Winning Never Gets Old

Chuck Cook defends his Senior Vets title.

By Aneri Pattani – Posted on October 17, 2015

While many senior scullers are content to simply get out on the water and enjoy an early morning workout, 71-year-old Chuck Cook is always determined to stomp the competition.

Cook, who successfully defended his title in Men’s Senior Veteran Singles race at the Head Of The Charles Regatta, relished his victory Saturday morning, rowing the windy course in 21:29.

He is not alone. Many of the scullers in the Senior Veteran (70+) and Grand Veteran (80+) races thrive on competition. While some tend to slow down with age, these scullers are determined to fight for their victories. The thought of taking it easy doesn’t even cross their minds.

“I don’t want to say [winning] is everything, but within the context of rowing, it’s everything,” Cook said.

His excitement stems from the fact that Cook cherishes the competitive aspect of the regatta.

“It’s not just participating. It’s competing,” he explained. “I like the Head Of The Charles because I get to test myself against the best group of rowers all year.”

Cook trains for the entire year leading up to the Regatta and follows a specific routine the morning of the race in order to prepare himself. Having a set warmup helps keep his “mind in the boat” so that he can focus on winning and give it his all.

“I’ve been competitive all my life,” he said. “Once I start something, I can’t bring myself to do it in a mediocre way. I can’t bring myself to do anything less than empty the tank.”

While Cook admits that it takes him longer to recover each year, he can’t reconcile himself to the idea of slowing down.

He is not alone.

Chris Collins, who has participated in every Head of the Charles since 1994 and placed first in the Grand Veterans age group Saturday, has no plans of putting down his scull anytime soon.

“I don’t want to quit,” he said. “As long as I’m able, I’m going to keep rowing.”

The 82-year-old rowed the course in 23:43 seconds, marking his seventh victory in the single sculler race.

For some senior scullers, competition is food for the soul.

Lauette Rindlaub checks her line coming into the Eliot Bridge.

Eighty-one-year-old Laurette Rindlaub has participated in the Head Of The Charles for 22 years, and returns each year to feed her hunger and push herself to improve.

“If it wasn’t for the race coming up, I might lose my will power,” she said. “Knowing that it’s coming keeps me going. It’s good for my body and good for my soul.”

Rindlaub, the defending champion in the women’s Grand Veteran’s race, finished second to Eve Green of Saugatuck Saturday, in a time of 36:51 Saturday.

While Rindlaub is not sure how long her rowing career will continue, she is confident that she will return to the Head Of The Charles every year that she is able. For her, the competition and the atmosphere of the race is an inextricable component of the sport.

The same can be said of Harriet Cuyler, the defending champion in the women’s Senior Vets race, who finished third on Saturday behind Catherine Kemper of the San Diego Rowing Club and Barbara Hogan of Carnegie Lake. Even after competing in the Head of the Charles for more than 12 years, Cuyler still feels a rush of adrenaline every time she gets out on the water.

“It’s fun to navigate the course, especially the curve going up to the Cambridge Boat Club through Eliot Bridge,” she said. “I think that’s the most exciting part.”

For many of these scullers, one victory is not enough. In the case of 85-year-old Richard Kendall, even 13 first-place medals

Richard Kendall in his Penn letter sweater.

aren’t enough to quench his thirst for competition.

Kendall, who has been participating in the regatta since 1991, is always aiming to improve his skill and learn more.

“It’s an easy game to learn the fundamentals, but a tough game to master,” he said.

Kendall pays homage to the place where he learned the fundamentals by wearing his college varsity sweater to the Head Of The Charles each year. The maroon University of Pennsylvania sweater still fits, more than 60 years later, and Kendall proudly displays his varsity letter on the center.

He plans to continue doing his alma mater proud for many years to come.

“I race in the Head of the Charles because I’m competitive,” Kendall said. “I’m going to compete as long as I can qualify.”


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