The Cleveland Rowing Foundation, located at 1003 British St., Cleveland, held the 26th annual Head of the Cuyahoga Regatta on Sept. 17, 2022. Sixteen veterans competed in this prestigious head race. Two teams of eight rowers represented the Western Reserve Rowing Association’s Freedom Rows Veteran Teams. The two boats, The American Legion and Freedom Rows, were manned by veterans and TAL members.
This race is one of the country’s top-10 largest single-day head races. The day was sunny; however, the heat was grueling in the mid-80s with high humidity. The course is 2.5 miles long, 2,000 rowers, seven bridges and five challenging turns. It is a qualifying event for the “Head of the Charles Regatta” in Boston, where time qualifiers will compete against Olympic hopefuls.
Veteran Jim Ryan, Army Staff Sgt. E6 (ret.) and member of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Post 383, is the U.S. Rowing representative to the Western Reserve Rowing Assoc. He stated that this program for veterans has been running for six years, and they currently have 26 participants in their boathouse. This activity is truly therapeutic for the veterans. It’s all about teamwork, self-confidence, exercise and the competitive spirit. They learn to trust their teammates and build their self-worth. He is hoping to extend the program to the Cleveland VAMC for inpatient and outpatient therapies for post-traumatic stress treatment.
This year the winning veteran boat was Freedom Rows, with The American Legion coming in second. The trophy was presented by Department of Ohio Commander Charles Stennis. Medals were also awarded for first and second place. The American Legion made this boat possible through the Operation Comfort Warriors fund. This is a true team sport which depends on full cooperation and trust of your teammates. The hope for the future is to form more teams across the nation to increase the field of competitors.