youth competitive teams, too numerous to list here, showed up at every practice to help.
In 1981, Mark Baiada, founder and president of BAYADA Home Health Care, began attending Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing (PAR) meetings and was inspired by the courage and fearlessness that the rowers displayed. As his relationship with the club developed, he decided that BAYADA would sponsor the annual regatta that PAR hosts.
More than 35 years later, the BAYADA Regatta has grown steadily, becoming one of the largest all-adaptive rowing events in the world.
Using single and double Wintech and Alden Ocean Shells that have been adapted for stability by adding pontoons, athletes train throughout the year to prepare for this special event. The participating athletes may have a number of physical disabilities, including blindness, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, paraplegia, or quadriplegia. The BAYADA Regatta accommodates all levels and ages of athletes and abilities, from beginners to Paralympians. Rowers are classified according to standards developed by the International Rowing Federation (FISA).
Rockland Rowing Association’s next event will be the Head of the Riverfront, in Hartford, Connecticut on October 1, 2017.