Like thousands of seashore residents, the Holy Spirit High School girls and boys crew teams felt the effects of Hurricane Sandy in late October.
Other nearby crew teams escaped with less damage, but the Spartans are still recovering as the new season approaches. The first event of the crew season is scheduled for March 17 in Philadelphia.
The storm flooded the Holy Spirit girls boathouse at the Brigantine Rowing Club, causing damage to some boats. The Spartans boys team, based at the Viking Rowing Club in Ventnor Heights, lost four motors that power the coaching boats that are used to follow the crews in practice.
Crew teams need a lot of equipment for racing, training, transportation, storage and safety.
"A couple days after the storm, Gary Baca (a Holy Spirit girls assistant coach) and I went to the boathouse (in Brigantine) and we had to get in through a window," Holy Spirit girls crew coach Joe Welsh said last week. "It was a mess. Everything ... work benches and oars were all over the place. The water level moved the boats off their racks and a couple were damaged."
The Holy Spirit boys crew shares the Viking Rowing Club, not only with the Viking members, but with the Mainland Regional and Egg Harbor Township boys and girls teams. Despite having four motors ruined by the flood, the Spartans had no serious damage to their boats.
"We were lucky that we rowed in Philly the Saturday before the storm," said Mike Giegerich, Holy Spirit's first-year boys coach. "We parked our trailer with the boats at the high school (in Absecon), so they were fine. We also had Egg Harbor Township and Mainland boats on our trailer."
Welsh wasn't sure what the overall repair cost would be for the girls team but estimated that the boats received almost $10,000 in damage. He also estimated that the damage to the boathouse, with tools and equipment ruined, will be at least $10,000 more.
Giegerich said that new 9.9-horsepower motors will cost about $2,200 apiece.
Ed Rehill, the president of the Brigantine Rowing Club and also a Spartans girls assistant coach, took two Holy Spirit boats and three of his club boats to Camden for repairs. The Spartans' boats had holes in the hulls, and one had a broken bow.
One of those two Holy Spirit boats was used by the Spartans' girls lightweight eight, the area's most successful crew last season. The lightweight eight rowed to victory at the Stotesbury Cup and the Nationals in 2012.
"When the water came in the boathouse, the boats on the bottom racks were pushed up against the racks above them, and were damaged," Welsh said. "A few days later we organized a boathouse cleadup, and the team and the coaches threw out some equipment. We'll have to replace some things and restock the boathouse."
Following the storm, the Spartans girls team had to cancel scheduled trips to row in Philadelphia and Tennessee.
"I keep telling the kids that it's only equipment, and that the boathouse is still there," Welsh said. "It's a little inconvenient, but we'll just collect ourselves and regroup. It's lucky it happened at that time of the year. If it was now, it might end the season."
The Spartans girls team held an art auction fundraiser on Feb. 22 at the high school to raise money for the program.
"We got some money from the fundraiser. We'll have to borrow some money from our regular fundraisers (to pay for the boat repairs), but we'll be fine," Welsh said.
The Holy Spirit boys team held a beef and beer fundraiser last Saturday at McGettigan's 19th Hole in Galloway Township. Giegerich said the fundraiser was successful, and that the team will order engines soon.
"We're going to have to buy new engines because used ones would only be $500 cheaper," Giegerich said.
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