HOTO 2013, Saturday, October 5th

For many years various members of MRA and the WVU Women’s and Men’s crew have participated in HOTO. HOTO stands for “Head of the Ohio” and it will mark its 27th anniversary this year. HOTO is a race that takes place in Pittsburgh along the Allegheny River. For many years the race started up river and finished at the point where the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers meet and the Ohio river starts. Hence the name Head of the Ohio. In the last couple years, due to increasing build up near the stadiums, the race has reversed its course and now starts where it used to end and finishes up stream at the Washington Landing.

The course is 2.6 miles long and attracts people from all over the country. The variety of racing classes is one of the attractions of this event. There are Collegiate Athletic crews, College Clubs, High School competitions, Open Club classes, Mixed Gender crews, and Adaptive classes (handicapped individuals); people of all ages participate. Current MRA President David Rosen, has participated for the past several years and is looking towards competing once again. The WVU Women’s Crew and Men’s Crew will certainly be at the event and MRA keeps alive the dream of fielding an MRA Youth Crew. No matter what the event is one not to be lost.

John M. Duarte, 2013


Rowing Best Times

I have yet to find a conclusive response to the question often asked as to: ”what is the top speed of a rowing shell?”

A few years ago I saw a video post of an 8 men crew pulling up a water skier for some distance.

The average speed of current world best Rowing Times recognized by FISA is 22.5 Km/Hour or about 14 MPH for the Men’s 8+; 5:19:35 over the 2000m course.

There were supposedly burst of over 24KM/Hour on that race. The men’s 8+ is the overall fastest Rowing craft.

Because environmental conditions affect the rowing speed, FISA Rowing governing body recognizes Best Times and not world records.

Below are the current recognized best Rowing Times as posted in Wikipedia.


Boat Time Crew Nation Date Meet Location Ref
Single sculls
6:33.35 Mahé Drysdale New Zealand 2009 Poznań, Poland
Coxless pairs
6:08.50 Hamish Bond
Eric Murray
New Zealand 2012 Summer Olympics Eton Dorney, England [2]
Coxed pairs
6:42.16 Igor Boraska
Tihomir Franković
Milan Razov (coxswain)
Croatia 1994 Indianapolis, United States
Double sculls
6:03.25 Adrien Hardy
Jean-Baptiste Macquet
France 2006 Poznań, Poland
Coxless four
5:37.86 Andrew Triggs-Hodge
Tom James
Pete Reed
Alex Gregory
Great Britain 2012 Lucerne, Switzerland
Coxed four
5:58.96 Matthias Ungemach
Armin Eichholz
Armin Weyrauch
Bahne Rabe
Joerg Dederding (coxswain)
Germany 1991 Vienna, Austria
Quad sculls
5:33.15 Vladislav Ryabcev
Alexey Svirin
Nikita Morgachev
Sergei Fedorovtsev
Russia 2012 Lucerne,Switzerland
5:19.35 Gabriel Bergen
Douglas Csima
Robert Gibson
Conlin McCabe
Malcolm Howard
Andrew Byrnes
Jeremiah Brown
Will Crothers
Brian Price (coxswain)
Canada 2012 Lucerne, Switzerland
Lightweight single sculls
6:46.93 Jeremie Azou France 2011 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Lightweight coxless pairs
6:26.21 Tony O’Connor
Neville Maxwell
Ireland 1994 Paris, France
Lightweight double sculls
6:10.02 Mads Rasmussen
Rasmus Quist
Denmark 2007 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Lightweight coxless four
5:45.60 Thomas Poulsen
Thomas Ebert
Eskild Ebbesen
Victor Feddersen
Denmark 1999 Lucerne, Switzerland
Lightweight quad sculls
5:45.18 Francesco Esposito
Massimo Lana
Michelangelo Crispi
Massimo Guglielmi
Italy 1992 Montreal, Canada
Lightweight eight
5:30.24 Klaus Altena
Christian Dahlke
Thomas Melges
Bernhard Stomporowski
Michael Kobor
Uwe Maerz
Michael Buchheit
Kai von Warburg
Olaf Kaska (coxswain)
Germany 1992 Montreal, Canada

Indoor Records

Category Time Split Nation Year Name
Open Men 5:36.6 1:24.1 New Zealand 2008 Rob Waddell
Lightweight Men 5:56.7 1:29.175 Denmark 2013 Henrik Stephansen
Open Women 6:28.4 1:37.1 France 2005 Sophie Balmary
Lightweight Women 6:54.7 1:43.7 United States 2010 Ursula Grobler
  • Lwt Men: 75 kg (170 lb) maximum weight
  • Lwt Women: 61.5 kg (136 lb) maximum weight [3]

John M. Duarte

How I came to participate in HOTO 2009 by Jim Fishback – reprint

[Published Fall-winter 2009]

I moved to Morgantown in July 2008 and spent a lot of time on my road bike through the end of the fall. On one of my trips up the bike path, heading to the Decker’s Creek trail, I noticed a flyer for Mon Rowing but made no effort to contact the club until early this year. I had rowed for TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA my junior year, one summer with the Occoquan Boat Club while I was in college and two summers with Boulder Community Rowing about 5 years ago. I was really excited about the prospect of rowing again.

