By Nick Curcuru
---- — GLOUCESTER — Normally Saturday’s men’s qualifying seine boat field has been set after Wednesday’s elimination races. But this year’s elimination races were nothing but normal.
Two crews, Vincent Orlando’s crew (winning Wednesday crews will all be named on Saturday) and 2009-2011 champion Kaos punched their ticket to Saturday’s qualifying race at Pavilion Beach (4:45 p.m.) with resounding wins, but three other crews still have to race this afternoon after a controversial start to Wednesday’s races.
The first heat of the afternoon pitted Andy Orlando’s veteran crew against a pair of young crews led by Paul Giacalone and Billy Edmonds, and it did not take long for the controversy to set in.
Both Andy Orlando and Giacalone had their hands raised to signify that their crews are ready to begin the heat and the race appeared to have started. But there was one problem, Edmonds had not yet raised his hands indicating his crew was ready to start. The other two crews took off and continued to row hard as they could not hear the cries from shore to start the race over and Edmonds’ squad, which consists of young rowers who just moved up from juniors, was left at the beach.
Andy Orlando and Giacalone’s crews went on to complete the race with Orlando’s squad coming away with the win by just over a boat. But the two crews were greeted with a surprise at the finish line that the race did not count because Edmonds never put up his hands to start the race.
The news set off a heated discussion as Andy Orlando’s crew and Edmonds’ crew were rightfully upset, and in the end it was ruled that the three crews will do battle again this afternoon with the winner meeting Vincent Orlando’s gang and Kaos on Saturday. The top two finishers on Saturday will move on to Sunday’s championship race to meet defending champ Closing Time, who edged the Wharf Rats and Kaos in the closest race in the sports’ history last year.
“It was a false start,” said Anthony Saputo, Fiesta Committee Member who was on the beach. “They are now going to race (today). It was the only fair way to do it.”
The second heat saw the Wharf Rats, last year’s runner up, square off with Vincent Orlando’s Crew and Rising Tide, a combination of the top two junior crews from last year.
After a clean start Vincent Orlando’s gang took a slim lead heading out to the flag and opened it up to two boats by the time it hit the turning flag, which sits one half mile off of Pavilion Beach. From there Orlando’s experienced crew turned it on extending its lead to more than five boats by the time it crossed the finish line.
Some on the beach considered the margin of victory a surprise given the performance from the Wharf Rats last year, but Orlando was not one of them.
“I wasn’t surprised at all, this is a great crew,” Orlando said. “We did everything well today from start to finish. Whoever we see on Sunday we are going to give a tough race.”
The last race of the day saw Kaos square off with Anthony Saputo’s crew and the former five time champs, who won three straight from 2009-2011, looked like a crew that was hungry to get back into the winners’ circle.
Kaos opened up an early lead after a good start from both crews and turned it on from there winning comfortably in the most dominant performance of the afternoon.