Port Rowing Conquers Unchartered Waters


The Port Rowing varsity crew team returned to the Head of the Charles Regatta this year with a new addition.

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Port Rowing Team members at Head of the Charles Inclusion Event. Rowers: A. Bluni, K. Melkonian, P. Rooney, M. Kessaris, coxswain S. Philipson and Assistant Coach A. Gregus.

Photo by: Port Rowing.

Port Washington, NY - December 14, 2016 - The Port Rowing varsity crew team returned to the Head of the Charles Regatta this year with a new addition. For the first time ever, the world-renowned regatta in Boston, Mass, hosted an inclusive event for rowers with intellectual disabilities. To compete in this category, Port Rowing sent a mixed inclusive boat comprised of 2 members from the varsity women’s team, a freshman coxswain and 2 male members of our adaptive rowing team to race.

Photo: Adaptive rower M. Kessaris races at Head of the Charles, Boston.

The competition was tough as the group went head to head with the gold medal winners from this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio. As the Port Rowing team pushed hard in the cold wind, the announcer commended them for their grit and determination noting that the youngest in the boat was only 16 years old, competing against some of rowing’s best athletes, proving to the world what CAN be done. 

Lisa Liberatore, a parent of an adaptive rower said, “It was an incredible feeling to see Michael participating in a world class event. Our family couldn't be prouder of Michael and Peter for their courage and for Port Rowing and Coach Michiel Bartman and Holly Byrne especially for enabling them to have this amazing experience.” 

This experience could not have happened without the months of preparation and dedication of the Port Rowing coaches and the volunteer mentors. The entire adaptive team, whose members are primarily teens on the autism spectrum, practiced regularly on Hempstead Harbor throughout the summer and fall utilizing the North Hempstead Beach Park facility where the Port Rowing boathouse is located. Participants in Port Rowing’s Adaptive program not only gain fitness, improve gross motor skills and rowing technique, but also participate in team building and partnership development. 

“The Port Rowing program has been a fabulous experience for the special needs population. In addition to improving health and fitness, the students get to enjoy being on the water in their community, and a special camaraderie with their boat mates. The opportunity of being in an inclusive boat at The Head of the Charles in Boston was beyond anything we could have imagined for our son. We are very grateful for the opportunity and for the coaches and peer volunteers who made it possible.” explained Julie Rooney, a parent of an adaptive rower from the inclusive boat. 

The rowing experience offers a unique physical outlet for teens on the autism spectrum. The cornerstone of the Port Rowing Adaptive program is the mentoring of a volunteer member of the varsity team paired with an adaptive rower both on the water and on land. The peer partnership results in all individuals growing as leaders, followers, and team members.  

About Port Rowing
Port Rowing provides multiple opportunities to participate in and benefit from the sport of rowing. Port Rowing is a no-cut, community program and welcomes all who are interested in learning to row. The participants come from over 7 villages within the Town of North Hempstead and represent 9 different high schools and middle schools. The mission of Port Rowing is to provide the platform to build a passion for the sport and for each rower to maximize his or her potential. Rowing is an opportunity to build endurance, personal ability, courage, strength and teamwork. At Port Rowing every rower discovers the powerful connections between themselves, their boat, their teammates, their community, and the surrounding waters of our town.

Upcoming Events
Registration is open for all winter training programs. Programs are available for middle school and high school aged rowers both with experience and beginners. Adult training is on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Port Rowing will host the annual Gold Coast Classic indoor regatta on Sunday, January 29, 2017 from 8 – 2 pm in the Schreiber High School Gymnasium, 101 Campus Drive, Port Washington. The indoor regatta will have events for novice and experienced adult, teen and college aged rowers, as well as an event for adaptive rowers. Participants must register. Spectators are free. Visit www.portrowing.org for details.