Making Weight is No Sweat…for Most

By Jenna Ciccotelli – Posted on October 21, 2017

Saturday, 7 a.m., breakfast time for many of the volunteers in the regatta’s Attager Row Athlete Central tent, but for some of the athletes entering for registration, breakfast would have had to wait a few minutes longer.

Lightweight rowers, who race in both men’s and women’s singles, doubles, fours and eights events over the course of the weekend, must meet strict weight requirements ahead of their races to qualify. Men must not exceed 165 pounds, with women limited to 133 pounds.

“The overall philosophy of the race is that people came to race and you want them to race,” said Bill Cummings, who has worked as chair of the Weigh-In Committee for 29 years. “But we can’t compromise the rules because if the guy next to him made a concerted effort to make weight and they didn’t, we can’t just let them try.”

Singles and doubles participants can begin weighing in on Friday, with team registration taking place Saturday.

The University of Colorado-Boulder eight was the second crew to weigh in Saturday, behind the United States’ Naval Academy. The team’s appearance at the weigh-in, and the Head of the Charles, was their first.

“We just started being a lightweight [crew], officially,” said Justin Goldt, a senior who began rowing in college and weighed in at 160 pounds. “We finally had the numbers, so it was really cool to put it all together and come here.”

Across the Attager Central tent, in line for the women’s weigh in, was Boston University’s lightweight crew. The Terriers were supplying two lightweight eight boats and two lightweight fours. One by one, the 24 rowers removed their shoes and shed their jackets and backpacks to take their turn on the scale. Of them, just one was over the 131 pound limit – by six ounces.

“That is a very hard situation,” Cummings said. “You’ve got seven kids ready to go, and there’s one person. And it’s an eight [person boat], so they can’t go with seven people.”

But the athlete, her coach and her teammates did not seem concerned, laughing and chatting amongst themselves as they gathered their belongings.

There is no limit to the amount of times a rower can weigh-in ahead of their scheduled race. If some rowers in boat are overweight, the only rowers that must weigh in again are those in question.

“She’ll probably just go for a quick 20 minute jog,” explained Alexis Belakovskiy, co-chair of the regatta’s Weigh-In Committee. “Point-4 [pounds] is not that bad. That could’ve just been the difference between her scale and our scale, she was probably spot on at home. Our scales are really sensitive, they’re top of the line scales. It’s surprising that out of 24 girls, that one girl [was over].”

Hillary Saeger and Jillian Zieff, competitors out of Cambridge’s Riverside Boat Club, weighed in Saturday for the women’s championship doubles and lightweight singles events. Zieff, who weighed in a pound and a half under the limit, laughed as she described a year-round diet of simple foods including eggs and yogurt that her “body can process really easily.”

“It’s just a conscious effort, continuously,” Saeger added. “It’s not like a huge burden if you just kind of keep it clean and simple.”

While Zieff and Saeger make prepping for a lightweight race sound easy, other competitors are not always so lucky.

A rower who had traveled from France to race in the women’s lightweight singles category sat on the platform beside the scale with her head in her hands, desperately begging weigh-in officials to let her strip naked in hopes she could cut the four pounds necessary to make weight ahead of her afternoon race. The volunteers apologized and explained she must be wearing, at the very least, her race singlet.

“We’ve had some people that lost too much weight, but they made it,” Cummings reflected. “They were vegetables the next day. There was an attempt to set a rule that you couldn’t lose more than three or four pounds but I don’t think that was ever implemented.”

The rower gathered her layers of bulky clothes that had been sprawled across the floor and left the tent, distraught. The group of volunteers manning the scale looked at each other and shrugged, offering solutions they had heard from athletes in years past.

Rowing an erg for an hour.

Jogging, or even sprinting, a lap or two around the course despite the unseasonably warm afternoon.

Chugging Pedialyte.

Locking oneself in a Porta-Potty clad in sweatshirts and sweatpants, embracing the darkness and warmth and performing squats or sit-ups.

And above all else, coming back and trying again later.