South Shore residents will be making history this weekend as members of the first U.S. women’s rowing team to compete in a world championship event in England.


 

South Shore residents will be making history this weekend as members of the first U.S. women’s rowing team to compete in a world championship event in England.


“I was the first and only female officer with the Hanson Police Department, so I am used to this,” said Michelle Hughes, one of the rowers. “Being on this women’s team is awesome.”


On Saturday and Sunday, Hughes will fulfill a personal goal and join five other members of Team Saquish as the first women’s U.S. team to compete in the 19th World Pilot Gig Championship in the Isles of Scilly, England.


“I am very proud to be on this team. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Hughes, 34, a mother of three and a prosecutor, sexual-assault officer and self-defense trainer for Hanson police.


Team Saquish is the only U.S. women’s team to vie for the world title. The other team members are: Captain Hilary Moll, 44, of Brockton; Beth Howard, 27, of Hull; Karin Kaczorowski, 43, of Marshfield; Mary-Patrice Ruocco, 50, of Rochester, and Jessica Rowcroft-McKenna, 37, of Charlestown.


“The girls are just great, and we are a great team,” Hughes said. “We each have our strengths and work well together.”


Moll, an English teacher at Stoughton High School, has been rowing for the past seven years and is excited about the upcoming challenge.


“I am very proud of myself and the team,” she said. Surprised by the attention the team is receiving, Moll added, “I have even been contacted by the BBC.”


The world class rowing competition originated in the southern part of Cornwall, England during the 1800s.


A gig is a wooden boat about 32 feet long, 4 feet wide, with an average $32,000 price tag. Each gig has six rowers and a coxswain or navigator.


The U.S. team will borrow a Cornish boat, named Lyonnesse, from Mick Screaton of Cornwall.


Team Saquish will rely on Screaton to be the coxswain, offering a local’s insight on the course.


The team coach, Mike Jenness of East Bridgewater, has competed in the pilot gig championship three times over the past 10 years.


Hughes took up rowing in January and competed in her first race two months later, the Snow Row in Hull, with Jenness as coxswain. They won.


“I could tell she was an athlete and competitor and, where she was new to the sport, I encouraged her to try out for the team that is now going to England,” Jenness said.


The year-long race preparation intensified with training three times a week in the icy waters of Plymouth Harbor.


Crew members have to weather rough seas, high winds and frigid water temperatures while trying to avoid frost bite and hypothermia. Each team member must also spend extra time at the gym.


“A typical training session for these ladies is to trailer the boat from Plympton to Plymouth, unload the 980-pound boat into the water without getting wet,” Jenness said. “They then need to warm up quickly, jump into the boat and row hard for the hour. Physically tired from the row, they need to reload the boat and trailer it back to Plympton.”


Jenness is excited for Team Saquish.


“I am very proud of our team. This is a big, big deal,” he said. “With the age differences and professional diversity, they have all come together in a short amount of time as a team and will be representing the U.S. in this championship.”


The Patriot Ledger