Team Backwards AF

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Team members: Dameon Colbry, Leigh Dorsey
Hometown: Belfast, Maine, USA
Race vessel: Modified SAVO 650D
LOA: 21′
Human propulsion: Rowing
Connect: website

Like three out of five children, we were above average. Our K-5 years predate the sosh meeds, but we’re told #ClearlyGifted trended in actual conversations whenever we pooped, sat up, or dressed ourselves (at 5 AND 35, no braggies).

The pinnacle of our developmental milestones was that the 6th grade aptitude test placed us at an 8th grade level for dirty jokes. Sure, not in all subject matters, but these were the old days and the tests still had a bias towards predominantly ‘Ivy League’ subjects, and we slayed in the crew/rowing section. Lacrosse, Secret Societies, Blazer Care, not so much, but we translated our 99th percentile in dirty jokes (not to mention our 98th percentile in bullshit) into a tight five on rowing that we honed to a razor, performing at middle school dances to the other heavily orthodontured and pimpled awkward who sought solace along with us along the cafeteria wall.

Here we are now, entertain us.

The kid who burped the alphabet was the opening act, but our ‘gift’ was that we realized the dirty joke potential/litmus test for human morality that lay dormant inside the language of rowing.

Assuming you are currently twelve, and assuming you are currently on the crew team, here’s our advice: wait for the moment your favorite aunt is mid-drink and then offer excitedly that earlier that afternoon you were asked to stroke on a coxless pair. If tea doesn’t go through her nose she’s either a rower or your role model for obtaining the right kind of afterlife.

Just to prove we could get there from here, the Maine-hailing Team Backwards AF’s all-oared entry must have seen our set and wanted to be spared the same dirty joke for 750 miles. They added two oars and side stepped the punchline by choosing a double scull of their own design (but still no cox—sorry about the tea, Aunt Liz). What’s the difference? Why the choice? We honestly didn’t ask, but our hunch is that unlike the coxless pair, each rower on a double scull gets two oars, making it easier to track in a straight line, and making it possible for one rower to fall asleep, make a sandwich or just turn around to see scenery they haven’t already passed yet, and possibly the tug and barge bearing down on them out of the fog bank.

Coxless Pair vs Double Scull? This is a safe space, and we hate to verge towards Ivyphobic, but in our minds, Coxless Pairs are strictly for Whiffenpoofs.

While their particular boat resembles a canoe that’s been stretched for length, then squished for flare, the 21-footer is a modification of their current boat, a Puuvenepiste Savo, designed by Ruud van Veelen. A comely rower with decent payload and good seakeeping ability, the most frustrating thing about the Puuvenepiste is that despite its potential, other than the standard xenophobic titter/potential as a Scrabble Hail-Mary, we have absolutely failed at making a dirty joke out of its name. Strike two.

The two dirty joke killjoys who make up Team Backwards AF are no stranger to rowing, at sea, and forever. They routinely strap themselves into their boat without a cox and row far, very far. Both in this country (Gloucester’s Blackburn Challenge, Maine Island Trail, etc.) and in others; they competed in the English Pilot Gig Championships and did better than roughly half of the teams, explaining why they may have almost chosen the alternate name of “Middle Place AF.” Beyond the rowing, they’ve also spent years in Alaska Guarding the U.S. Coast as part of a similarly named federal agency, backpacking long trails, and they even took time to transform actual wood into the very oars they are going to use and stroke AF to Alaska.

At this point, Aunt Liz has told us that it’s time for bed and lights out. No reading. Also, we are supposed to say that we’re sorry, and that it is never going to happen again, and we’ll see you in church on Sunday.

Welcome to the R2AK, Team Backwards AF. Yes, we are wearing our headgear. Jeez.

Photo by Leslie Berchtold Chappell.