Arlington rower medals at Masters Regionals

Ben McIsaac rows a single at the Sound Rowers Rat Island Regatta in Port Townsend, Wash. - Courtesy Photo
Ben McIsaac rows a single at the Sound Rowers Rat Island Regatta in Port Townsend, Wash.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

VANCOUVER — A local man has spent more than a decade perfecting his skills as a competitive rower and his hard work paid off on Sunday, June 23, when he took home a silver medal from the Northwest Masters Regionals rowing competition in Vancouver, B.C.

Ben McIsaac, of Arlington, began recreational rowing when he joined the Lake Stevens Rowing Club in 2003.

“I worked construction and I met an electrician named Scott Holmgren who was putting together a small rowing team in Lake Stevens,” said McIsaac. “He kept bugging me until I finally came down and tried it out.”

McIsaac was no stranger to the water, having fished since he was a child and spent time canoeing local rivers.

“That’s actually how the conversation started,” he said. “Scott had a boat rack on his truck that I didn’t recognize. I was already into canoeing and getting out on the water and spending time on the Stillaguamish River and Skagit River.”

He joined the Lake Stevens Rowing Club, where he practiced with other new members for one full year before he felt “competition ready.”

“The first thing I noticed was that the boats were really long and skinny. It took some time getting used to a boat that is uncomfortable, and after that it was learning how to row properly. Anyone can put an oar in the water, but it takes a lot to put an oar in the water and go fast, and not kill yourself doing it. It’s a lot of learning and practicing all the time, and it took a while to be race ready.”

Admittedly, his first race was not his best.

“I remember that one of the guys said, ‘Well, at least you participated,’” he laughed. “After the first race, we weren’t really competing yet. It took three or four races to start being competitive.”

McIsaac practices every Saturday and Sunday morning, year round, even in the winter.

“The winter is actually the best time to row because the water is flat and there are no skiers or boats on the water,” he said. “This time of year, rowing is a lot more difficult because there are a lot more people on the water. There are a lot of nice winter birds and fog and snow on the mountains. It’s just really nice in the winter.”

The practicing has certainly paid off for McIsaac, who has competed in a number of races and has “a pretty good bunch” of medals and trophies.

In 2008, McIsaac and a few other local rowers started the North Cascade Crew, that also practices on Lake Stevens. Rowing competitions held in the springtime are similar to a track meet, where rowers are lined up and race 1,000-meters to the finish line.

“In the fall, it’s almost like a cross country race,” said McIsaac. “It’s a longer distance and usually takes you around buoys or around the lake, down in the river, or in Puget Sound. They are usually closer to three to six miles. They are very exciting and they wear you out.”

Although he has competed at the Masters Regionals before, and even won gold medals in the past, he still gets a little nervous anticipation before each race.

“Well, I get a little nervous the week before the race. I try not to think about it, though. As a working man, you never train as much as you wish you had,” he said.

It seemed that he had trained enough for this race, as he finished just shy of first place on what he called the “a beautiful day for rowing” — 70 degrees and overcast.

“I felt really super tired, but at the same time I didn’t know what place I was in,” said McIsaac, of crossing the finish line. “I knew I had a big smile on my face.”

He and fellow North Cascades Crew members had competed against 47 clubs from eight states and two countries in the Northwest Masters Regionals, the largest regional regatta in the United States.

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