Organizers say the 19th annual collegiate and high school rowing event will go on.
“We’re praying for a little warm rain, warm weather — and, hopefully, the ice breaks up by next Friday,” said Grand Valley State University head rowing coach John Bancheri. “If it doesn’t, maybe we could talk to somebody with a steel hull to take one lap to open it up for us and help Mother Nature speed up the process.”
Right now, there is still 12-14 inches of ice capping the water in front of the Spring Lake Yacht Club in Ferrysburg, where the race is staged, according to Willis Kerridge, owner of Fish On Bait & Tackle in Crockery Township. Kerridge said there’s about a 50/50 chance the ice will clear before next week’s events, which include a free “learn to row” clinic on Friday and collegiate and high school races on Saturday and Sunday.
“If we keep getting these cold nights, that middle ice isn’t going to deteriorate, but rain and wind will eat the ice up pretty fast,” Kerridge said. “They’ve got a shot, but I’ve got to believe it’s going to be a little iffy at best.”
Bancheri — speaking Friday from a hotel room in California, where the GVSU women’s team is competing in the San Diego Classic — said if Spring Lake ice continues to cling, the Lubbers Cup will move to the Grand River channel in Grand Haven, with staging at Harbor Island. But the problem with that is, there’s not enough space for the full 2,000-meter race.
“If God doesn’t will it and we can’t find somebody with a steel hull to do us a favor, then we’ll run the course downtown right along the boardwalk, going upstream,” Bancheri said.
But that stretch of water only affords a 1,400-foot straight-line course from the Coast Guard station past Chinook Pier.
“All the coaches want to go 2,000 meters because that’s what the kids are trained for,” Bancheri explained. “But the show will go on. These kids are trained in perseverance. You learn to respect the elements first, then to deal with them as best you can with the resources and abilities that you have.”
Last year’s event tested that endurance and perseverance. Cold temperatures, high winds and rough seas forced organizers to shorten the course midway through the event.
If Spring Lake does accommodate the race, but seas grow rough, Bancheri said rowers will run out of Smith’s Bayou, west of the Spring Lake Yacht Club.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.
Visit www.grandvalleyrowing.com for more information about the Lubbers Cup.