Rowing the sustainable way
In a town of just over 1,000 inhabitants, in the middle of the woods in Vermont, USA there is one of the most interesting concepts for a training facility in the world. It is called the Green Racing Project.
Located at the Craftsbury Outdoor Centre, about 1.5 hours from the nearest major city, Burlington, Vermont, it is home and employer to a team of elite biathletes, cross-country skiers and rowers.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Centre is a non-profit organisation that provides access to sport and information about sustainable practices to community members and guests from around the world. With 100 beds it hosts numerous camps, retreats, classes and more, specialising (depending on the season) in Nordic skiing, yoga, fitness, mountain biking, ice skating, snowshoeing, kayaking and more. The Green Racing Project works alongside the centre to provide athletes with housing, food and training facilities. In return, the athletes help with the running of the Centre.
US National team member Stephen Whelpley calls Craftsbury his home. Whelpley graduated from Colby College in 2005 and has been training for the US National team ever since. When he heard about the Green Racing Project, he knew it was for him. “The ability to have fresh air, a full belly and plenty of time to train are invaluable assets to my rowing,” Whelpley says.
It is an unusual situation for US athletes, who often find themselves needing to work full-time alongside training once they have graduated from university. “We had identified the need for post-collegiate training locations and support for New England-based Nordic skiers,” says Green Racing Project co-founder Judy Geer.
The Green Racing Project built up slowly over the years as Geer and husband Dick Dreissigacker developed their relationship with the centre. The couple are founding owners of oar and rowing machine makers, Concept2 and their business is near to Craftsbury.
Geer and Dreissigacker first worked as guest coaches at Craftsbury. Their children then started ski training at Craftsbury during the winter. “Our goal in purchasing and restructuring the Centre was to ensure that it would be alive and thriving into the future, serving other families the same way it served ours. The Green Racing Project fit nicely into our mission and we accepted our first skiers in the spring of 2009. It didn’t take long to think about extending the programme to rowing and sculling,” says Geer.
The mission of the Green Racing Project is to promote “the sustainability of the environment (Green), speed (Racing), and community (Project). “Athletes are able to prioritize their sport, but also have an additional sense of purpose. This allows us to maintain a well-rounded perspective, while living and training in a fairly utopian environment,” says Whelpley.
For Geer, it goes beyond the athletes and the training centre, it is about the entire world. “For one thing, if we want to be able to continue rowing, we need to take care of not just the lake but the whole world,” she says. The project’s focus and dedication to sustainability in daily life creates athlete ambassadors for the environment who are knowledgeable and ready to protect the environment throughout the world.
“The dedication, passion and attention that goes into being not only environmentally friendly, but conscious, are traits that lend themselves easily to finding speed. When you add those types of qualities to an entire community, you wind up with a bunch of conscientious individuals that all move each other forward,” says Whelpley.
The centre has an unusual combination of elite rowers and skiers. Despite polar-opposite training cycles, the athletes use each other’s knowledge to benefit the entire group. "It's great to have a similar, but different counterpart, people training to reach the same level as you, but in another sport,” says Whelpley. “Additionally, it is very handy to have a professional ski team around when a pack of scullers attempt to make skiers of themselves in the winter.” The scullers at the camp make use of the facilities in the winter by using cross-country skiing to supplement their indoor training. At first Geer admits that she had reservations about how the rowers would fare during the cold Vermont winter, but a combination of cross-country skiing and a training trip south to find “liquid” water has proved a more than adequate solution.
The centre boasts tremendous success among its athletes including a men’s quadruple sculls that won the US national selection regatta and earned the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“The GRP allows a devoted and dedicated individual to pour everything they have into their sport while still maintaining a few healthy escapes and providing a very supportive community,” says Whelpley.
For more information, visit the website here.