San Diego Rowing Club team sprints to top 10 finishes at international race

Jillian renly, mariko Kelly, rachel Wayne, coach Susan Francia, madeline ottilie, Cassandra Fernandes, Christina Indudhara and Jordan Glenn. Courtesy
Jillian renly, mariko Kelly, rachel Wayne, coach Susan Francia, madeline ottilie, Cassandra Fernandes, Christina Indudhara and Jordan Glenn. Courtesy

Varsity Women Rowers with the San Diego Rowing Club (SDRC) proved they are among the world’s best, earning fifth and eighth place finishes against an elite field of rowers at the 50th annual Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) in Boston last week.

As the world’s largest and most prestigious two-day regatta, the HOCR attracts the best rowers from North America, Europe and other regions. The rowers compete on a Charles River course that runs three miles against strong currents under seven bridges and through difficult turns.

In the Women’s Youth Doubles (2x), SDRC’s Mariko Kelly and Jillian Renly claimed fifth place in a field of 33 boats, besting their competition with a blazing time of 20:21.38 The youth doubles field included junior national championship teams from Germany, Canada and the U.S.

In the Women’s Youth Fours (4+), SDRC’s Christina Indudhara, Rachel Wayne, Cassandra Fernandes, Jordan Glenn and coxswain Madeline Ottilie earned eighth place in a field of 84 boats. In windy, cold race conditions, the SDRC 4+ team surged ahead of more than a half-dozen boats, fighting their way to a 20:22.81 finish time — just seven-tenths of a second off seventh place and drawing praise from the race announcer.

Two-time U.S. Olympic rowing gold medalist Susan Francia coaches the SDRC Varsity Women and cheered the team’s results. SDRC was the only club to bring home two top 10 finishes in the youth doubles and youth fours races.

“I am incredibly proud of the accomplishments of the girls,” said Coach Francia. “Jill (Renly) and Mariko (Kelly) had a fantastic race, pushing the pace in the double. We didn’t even know the caliber of athletes that we were up against in this field and Jill and Mariko really held their own.”

The four very pleasantly surprised me with their top 10 finish. Three of the four girls were novices last year but if you were watching the race you wouldn’t have been able to tell. They rowed very well and kept pushing their boat ahead. Maddie (Ottilie) steered a phenomenal course, yelling at crews to get out of the way, all while calmly motivating the crew to stay focused. Both boats really rose to the challenge in this incredibly competitive regatta and they looked good doing it!”

At the HOCR rowers have staggered starts separated by 15 seconds. They race against the clock instead of directly head-to- head. Boats start in single file, but as they row the strenuous course, faster boats pass the others.

The regatta featured more than 11,000 athletes this year, competing in 2,252 boats in 60 events. Rowers from clubs, schools and universities represented 40 states and 28 countries. More than 400,000 spectators lined the river for miles to watch.

The Varsity Women row on Mission Bay out of SDRC’s boathouse on El Carmel Point.

The SDRC is a non-profit founded in 1888 to help develop and expand the sport. The club’s Juniors Program offers one of the premiere places to learn to row, developing strong athletes who go on to compete on college crew and national teams.

For more information, contact Chris Callaghan, director of rowing, at chris@sandiegorowing. org or visit