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Monday, December 22, 2014, 8:16 a.m.
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Organizers convene to plan club for rowers

By Celia Storey

This article was published August 4, 2014 at 2:34 a.m.

staff-photo-by-maura-friedmanchattanooga-times-free-press-november-02-2013-a-team-races-under-the-market-street-bridge-at-the-head-of-the-hooch-rowing-regatta-a-major-rowing-competition-co-hosted-by-the-atlanta-rowing-club-and-the-lookout-rowing-club-off-of-rosss-landing-on-saturday-in-chattanooga-tenn

Staff Photo by Maura Friedman/Chattanooga Times Free Press November 02, 2013 A team races under the Market Street Bridge at the Head of the Hooch Rowing Regatta, a major rowing competition co-hosted by the Atlanta Rowing Club and the Lookout Rowing Club, off of Ross's Landing on Saturday in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Progress made by the Arkansas Boathouse Club has inspired a small group of rowing enthusiasts in Russellville who want to bring the sport of crew rowing to Lake Dardanelle.

As the 9-year-old rowing club in North Little Rock prepares to host its first national head race -- the Six Bridges Regatta on Aug. 30 -- proponents of a Russellville Rowing Club held their first public meeting Tuesday at the Train Depot.

"We had about 30 people," says Steve Newby, who with fellow Russellville residents Priscilla and Benjamin Stiles is trying to form a club.

Newby, a professional photographer, says the hour-long meeting included a PowerPoint presentation, a demonstration of the rowing stroke using an ergometer (rowing machine), a few 9-foot oars and some handouts. And the leaders announced their goal:

"We're going to be a 501(c)3 nonprofit; our bylaws will be drawn up from another local club -- we'll just stamp them out. We'll formally form a club which will entail officers and insurance, things like that," Newby said.

"The first and most important thing is getting a boat and equipment," said Priscilla Stiles, a speech and language therapist who rowed crew when she was a student at the University of Rhode Island. "A boat and a dock, I think, will be the first two most essential things -- and oars, obviously."

At the meeting, organizers talked about the inlet of Illinois Bayou on Lake Dardanelle, which they notice has calm, open water and a triangular course "just perfect" for rowing in an eight-person boat -- which is the first item the would-be club mates hope to acquire.

An eight-person rowing shell can be 60 feet long.

"I know Steve has a site in mind for a dock, but in terms of storage, we don't have a specific spot yet," Stiles said. "But even if we just had someone who graciously allowed us to keep it up in their yard, we would take them up on the offer just to get started.

"It's kind of about baby steps at this time."

Although a new vessel that size can cost $30,000, second-, third- or fourth-hand boats are readily available and less expensive.

"There's going to be a lot of having to raise funds and get money and support," Stiles said, "but I really feel like once we have a boat and get people on the water, that will pique their interest. I think if they look out on the water and see a row boat, people are going to want to know what that is all about."

Newby learned about rowing from the North Little

Rock club, and although he's no longer a member there, he and the Stileses have volunteered to help during the Six Bridges Regatta.

Priscilla Stiles rowed on the junior varsity team at Rhode Island, an NCAA Division 1 crew.

"When I moved here to Russellville about four years ago -- I grew up on the East Coast in Rhode Island -- that was one of the things I missed the most," she said. "For me it was a really big time in my life. It was probably one of the hardest things I've done but also really fun, and so I've missed it.

"There's a just perfect body of water here and also a lot of people who are enthusiastic in Russellville in terms of fitness and health and wellness."

She sees rowing as a good fit for Russellville.

Newby said attendees at the meeting volunteered to create a Facebook page under the title "Russellville Rowing Club" and to begin work on a website.

There was a lot of laughter, Newby said, when the PowerPoint show ended with a clip of actor Hugh Laurie, who rowed crew at Cambridge University, explaining the sport to talk show host Craig Ferguson:

"It's a miserable sport," Laurie says in the video clip. "Absolutely miserable. I will say, though, that the great thing about it is there's nothing like winning a rowing race. No, winning a rowing race is not like winning anything else. It's an intense ... Well, here's my theory. My theory is that you're facing backwards. So you see -- you're looking at the people you're beating."

Tuesday's meeting ended with a decision to get together again Aug. 12, but they didn't have the meeting place pegged down last week. Interested people can look online for the group's new Facebook page or the Facebook page of the Arkansas Boathouse Club, or they can call Newby at (479) 699-5634.

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