Following an email to, I was contacted by John Duarte who informed me there would be a membership meeting in early March. I attended the meeting, met some of the members, and began rowing the Alden Horizon within the next few days with the help of Eric Hopkins. After a few trips out in the Alden I managed to sprain a leg trying to gorilla that big plastic boat around. Three weeks later I was back at it, rowing the double “SeaShell” and then the new Edon with its pontoons installed. In early June I scheduled a lesson with Meg Ayers (volunteer coach for WVU Women’s Crew) who suggested I take the Peinert out; I was reluctant because I had never rowed a scull prior to the Alden and Edon, but agreed to give it a try.

I never went back to the beginner boats and began to accumulate much water time in the Peinert #23. In fact, I have logged more miles on the river this summer than I have on the bike this year. As I write this I have been out for about 100 sessions. Most of these trips have been solo, however Andrew White has accompanied me on a handful of runs and more recently Jenna LaPointe (WVU Men’s club coach) has joined me in the old Vespoli.

But I digress; this article is supposed to be about the 2009 Head of the Ohio. In preparation for the race, Dr. David Rosen offered to let me try out his ECHO Ace on CheatLake. In the event that I couldn’t find insurance for one of the club boats I wanted a backup plan. As the Ace is a modern high tech design it definitely rowed faster than the Peinert but I didn’t quite attain proficiency keeping it on keel in the few trials I made. Right around this time, just for laughs, I “built a boat” on the Vespoli website. The next day I received a call from John Sekulich (“JP”) from Vespoli. We talked for a while before he asked me if I would be going to HOTO. He said he would be there with boats to look at; I asked if it was possible for me to race one. That possibility turned to reality.

I made the run up to Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon with hopes of getting a chance to try the Matrix 27 before race day. My timing was off; JP had left the Three Rivers Rowing Association facility for the parking lot between PNC and Heinz field where all the boat trailers would assemble in the following hours. After taking a look around the TRRA boathouse I made my way down to the finish line and parking lot. I had already made arrangements to meet JP in the morning so I grabbed a bite to eat, my registration packet and wandered around the waterfront. While eating I met some folks from TRRA and told them about my hopes of rowing that evening. Fortunately they had boats that needed to be rowed down to the start line; the rules of the race dictated that all boats must originate from the finish line docking area the following morning. So I took a launch ride up to the TRAA boathouse and helped row an 8 down to the start.

I was up by 5 am the following morning, out of the hotel and on the road by 5:30. I arrived early enough to park right next to Heinz, within 100 feet of the Vespoli trailer. I met up with JP and watched him set up the Matrix before I went down to watch the WVU women come down the course, for 3rd and 6th places in the 14 boat women’s open 8+ race. Shortly after, I hustled to get my clothes on and get the boat down to the water.

My first few strokes were nothing short of embarrassing but I was quickly across the river and out of site of immediate scrutiny. Moments later I heard a very tiny voice say “I think you should weigh enough”; a high school 4+ was right off my bow! I dug the blades in for a sketchy stop and an almost swim. After recovering physically and emotionally I made my way up to the start area for a longish wait for the singles races to begin.

Less than a couple minutes before the men’s singles were called to the starting area I noticed the brace and oarlock hardware for the starboard rigger were levitating. I was bummed! The nut that secures everything was still there but a few washers had gone missing. I hand-tightened all and asked a couple boats near me if any had tools. No-one had tools but moments after raising my hand a launch was by my side handing me a wrench. I got all tight and made my way just in time to start in order. Another minute and I would have had to start at the end of all the singles and out of my age-class. Not how I wanted to do my first race in over 28 years.

The start worked out, I had two boats pass, but then I went off course. I thought missing a buoy was a 30 second penalty, so I spent at least that long pivoting the boat back inside the buoy with only a few hundred meters left to race. At the finish I heard cheers for “Fishback!” I recognized Meg’s voice joined by many others, who I assume were WVU women, though I guess it could have been other well meaning spectators too.

After docking, getting the boat back up to the trailer, and thanking JP profusely, I went back down to the water to watch some more races. Eric had called while I was on the water and we met up a few minutes later. After running into David Rosen and his daughter and chatting (and admiring David’s gold medal) Eric and I walked up the racecourse to watch the boats come down from additional vantage points.

The weather and water were a little ugly that day and got worse as the afternoon wore on. We ended up on a lookout area near the start when the last race went down the course. It was the last race of the day because of the misfortune we were about to witness. First, one men’s 8+ came down looking like it was just being rowed poorly and then we noticed it was taking on water in the bow, and moments later it was fully submerged. While launches arrived to pluck the passengers from the swamped boat another 8+ came down the course. A coach from this boat was also on the lookout and was dismayed to see the Bowman had lost his seat and couldn’t manage to get it back. Soon this boat was completely swamped too. In total three boats went down before the rest of the events were cancelled; all were contesting the same race.

