16 October 2018
By Göran R Buckhorn
Sofia Priebe had a go at the 3K Head of the Q, and her coach ended up in a double sculls with world champion Sam Meijer.
The 6th annual Head of the Quinobequin, also called Head of the Q, was held on the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Sunday, 14 October. As always, the regatta was hosted by Cambridge Boat Club, Riverside Boat Club, Community Rowing Inc. and Union Boat Club. Head of the Q is a three-kilometre race in single sculls for juniors racing in different age categories, U13, U15, U17 and U19, men and women in separate heats. It’s a short version of Head of the Charles Regatta, which is going to be held later this month, on 20-21 October.
Sofia Priebe, known from this website as the amazing teenager who races in a single scull despite being blind, was specially invited by the Q’s Chief Referee Linda Muri, who is the women’s coach at MIT. She also works at Rocket Science Rowing. ‘It was thanks to Kathy Parker [Harry Parker’s widow], who drew Linda’s attention to Sofia,’ Sofia’s coach Bob Berry said.
As HTBS has mentioned in previous articles, Sofia is able to row and race in a single scull thanks to Bob’s innovation The Remote Coxswain, a device with which he can steer the rudder of Sofia’s boat from a launch. However, as Bob was not allowed to follow Sofia’s race in a launch, he had the idea to row ahead of her and steer her boat that way. As the Charles is not known for its straight stretches, it would be tricky to steer both Sofia’s boat and row in a single. In steps Harvard oarsman Samuel ‘Sam’ Meijer to save the day.
Sam Meijer is a Brit studying and racing at Harvard. In 2017, he became the U-23 world champion in the British double sculls, and earlier this year he stroked the British quadruple sculls at the U-23 championships in Poznan, Poland, to victory. Sam knows both Sofia and Bob after she was introduced to the Harvard team in 2017. ‘Last year, Sam gave Sofia a Harvard-Yale Regatta programme, which was signed by all the crew members,’ Bob told HTBS.
Bob, a jack of all trades, made some adjustments to his steering device, so he could remotely control the rudder of Sofia’s boat from the oar handle in the double scull that he and Sam rowed while being ahead of Sofia, who started last in the women’s U17 race at the Q. ‘The control I mounted on the oar handle for a thumb controlled steering worked fantastic,’ Bob said.
This short video by Bob will explain how the remote control works:
Though, Sofia rowed in the women’s U17 race, she was actually racing in her own class, PR3, which is for visually impaired and blind rowers with no physical disabilities. She passed one rower in the U17 race and won the PR3 race at a time of 26:38.7.
After having crossed the finish line, Sofia and Sam rowed the double and Bob Sofia’s single back to Harvard’s Newell Boathouse. ‘It was a great day,’ Bob told HTBS.
The results from the regatta are here.
An incredible story that transcends mere sporting glory and speaks volumes for all concerned.