OARS celebrates annual open boathouse

The Orlando Area Rowing Society christened a new boat and celebrated its senior members during the event May 18.

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  • | 2:53 p.m. May 22, 2019
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Standing behind the sleek, black painted boat that had been lovingly referred to as “Hulk,” members of the Orlando Area Rowing Society and Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien took in the moment.

By that time a large crowd of parents, friends and rowers flocked around to watch the christening of the boat — a highlight of the day’s festivities during the organization’s annual open boathouse.

“For those of you who have rowed in this boat, may the waters be calm and your oars swift once you are in ‘The Windermere,’” OARS president Heidi Finch said.

What followed was a ceremonial christening of the boat as O’Brien poured water over the bow, while the crowd cheered.

“I do just want to say… how much the community has enjoyed watching you all grow over some 30 years,” O’Brien said. “I’ve been here for 10 or 12 years now, and (love) watching the students and children that come and join, and they come out stronger, better, faster and more disciplined. We wish you all the best here, and we look forward to a long partnership.”

“The Windermere” may be newer boat at OARS — whose facility sits on the Butler Chain of Lakes — but it has been used on multiple occasions already. 

The only thing it was lacking is a proper name. And like any fine vessel it couldn’t go nameless, so OARS took some time to reflect on possible ideas before coming around to its newly christened name of “The Windermere.”

And with the open boathouse, which OARS uses to promote itself and draw in new members, it was the perfect time to do a christening.

“We loved where we are in our community, and our board and coaches decided that the best thing to do was to pay a tribute back to the town that we love so much, so we are naming it after the town of Windermere,” said Kirsten Anderson, who serves as the director of rowing and the girls head coach.



While the christening and general open boathouse celebration were big parts of Saturday’s festivities, no moment seemed bigger than that of seniors “signing” their collegiate Letters of Intent.

Under tents set up just in front of the boathouse, 10 high-school seniors who will be taking their rowing talents to the college level sat in front of friends and family as they enjoyed a moment in the spotlight.

Many will be staying in the state of Florida — like Destiny Scott, who will be going to UCF — while others like Samantha Sizelove (Dartmouth) will be heading north.

Just like with their signing at their respective high schools, the moment of signing and knowing that everything is about to change is a lot to take in.

“Personally it takes me a long time to process things … so signing — this is my third time I’ve signed — but signing here is a lot different, because it’s in front of everybody you love and you’ve known for years,” Scott said. “It’s definitely emotional, and I’ll probably cry when I go home, realizing it’s over. But I’m super excited, because we do get to keep training for nationals, but our time here as the whole team is over.”

The surreal feeling of graduating and leaving the program after years of hard work was shared with Sizelove, who said that she was excited about her new journey that will take her to Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. 

And regardless of how far away she goes, OARS and the people who are a part of it will always be her second family.

“For the past six years now I’ve come to this event and watched the seniors sign to their colleges, and the very first time when I saw it — when I was in middle school — I knew I wanted to do it one day,” Sizelove said. “So the fact that that just happened was everything I have ever dreamed of. Just continuing on rowing has been something I’ve always dreamt of doing, and being able to do it and sign with so many great seniors and teammates was really awesome today.”


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