Paddlers, rowers enjoy superb weather in Bird Island Challenge

Aug 11, 2013

Bright sunshine, temperatures in the 70s, and calm water combined to create an atmosphere that Bird Island Challenge participants called "perfect."

The 11th annual fundraiser for Wareham's Gleason Family YMCA, held Sunday, August 11, had paddlers and rowers choosing a 3-, 6-, or 13-mile course that began at Zecco Marine in Wareham and took participants to Long Beach in Wareham, Great Hill in Marion, or around Bird Island in Marion, and back to the marina.

"It was a very good turnout," said Jo-Ann Watson of the Gleason Family Y, noting that there were 55 participants. "It was a beautiful day on the water compared to last year, when we had a near hurricane," she joked.

Last year's weather was foggy and stormy, which made for choppy waters and prompted organizers to cancel the 13-mile race.

Mother Nature made up for it this year.

"The temperature, the wind… it was ideal," said Peter Olson of Carver, who rowed a canoe with friend Ed Halpin of Seekonk.

The pair took on the entire 13 miles.

"You just have to maintain a pace that you can continue," Olson said. "If you go too hard, you slow down."

Helping Olson and Halpin along, however, was a pair of rowers right on the canoe's stern.

"They kind of pushed us," Olson noted.

While Olson and Halpin enjoyed the racing aspect of the Bird Island Challenge, a rowing team for the Fairhaven-based Buzzards Bay Rowing Club had a different drive.

"It doesn't matter if we win or lose, as long as we look good," said Maryjane McManus, one of five female rowers on team Lorelai, which took the 3-mile course.

The ladies all donned matching lime-green shirts with a team logo that included a mermaid holding a glass of wine.

"That's our reputation," said Betty Medeiros, matter-of-factly.

The back of the shirts read, "Row hard, drink wine."

The ladies, some of whom have participated on teams in previous Bird Island Challenges, tend to wear matching shirts each year.

There wasn't any significance for this year's color choice, except, as Medeiros said: "We look good in it."

Hey, can't argue with that!

The Bird Island Challenge is an important event for the Gleason Y, located on Charge Pond Road in Wareham.

"All YMCAs give out financial aid to families or adults who can't afford our programs," explains Laura Prisco, executive director of the Gleason Y.

Last year, Wareham's Y gave out more than $300,000 in financial aid, but only raised $90,000 in funding for scholarships.

All fundraising events are efforts to close that gap, Prisco explained.

"One-hundred percent of your ticket price today goes to your financial aid fund," Prisco told the participants.

While weather is a big factor in ensuring the Bird Island Challenge goes off without a hitch, so are the event's volunteers.

Watson thanked the more than 25 people who helped Sunday's event go smoothly.

"We couldn't do it without them," she said.

For complete Bird Island Challenge results, click the link below!