The racing shells are long and narrow. The seats slide back and forth and rower’s shoes are often fastened to the adjustable foot rests so they won’t slip. Because of their low freeboard they can be easily swamped by wind and waves. So it is customary to have a safety boat accompany them when they are out on the water. Terryl Asla/Kitsap News Group

Clam Island Junior Rowers learning what it takes to win

SILVERDALE — In only their second competitive outing, high school rowers from the Clam Island Rowing Club made a strong showing at the at the Spring Sprints Invitational at Lake Stevens on April 8.

The Clam Island Rowing Club for adults started in 2013; the high school program was introduced in 2015 as a recreational program. This year, the decision was made to have the co-ed junior rowers enter competitions against other junior rowing clubs in the region, when Dane Sellers, who had competed on the collegiate level, volunteered to coach them.

“I loved my rowing days. This is my way of paying it forward,” he said.

The co-ed team, made up of four females and two males from Kitsap high schools, rows out of the Port of Silverdale. The Clam Island Rowing Club stores its racing shells and oars in a fenced area next to the Port of Silverdale offices, which means that sometimes the most exciting part of the experience is trying to carry the 30- or 40-foot fiberglass racing shells across busy Byron Street to the beach for launching.

In their first team outing at the Vashon Island regatta earlier this year, the novice Clam Island juniors got their first taste of what it takes to row against other teams.

“They were competitive,” Sellers said. “Afterwards, they were fired up to go out and do better.”

‘Wild winds’

Rowing shells are long and narrow, and their hulls have less than a foot of freeboard above the water, so they are particularly vulnerable to wind and waves. Strong winds and waves on Dyes Inlet made it impossible for the team to practice on the water the week before the Spring Sprints Invitational. Equally strong cross winds on Lake Stevens the day of the invitational also made it “a wild weekend,” Sellers reported.

Consequently, Clam Island junior rowers only competed in two races.

With a strong cross wind, the regatta officials decided to shorten the course from 2,000 to 1,000 meters. Matthew Nielson, the men’s novice single (meaning only one rower), was the first race of the day. Because of high winds, Nielson was still getting his point when the race started and was last off the line. By the half way mark, he had passed two other boats and was pulling closer to the leader. In the last 100 meters, he was dead even with the boat from Eastside Preparatory School, but ended up getting edged out by 0.58 seconds (4:38.40 to 4:38.98).

The women’s novice four had to be rescheduled to the final race of the day because of a conflict in race times. Because of an injury to rower Brooke Organ, 17, a CKHS Running Start student, the team had borrow a rower from South Kitsap High School.

Winds had only picked up throughout the day and regatta officials shortened the races even more, so crews were now racing 650 meters. Set to duel South Kitsap High School at the start, Clam Island’s team had trouble getting their point down the course and ended up being blown into the shore line on several occasions — the most significant incident resulting in having to completely stop the boat with 100 meters to go.

Clam Island crossed the line 9.43 seconds behind SK (3:17.26 to 3:26.69).

“Obviously, we are disappointed with some of the results but there were a lot of positives that we can take away from this experience,” Coach Seller said.

“Both racing lineups made significant gains in their technical ability and their fitness in the month between the first race and this past weekend. Each boat showed great potential during their races and an increase in speed.

“For Matthew, it was great to see him overcome a slow start and work his way back into contention. The result produced the highest finish in Clam Island’s racing history and can be a springboard for races to come.

“In the girls race, I was proud of the way they rowed and their relentless drive to keep pulling back into the race. It is disappointing when outside factors, whether it be the weather or an injury, play a role in the outcome of racing, but I know this is something we can all learn from and use to motivate us further. The way the girls rowed and their drive leaves no doubt in my mind that we will start to see even more success in the future.”

He added, “This year is all about building a culture for the club. These rowers have started to buy in and we are going to start seeing the benefits soon. Each day these athletes come down to practice and give everything they have and more. Each day we push the limits to what they believe they are capable of doing.

“We have a tight-knit group of rowers and I am proud of each of them for the team they are building, the rowers they are developing into, and the culture they are starting. They are the foundation for what this club is going to grow into and I cannot wait to see the successes they have the remainder of this season and in seasons to come.”


Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at

Girls pushing off the dock before their race on Lake Stevens. Line up (from front to back): Allison Burns (14, CKHS), Robbi Koenen (17, SKHS), Addie Talbot (17, CKHS Running Start), Anna Moore (16 CKHS), Elizabeth Simmons (18, KSS). Dane Sellers/Clam Island Rowing club

Girls row up to the starting line before their race. From front, Allison Burns, Central Kitsap High School; Robbi Koenen, South Kitsap High School; Addie Talbot, CKHS Running Start; Anna Moore, CKHS. Not visible: Coxswain Elizabeth Simmons, Klahowya, lying down in the bow calling the cadence. Brooke Organ / Clam Island Rowing Club

Matthew Nielson rowing in after second place finish in Men’s Novice (1x). Dane Sellers/Clam Island Rowing club

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