Ssaugatuck Rowing Club Pulls Together In Pandemic

The boats are out of the water. The Boathouse restaurant has served only curbside and takeout meals. Yet despite the pandemic, the Saugatuck Rowing Club has been almost as busy as ever.

In true rise-to-the-challenge fashion, as soon as management realized closure was imminent, they reacted. They created website with a video library and daily livestream and Zoom classes.

Members had a choice: continue paying dues (if possible) for access to the “virtual club” site, or freezing their membership. Paying dues would allow the club to continue paying staff. Over 50 employees are being paid during the shudown, thanks to many members and owner Howard Winklevoss.

Saugatuck Rowing Club (Drone photo/Ward French)

US Rowing cancelled all regattas through June, which devastated dozens of young rowers. Parents had paid all racing fees in advance. But instead of requesting refunds, they donated the entire sum — $12,000 — to Feed the Frontline, a program that supports healthcare and other essential employees, while providing work to area restaurants.

Of course, like many restaurants The Boathouse at Saugatuck Rowing Club was  itself struggling. After reading an “06880” story about meal trains — SRC’s Diana Kuen had an idea: give food directly to Norwalk Hospital.

She sent an email to club members. In 3 days she raised over $8,500 — enabling The Boathouse to prepare 160 meals a week for the hospital.

Delivering Boathouse meals to Norwalk Hospital.

Kuen thanks the Saugatuck Rowing Club’s generous members — and the greater Westport community — for their contributions of over $20,000 to help feed healthcare workers, and keep local restaurants (including their own) afloat.

As for rowing itself: That’s continuing too (virtually). The 5-straight national champion junior girls and other teams are training on their own at home. Many have their own indoor machines. For those who do not, the club lent 65 ergometer rowing machines, and 12 erg bikes.

Ahead: next month’s online national event.

Meanwhile, with Connecticut restaurants reopening, The Boathouse offers outdoor dining. The view is great.

And — because privately owned boats are allowed on the water — you’ll see the welcome sight of rowers gracefully (and powerfully) plying the river once again.

The Saugatuck Rowing Club has weathered the pandemic. As always, everyone there is a winner.

(For a free 3-day pass to the Saugatuck Rowing Club’s online workout library and livestreams, click here. Questions? Email dkuen@saugatuckrowing.com)

A welcome sight. (Photo/Diana Kuen)

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