WITH SLIDESHOW: Childhood friends win 12th Rochester Memorial Day Boat Race

By Georgia Sparling | May 28, 2012
Photo by: Georgia Sparling Sean Shaw and C.J. Hedges have been friends since age 2 and wanted to win one last race together this year.

Rochester — With 11 wins and the race record, lifelong friends C.J. Hedges IV and Sean Shaw got their twelfth win at this year’s Rochester Memorial Day Boat Race.

Started in 1934 by Rochester resident Jim Hartley as a 4-H project, the race has become a tradition for many area boaters each year.

The “Mattapoisett River Racers,” as the boats are called, are in the style of canoes, must be homemade and can come in any size.

This year, 75 teams competed in the timed race on Monday, May 28, which race Chair Arthur Benner said ranges between 10 and 12 miles.

And while some teams were just in it for fun, Hedges and Shaw were in it to win it.

“The people that are serious about it practice two or three times a week, depending on the water level,” Benner said. “Some go every other day. Others will just show up Monday, do it once and put the boat away until next year.”

Although Hedges moved to Connecticut a few years ago, he and Shaw practice 12 to 18 times a season in preparation for the race.

“If you want to be competitive with it and place well, it’s demanding,” Shaw said.

“It’s more of an extreme sport. If you want to just go down, you can have a fun enjoyable day, but you don’t get the bragging rights.”

Starting at Grandma Hartley’s Reservoir in Rochester and ending at Mattapoisett’s Herring Weir on the Mattapoisett River, teams are staggered at one-minute intervals to prevent bottlenecking.

As the fastest team last year, Hedges and Shaw were the first off. “It’s not fun starting first,” said Shaw. “You never see another boat. It becomes mental as well as physical. It’s nerve wracking.”

And no doubt more than a few teams were working to beat the team’s 2005 race record of 1:47:02.

Because the teammates plan to split up and race with their wives or children next year, Shaw said, “We’re hoping if everything goes well, if the water is right, then we can semi-retire with a win and another record.”

Benner had little doubt about the team’s success. “They’ve just perfected it. They work very well together,” he said.

Although the team narrowly missed its previous record with 1:47:47, they took home the first place trophy for the third consecutive year and the twelfth overall.

Rochester Memorial Day Boat Race 2012
(Video by: Georgia Sparling)
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