I had a fantastic time at the HOTO and can’t wait to get out there and race again. It’s been great to get back on the water and like living alone for the first time I am really enjoying the freedom of sculling. If our club can muster enough folks for a crew I would like to re-experience that too. I am so grateful that MRA is here in Morgantown and that I was able to connect with them. I would like to acknowledge Meg Ayers for the lessons she gave me and WVU women’s crew for sharing their boathouse with us. Also, thanks to Jimmy King for taking the Peinert up to HOTO for me, in the event I couldn’t row the Matrix I wanted a backup. This weekend I am driving 500 miles to Dexter, NY to look at a “previously owned” Vespoli Matrix 27 – I am that into this sport. Anybody interested in a nice road bike??

[This article was initially published during the winter 2009-2010]

The History of a Boathouse

Putting the Shell in the water at the New Morgantown Boathouse

In 1975 Willem Van Eck was successful in obtaining support from the Morgantown community for the nascent Monongahela Rowing Club and in particular for the WVU Student Crew. General Woodworking located in Westover, just across the river from Stansbury Hall, was one of those business that was essential by providing a place at the edge of their lumberyard where the crew could establish a temporary storage location and then the docks.

The docks required a lengthy process of approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, that lasted more than one year, including 2 public hearings. For a long time afterwards the rowing equipment was stored in old tractor trailers. At one point an old barn that served as storage burned down and MRA lost a considerable amount of equipment. But that early bunch persevered. Appeals were made to local government for support, but it would be years before ground would be broken.

In 1990 then President Kim Stearms, a Morgantown Physician,  found herself heading a fund-raising campaign for the construction of a new boathouse. The boathouse in Westover finally started taking shape in 1991 and was mostly constructed by the end of 1992. Eventually changes in the Business Landscape of Morgantown led General Woodworking to close, the property sold and MRA losing its home because it had never secured ownership to the ground in which the boathouse was located. The boathouse is now only a memory left in the minds of some of us and in the following images that detail the concept through construction of what amounted to a monumental community effort at the time.

John M. Duarte, 2013

1977 request to city for boathouse1 – 1990 mra boathouse project1 –

Thanks to Everyone who helped in making NLTR a great success

MRA N Learn to Row day_June1-2013

The Monongahela Rowing Association (MRA) wishes to thank all those who helped and participated in this year’s National Learn to Row day.

This year’s event, held last Saturday June 1st , at the Boathouse on the banks of the Monongahela, in the Morgantown Wharf district, was a great success.

The entire organization labored to make this such a successful day but in particular we are grateful to the 14 volunteers who spent the entire day attending to the visitors. This group included all current MRA Board Members [David Rosen, Mary E. Hannah, Jane Schupp, John Duarte], our at large Chair for NLTR day [Barbara Linn], 3 at large current members [Kelly Duarte, Lynn Clough, Adam Herrick], 2 former MRA members [Shelley Johnson, Dave Lang], the current student President of the WVU Men’s Crew Club [Adam Herrick],  and 4 current members of the WVU Women’s Collegiate Rowing Crew [Karen Verwey, Courtney Schrand, Sarah Taylor, Tiffany Hatcher].

56  people with no prior rowing experience registered on site to get on a rowing shell (boat) and take advantage of this incredible opportunity to experience rowing in Morgantown.

Participants ranged in ages from 7 years old to well into the 60s. At least one Morgantown City Council Member came to check out the activity and lingered around to talk with participants.

Our crew labored from 10am to almost  5pm to enable the crowd to safely experience what we call the magic of rowing. On the water there were opportunities to try rowing in a competition class 4+ and 8+ Sweep Shells, and also Single Sculling Shells.

The weather cooperated beautifully, the waters of the Monongahela were calm, and welcoming. There were no power boat disturbances, thanks to the no wake zone now in place on the Morgantown river front;   in essence we had the river to ourselves and the day was perfect allowing us to give the best  possible experience to those who came.

A dozen participants expressed a desire to take on rowing and the next Learn To Row class for novices has now been scheduled. Additional classes will be held as people register  and instructors are available. Membership is open to those interested in the sport of rowing.

Anyone interest in Learning to Row can contact us emailing to:

Registration is also open for Youth Rowing Crew, email: We encourage youth now entering 8th grade through 12th to explore this opportunity.

Welcome to MRA page

The Monongahela Rowing Association, Inc. (MRA) is a non-profit 501(c)3 member driven organization, dedicated to promoting education and active participation, in the sport of rowing for people of all ages in the Monongahela Valley. MRA is a member of US Rowing.

Membership in MRA is open to any individual who wishes to engage in the pursuit of the sport of rowing or wishes to support the long term goals of the organization.