Saturday, June 26, 2004

Look, a Saturday update!

They still haven't found the missing crew coach, who I didn't know personally. The article in the Washington Post this morning has some new information as well as several misconceptions.

    Catilo's motorboat carried a cushion that served as a flotation device, but no life vests were available for him or the eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade students he was overseeing, Durham said. Catilo was not required to wear a life vest as he coached. All students and coaches involved in the program are required to be able to swim, school officials said.

    Durham said his department will conduct an investigation to determine why oars were the only flotation devices available to the rowers on their scull.

    "An oar is not an acceptable flotation device by Coast Guard boating safety regulations," Durham said.

    Two weeks ago, the D.C. Council passed legislation that requires children age 13 and younger to wear life vests aboard a vessel unless they are inside a cabin, Durham said. The law applies to any watercraft on D.C. waters, he said.

Misconception #1: The coach may not have been required to wear a life vest by regulations, but crew coaches have always worn life vests in their launches. In my five years of crew, the only driver or passenger in a coach's launch not required to have a life vest was the Coach Yeich's dog, Killian.

Misconception #2: The purpose of crew is to go fast on the water, which is why rowers, like swimmers, don't wear life vests. If a coxswain that weighs ten fewer pounds is enough to greatly reduce drag on the boat, what would nine life vests do? If I recall correctly, the swim test required to do crew in my day was to get thrown in the river or a pool fully clothed and be able to kick off your shoes and swim a certain distance.

Misconception #3: Durham has probably never rowed crew in his life. A rowboat oar may not be an acceptable flotation device, but a scull oar is a good nine feet long and weighs more than I do. If my scull were hit by a nuclear attack, I would be comfortable using a scull oar as a flotation device, since rowing takes place on a river and not an ocean. I don't think I've ever seen a rower with additional flotation devices, since the entire boat is fabricated out of floating materials.

Misconception #4: If the accident occurred at the marina, the boats were in Virginia waterspace, not D.C. Alexandria crew boats rarely venture into D.C. waterspace, though they occasionally cross into Maryland.

I know that the Washington Post is a bleeding heart liberal newspaper, but the article makes it sound like crew is a catastrophe waiting to happen, when a more responsible angle might have just been to note that it was an unfortunate accident where the coach might have been better off wearing a vest.

I've been thrown in that river numerous times without a vest, and I'm no worse for the wear.

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