Benefield: Petaluma rowers thwarted by crash at Boston regatta

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A late-race crash derailed a potential top-20 finish for the North Bay Rowing Club’s women’s varsity four boat racing in the prestigious Head of the Charles regatta in Boston on Sunday.

Slowed by the crash, and assessed a one-minute safety violation penalty, the team finished 64th out of 85 boats.

“The end result is not the full story,” said Will Whalen, head of the junior program of the Petaluma-based North Bay Rowing Club.

The boat, featuring Shannon Gallup and Jordyn Brounstein, both juniors at Casa Grande High School; Mackenna Bortells, a senior at Petaluma High; Natasha Kinmont, a senior at Analy, and Sophia Falls, the coxswain and a sophomore at Sonoma Valley High, started the race 74th out of 85 boats.

“They had a great race,” Whalen said. “They were doing very, very well.”

“We’d already passed a bunch of boats,” he said.

With about a half mile to go, the course veered sharply to the left and led racers under a bridge. In front of the NBRC boat two other vessels collided.

“We couldn’t make the turn so we ran into them,” Whalen said.

Referees determined that the Petaluma boat could have avoided the collision in front of it and issued a time penalty.

“Assuming no crash? We were top 20,” Whalen said.

Even with the stop mid-race after the collision and clashed oars, the boat finished with a raw time that would have put them in 32nd place, Whalen said. But with the penalty tacked on, they sank to 64th.

“It was an extremely frustrating result for a huge amount of preparation,” he said.

The team also fell out of automatically qualifying for next year’s Head of the Charles, a race established in 1965 and which drew an estimated 400,000 people over the weekend.

The next race for boats from the Petaluma club is the Head of the American Regatta Saturday at Lake Natoma in Folsom.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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