Round Island Row called off due to winds, boat damage

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A six man crew comprised of (from left) John Ward of East Islip, Joe Lindsay of New Mexico, Brian Banks of Merrick, Brian Fiasconaro of Riverhead, Chris Cuddihy of Riverside and Aaron Williamson of California left Mount Sinai Yacht Club Saturday in an attempt to row around Long Island to raise funds for the Suffolk County United Veterans in Yaphank.

In its second year, the Round Island Row got around Long Island, it just didn’t make it all the way.

Riverside resident Chris Cuddihy said he and his six-man crew, who aimed to raise money and awareness for the Suffolk County United Veterans Project in Yaphank,  called off the rest of their attempt to row completely around Long Island in a catamaran Wednesday night due strong winds and extensive damage to the boat.

“Even if the boat had not been so badly mangled, I don’t think we would have finished until Monday because of the wind,” Mr. Cuddihy said.

While the weather was mild for most of the row, the crew was up against a strong wind for much of the trip and were caught in the ocean during a thunder and lightning storm Monday night. Mr. Cuddihy said the East River was the most difficult part of the trip and that they almost got hit by tankers twice there.

The crew left from the Mount Sinai Yacht Club on Saturday June 25, headed west through the East River and back east. They got as far as Westhampton before they had to call the marine towing company Sea Tow to tow them back because two of their oars broke and they weren’t able to row. The boat, which had sustained damage to its rudder while going through the rough waters of Hell Gate and the East River, was damaged further while being towed through the rough waters in Shinnecock Inlet. The decision was made to call off the remainder of the trip, Mr. Cuddihy said.

“We discussed the condition of the boat and the possibly getting caught in the currents off Montauk and we decided we had to put our intellects above our egos,” he said. “The smart move was not to do it.”

Last year, Mr. Cuddihy was part of a four man crew that attempted to row from the Eatons Neck Coast Guard station, around Long Island, and then back. That effort, which was being done to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, was stopped near Moriches Inlet when two of the crewman got sea sick.

Does he intend to try it again next year?

“Hell, yeah,” Mr. Cuddihy responded.

This year, one crewman, John Ward of East Islip, who has competed in Ironman events, had to leave Saturday night due to a personal issue. Brian Fiasconaro of Riverhead got off in Red Hook, Brooklyn because of numbness in his foot, which turned out to be a pinched nerve, and got back on at Jones Beach, and Aaron Williamson of California, who Mr. Cuddihy said was probably in the best shape of any of the crew, got sea sick and was let off by Jones Beach although he too later rejoined the crew.

The other crew members were Mr. Cuddihy’s cousin Joe Lindsday of New Mexico and Brian Banks of Merrick, a Jones Beach lifeguard who ended up joining the row in mid-voyage last year after initially going out to check on the crew’s safety.

Mr. Cuddihy has done a number of endurance events for charity in recent years, including being part of a team that rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, running seven ultra-marathons on seven continents in seven days, running and biking from New York City to Washington DC, and running for 24 hours around downtown Riverhead last November.

“This was by far the most difficult,” he said.

It was not immediately known how much money was raised through the event for Suffolk County United Veterans Project. The non-profit organization has a shelter for homeless veterans in Yaphank and other programs throughout the county designed to help veterans who are seeking employment and education.

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