Rowing club set to make waves in Port Jefferson

Rowing club set to make waves in Port Jefferson

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The beach over in Harborfront Park near where Robert Finke expects to launch their boats. Photo by Kyle Barr

A new rowing club is racing its way into Port Jefferson Harbor, and its coach is hoping to give high schoolers the first opportunity to get their hands on the oars.

Northport resident Robert Finke has been hard at work setting up a rowing club for residents and outside neighbors alike. The new coach of the rowing club sees the sport as wholly different than any other usual ball-based sport.

“It’s the ultimate team sport, but it’s hard to describe it without first doing it,” Finke said. “It’s you with eight people or four people or whatever boat you’re in, truly having to work together.” 

Starting out, the club will be hosting learn-to-row classes, which will take place at the beach in front of Harborfront Park starting April 15, with the first session going through April 19. Starting out, Finke and his two fellow coaches, the latter two working part time, will focus on young people in grades 9 through 12. Cost is $65 per person to row per session or $15 per child for an individual day, and he has a capacity of 65 to 80 kids per session. The second session is set for April 22 through 26, after which he plans to open up the club for rowers of all ages. Times are Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m.

Finke said he had been searching for a location all over the island, from the north to south shores. He settled on Port Jeff due to the harbor, it being shielded from most but the northerly winds, and because out of those he contacted, the town’s recreation department was very open to the idea.

“This is a great addition to Port Jefferson,” said Renée Lemmerman, the village recreation director. 

“It’s the ultimate team sport, but it’s hard to describe it without first doing it.”

— Robert Finke

Lemmerman was also excited by Finke’s past performance, him being an ex-coach of the Harvard University crew team, where he said he took several students who did not know about rowing and got them racing at a competitive level. While he raced crew at Rutgers University, he has also coached in schools in the Manhasset school district, and most recently, was a coach in the youth program in the Sagamore Rowing Association in Oyster Bay.

The new club is not the first crew to use the harbor as its training ground. The Stony Brook University Crew, the school’s rowing club, has used the harbor for training its members in the past as well, though Lemmerman said this is the first instance of having an official club for the Village of Port Jefferson.

The head rowing coach said plans for after the learn-to-row sessions are to start a 6-week spring youth season from May 1 through June 12 with day slots, one for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and another for Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Each will have two time slots, one for 3 to 4:30 p.m. and another for 5 to 6:30 p.m. He said once the groups have set a good rhythm, he plans to set it up to compete against other local clubs and schools.

The master’s program, for those above high school age, starts April 1 and goes until April 1, 2020. A yearly membership is $750 per person, and the deadline to register is April 20.

“In rowing, it’s the boat, everyone’s very dedicated to the boat,” Finke said. “Kids get exposed to me, me, me, Lebron James every day. Rowing is the exact opposite of that, the exact yang for ying. The more fun and culture you have in a rowing club, the faster you go.”