Who are the Great Bay Masters?
By: William Peirce
Who are these Great Bay Masters? A little over one year ago, they hardly registered on the NEM (New England Masters) radar screen. Workouts were sparsely attended, sometimes down to just three participants, according to veteran swimmers. But something extraordinary happened. This April, at the SCY Championship in Providence, Great Bay surprised everybody by edging out a much larger club, the Cambridge Masters, to grab second place. What is the secret of their success? And where is "Great Bay", anyway?
No one from the Great Bay Masters actually lives in "Great Bay". It's just a body of water between Dover, New Hampshire, home of Olympian Jenny Thompson and Portsmouth, where our nation's submarines are retrofitted. Coach Ed Gendreau coaches on alternate days in the two town's public pools.
The fact that the Great Bay club has managed to attract national and world ranked Masters swimmers like David Bright, Connie Hallett and Tom Mack from as far away as Concord, NH and Portland, ME must have something to do with GBM's success. But why do these fine swimmers and many others choose to call Great Bay their team?
Could it be the low cost of swimming with GBM -- just a buck per workout with a regular pool pass at Portsmouth. Doubtful.
Could it be Vadim Rumekeyer former Ukrainian Olympic coach, who luckily works at the same pools? For a very modest fee he gives masters swimmers private one hour swimming lessons. In return, we help him practice his English. The availability of Olympic level private coaching obviously gives GBM swimmers an edge, but that's just part of the story.
Could it be the hot tub at the Portsmouth pool, where tired swimmers relax after workouts? It has cooked up more than a few romances. Dana Skiffington and Michele Richard met there before they got married. (Michelle didn't take Dana seriously till he moved up to her lane). All GBM masters benefited from this union. Like it or not, Dana and Michelle's house is GBM's number one party spot. But the occasional romance between teammates is not unique to GBM. It's the natural outcome of long workouts and tight swimsuits.
Could the secret of Great Bay's success be new coach Ed Gendreau, who East Providence coach Frank McQuiggan says should get the NEM coach of the year award? Ed is great. He provides a fine example to his team by both coaching and swimming. Every workout he gives is challenging and different. Certainly, Coach Gendreau deserves some of the credit. But not all.
The secret of Great Bay's success is that we have fun!