When it comes to the St. Peter’s Fiesta’s Seine Boat races, the key is to peak during the championship race.
The Merger admittedly did not have its best races during Wednesday’s elimination round and Saturday’s qualifying race, but they put forth a colossal performance when it mattered most.
The Merger, which is a merged crew consisting of members of the Giacalone and Morrissey families, blew away the field during Sunday’s final, grabbing an early lead and extending it the rest of the way to win the 2017 championship in one of the most impressive performances the sport has seen.
“As a coach I didn’t allow the guys to transition enough during Saturday’s race,” Coxswain Vito Giacalone said. “I thought we were doing a row away when we got a boat and some open water and it backfired on us because I burned our guys out. But we still won that race so I was confident today. We were the fastest crew on every stroke and we just kept extending our lead after we got it.”
A more relaxed and consistent stroke helped the Merger blow away two strong crews. The champs finished the race with a time of 9:18, 22 seconds ahead of second place Iron Will, which turned in a time of 9:40, the same time it turned in on Saturday when it lost to the Merger by less than a half boat. Last year’s champ, Forz’e Furia, finished third.
“We felt that if we toned it down and stayed controlled today we would be good,” said Mike Mitchell, the lone rower on the crew that is not a member of the Giacalone or Morrissey family. “We just have to peak on Sunday. We’ve all been on crews that have peaked on Saturday and couldn’t get it going on Sunday. This year we were able to have our best race on Sunday.”
All three crews got off to a fast start, but it was evident that it was the Merger’s day shortly thereafter.
About a third of the way to the flag, which sits one half mile off of Pavilion Beach, the Merger broke out to a slight lead. But by the time the teams approached the flag, the Merger had the lead up to two boats. Scuttler Joe Balbo made a slick turn of the flag and as the Merger transitioned back into its stroke to head back to the beach, Iron Will and Forz’e Furia were just starting to turn.
“It was just a constant, incremental inching,” Giacalone said. “There were no moves, I just looked at what our strengths were on Saturday and we transitioned into our stroke early. I believed that if we were rowing ten oars we would win.”
The Merger continued to extend its lead on the way back and by the time the champs hit the beach, the lead was at least five boat lengths.
“We jumped out to a lead and I kept thinking to myself ‘when are they going to make their move,’” Mitchell said. “But we ended up making the moves. We had a great turn and then we just turned it on.”
Dirty Oars repeats
Dirty Oars turned in their second straight Men’s Junior Seine Boat championship in impressive fashion on Sunday.
Dirty Oars, the 2016, champs, got a bye into Sunday’s championship race along with the Wise Guys, last year’s second place finisher, and Havoc, Saturday’s qualifying race winner.
It was a two boat race most of the way with Dirty Oars holding off a Wise Guys crew that was up to the task. The 2016 and now 2017 champs then opened up the lead to about two boats and maintained that edge to the beach.
With a second straight championship, Dirty Oars has two options. The team can move up to seniors, which is customary for two-time winners in junior seine boats, or go for three junior titles in a row.