By PAIGE WALTON
On Nov. 12, University of Mary Washington’s crew team and community gathered at Hope Springs marina to officially induct a new boat. Purchased by the men’s team, the Wintech 8+ was dedicated to and in memory of Robert “Bob” Ericson, a former UMW student and captain of the men’s rowing team who passed away suddenly in April of 2014.
The boat dedication included the ceremonial ritual of decommissioning the previous name of the boat by throwing a medallion with the old name on it into the river. Following that was what many described as a moving testimony given by Ericson’s parents about what it means to “Live Like Bob.” The crew team gave Ericson’s parents the opportunity to unveil the boat’s new name, a name that will inspire the team to be better, according to sophomore English major Mackenzie Hard. After the unveiling of the new name, Stephanie Preston, who dated Ericson at the time of his passing, said a few words and poured a bottle of champagne onto the newly commissioned boat, another tradition of boat dedications.
“Seeing a boat christening is a truly poetic experience to be a part of,” said sophomore sociology major Corinne Kuge. “The emotional weight of everyone’s words and the love surrounding the event almost pushed me to tears.” Though many members of the team now did not have the chance to know Ericson personally, Hard spoke of getting to know him through stories told by other members of the team and by meeting his family.
Through all of the early morning practices and long regatta days, the crew team itself becomes a family. “To me, the best thing [about crew] is having an extra family while I’m at school. I can count on them for anything and count on them to constantly be there for me and constantly push me in and out of the boat,” Hard said.
The addition of the efficient Wintech 8+ creates extra opportunities for the team to excel. “A new boat won’t make a crew stronger or faster, but with a new boat, it can be assured that crews are racing with the best technology and materials available. It also gives our team the opportunity to honor [Ericson] everywhere we race. Other crews will see his name. He will always be with us,” said junior economics major Alli Jakubek, who was also a part of The One Note Stand with Ericson.
In a sport that demands every member to be perfectly in sync, teamwork is vital to success. On the topic of teamwork, Kuge said, “Since our sport requires all the trust in the world inside one boat, we rely on each other to train our own bodies and willpower, because we’re only as fast as our slowest rower.”