Winklevoss twins' dad hopes to build rowing empire in Bridgeport
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Aug 24, 2014
Greenwich businessman Howard Winklevoss knew the benefits of rowing even before he took up the sport. He saw them firsthand in his own sons, Tyler and Cameron, whose persistent requests led Winklevoss to save the Westport property where they learned to row.
There he built the Saugatuck Rowing Club, a 15,000-square-foot rowing facility, under the umbrella of RowAmerica, an organization dedicated to the advancement of the sport.
"Right from the get-go, his idea was to put rowing where it wouldn't be otherwise," said Brendan Crotty, president of WinTech Racing, the company's line of racing shells. "It's not a typical sport, but it's now more visible."
"I think it gives the kids confidence," Winklevoss said.
Several years after creating SRC, he created the Greenwich Rowing Club and went into the boat distribution business by finding a manufacturer in China to make racing shells.
Now, more than a decade later, RowAmerica is expanding its reach even further in a 53,000-square-foot facility in Bridgeport, where the company will not only distribute its own WinTech Racing line and the King brands of shells, but will also create models of the former.
The Bridgeport facility will also serve as the headquarters for dock construction, the painting and repair of all types of rowboats and the expansion of the RowAmerica clubs throughout the country.
The building couldn't be in a better location; it lies just yards away from Seaside, Bridgeport's waterfront park.
"Our attempt is to make this an epicenter for our sport," Crotty said. "The idea is to get coaches and administrators in the rowing world into this facility to use us as a meeting point. Every aspect of rowing will be covered underneath this roof. It being right on the water is kind of cool."
The Bridgeport location is also ideally situated between Boston and New York and New Jersey, Crotty said. And the proximity of the Atlantic Street building off I-95 is also convenient for the delivery and pickup of the boats.
"It's also nice coming into a neighborhood that needs a little bit of hope," he said of the South End. "If we can be that business to inject that hope into Seaside Park, wonderful."
No slackers allowed
Like Winklevoss, Crotty and David Dickison, president of RowAmerica Boat Clubs, praise the benefits of rowing.
"It teaches them so much," Dickison said. "It's a little scary. You really have to be responsible on the water. And before you know it, they're pushing themselves to the absolute limit getting ahead of the other guy. You're teaching kids basically how to become incredible workers for the rest of their lives."
The fact that it's a team sport also makes it harder for teens to slack off, Crotty said.
"If you're not there, eight other people will be let down and they'll let you know it," he said. "There isn't a whole lot of flexibility for being late or being absent, period."
But it's the feeling of accomplishment when they're out on the water that keeps kids coming back, Crotty added.
"The unique factor of rowing that cushions a lot of that hard work -- the gut, blood, sweat -- is the fun and uniqueness of the sport," he said. "Once you're out there there's something about it being different that engages you that much more. The venue is special. There's something to be said about watching the sunset out there. Every day it can be a National Geographic special out there."
Dickison said rowing also helps participants appreciate the need to keep waterways clean of debris and pollutants.
"Kids are now so disengaged from nature," he said.
Not your dad's shell
These days everything on a rowboat is highly adjustable, from the foot rests to the seat to the mechanics connected to the oars. The boat itself takes some of the pressure away from the rower, said Dickison.
#2 Aug 24, 2014
"You look at Olympic world champions from the '80s. They were so intense and so ugly rowing. Now you see rowers and they're so relaxed," he said. "You see the athletes being in the sport longer than before."
Crotty said one of the biggest barriers for the sport has always been its unfamiliarity. "It doesn't lend itself to the spectator to begin with," he said.
Still, Title IX's emphasis on equitable allotments and scholarships for athletics has helped the sport.
"Title IX has opened up the opportunity to go to college and row and get a scholarship to the entire country," Crotty said. "The high school clubs now see rowing as an opportunity to get into college."
The rowing world, itself, though, is still very small.
"There are seven or eight major (distributor) players in our industry," Crotty said. "So it's a very small world. Everybody knows everybody."
Expanding its footprint
Because of this, competition for serving the roughly 1,000 rowing clubs in the country is stiff. So RowAmerica recently decided to work on increasing the number of its rowing clubs throughout the country.
So far, they've opened locations in Rye, N.Y., as well as in Illinois and Tennessee. Dickison is working on opening another in New Hampshire.
"In trying to expand the sport of rowing, we're selling it to a new community that may not know anything about rowing," Dickison said.
Each facility will need 20 to 30 boats to start off. The racing shells will be on three-year leases, allowing the clubs to have the latest fleet often and giving RowAmerica the option to offer the used boats at deeply discounted prices.
"A lot of clubs, due to being driven by parent boards and coaches, don't have the backing and are left to their own devices to get things done," Dickison said.
The Bridgeport warehouse has a brand-new paint booth and repair shop that will add considerably to the $3 million company's bottom line.
The space also provides enough room for an oven, in which the carbon fiber boats can be cooked, literally, to make models here in America. WinTech shells are manufactured in China.
"We would like to give it a shot," Crotty said. "We're not going to mass produce boats here. China was very concerned. We have a very good relationship with the Chinese. But we want to bring a little bit home to America."
As if that weren't enough, the company recently decided to also begin creating docks for the clubs it opens.
"Nobody has really attempted to do what we're doing," Crotty said. "And that's become the one-stop shop of everything rowing."
Since: Jun 14
#3 Aug 24, 2014
Best of luck to these people.
#4 Aug 25, 2014
are these the same twins who had the dispute with zuckenberg at Harvard?
the social network?
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