When Joan Rivington’s only son Liam Corrigan was about 12 years old, she signed them both up for a learn-to-row program in Old Lyme, Connecticut, which has a strong rowing club. Joan, an oncology pharmacist and avid fitness fan, thought it would be fun for them to try a new sport together.
“Introducing a middle school boy to rowing in a class with his mother may not have been the best idea,” Joan says. “Liam didn’t like it and immediately declared ‘rowing is out.’”
Today, Liam, a 19-year-old in his second year studying physics, rows with the Harvard Heavyweights, and, in 2016, represented them on the Henley. And after years of watching Liam from the sidelines, Joan finally competed herself in the Head of Charles in the Master Women’s 50-60 in an 8.
Shortly after Liam’s declaration, his basketball coach—who also happened to be the rowing coach—convinced him that rowing would be a good way to stay fit in the off-season. Liam grew to love the sport and Joan and husband Brian Corrigan spent the next four years helping the club out with logistical and tent support. She was inspired watching the kids working together on the boats, and once Liam left for college, Joan joined the Old Lyme Rowing Association Blood Street Sculls and focused on learning to row.
For her Mother’s Day present last year, Joan asked Liam to take her out for a row in a double, so he could watch her stroke and instruct from the bow. “It is a strange feeling to be mismatched in a boat with a rower who has so much power. He was a very patient instructor.”
Liam says “I like spending time with my mom in the boat and seeing her improve her skills and enjoy the sport I love.”
Joan says “We have travelled with Liam to Hamburg, Rio, Tokyo and many other places. I feel very privileged to be a part of the rowing community and have come to love it. With Rowing the World in Belize, Brian and I were excited to be among the first rowers in Belize, and had a wonderful time with yet more new rowers in this truly global community.”
Sharon Wienbar is another 50-plus mother who took a learn-to-row class with her daughter Cleo Wienbar in 2010, then 13. In the Wienbar’s case, Cleo moved on to pursue other school activities while Mom Sharon, a tech venture capital investor and entrepreneur, kept rowing at Bair Island Aquatic Centre, Redwood City, California, rows on the competitive team and sculls on her own.
Five years later, Cleo, now at Georgetown University (GU), decided to try to walk on to the rowing team there and was successful in her try-out.
“I love that her coach tells her to ‘just keep chipping away at it,’ which is the same thing my coach says to me,” says Sharon.
Cleo, now a 19-year-old in her second year of studies and on the lightweight crew at GU, practices with her mom’s team or sculls with her mom when she’s at home.
Cleo says “Coming from a fairly competitive and high intensity collegiate team, rowing with my mom is such an enjoyable experience. While we still push each other, we also take breaks to enjoy the view or look at the seals resting in the sun. We have a very comfortable dynamic.“
“Rowing together takes trust and relaxation, “ says Sharon, “and we support each other through the highs and lows of training and competing. “
They’ve also done some interesting things together. The morning following the presidential inauguration this year, a number of rowers had a “Women’s ROW on DC,” hosted by Potomac. Though the youngest of the group, Cleo knew the local waters, and coxed one of the scratch eights of protesting ladies with grace.
Both Cleo and Sharon like to complete the Concept2 Holiday Erg Challenge, so you can find them pulling 4×20 sessions together many days before Christmas. This coming August they will travel together to row on the St. Petersburg, Russia trip – the first ever mother-daughter combo on a Rowing The World trip.
“We also both love to bake,” says Sharon “so doing 100K or 200K on the erg helps ameliorate our elevated butter intake.”