LSM Crew’s new boat honors one of their own

Kyle Galvin, Managing Editor

Contributed photo

The sky is a gloomy gray above the Hartford high-rises. It is a cold Sunday, Oct. 2, and there is a chill in the breeze that would make anyone want to curl up indoors on the couch for the day. Down at the bank of the Connecticut River, however, the mood is quite the opposite.

Hundreds of families, friends, and peers have braved the cold wind and gathered at the annual Head of the Riverfront regatta to cheer on the 73 schools and clubs that are rowing through the chilly waters. The river is dotted with boats, all competing against each other to race the 3.5-kilometer route in the shortest possible time. Despite the weather, there is an enthusiastic energy among the crowd, with cheers going up every time a boat crosses the buoy marking the course’s end.

But for Lewis Mills, there is something extremely special about two new boats crossing the finish line. It’s the first time these boats have participated in a regatta, and they have a deep significance to the Crew Team.

Contributed photo

The two boats are named “Riptide” and “Fierce (Like Kailey).” The latter boat honors Kailey Prenoveau, who was a rising sophomore the summer before the 2021-22 school year. The bright young girl was a beloved member of the Lewis Mills Crew team before she tragically died in a vehicle-related accident last August. The loss hit the team especially hard, and in Kailey’s memory, LSM Crew’s novice award was renamed after her. But that was not the only way that the team aimed to honor her legacy.

“One of Kailey’s parents’ concerns was that people were going to move on- forget about her,” says Jared Fellows. Fellows is the head coach for the LSM Crew team. “This is definitely one way to solidify that she’s not going to be forgotten about.”

Before the tragedy, there were signs that the Crew team was writing a grant for new equipment, particularly some new boats, which can cost a total of $30,000. but it came clear that if there was going to be a new boat, it was going to solidify Kailey’s legacy. Her namesake boat is a sleek purple and was given the title “Fierce (Like Kailey)” by her parents.

“I feel it’s a very appropriate name for who Kailey was as a person,” Fellows says. “She was fierce, she was encouraging, she encouraged people to be their best self every day.”

The other boat, Riptide, is the latest in a long line of Crew boats named after weather patterns. In addition to the team, parents, former rowers, and coaches all voted in a three-round process to decide the name of the boat. Riptide won out of around 20 proposed names.

The two boats arrived in late September in weather-protective bags. The entire Crew team – and Kailey’s parents – gathered to see the two boats out on the water for the first time.

“The experienced rowers took the bags off the boats, and everyone just kind of stood there in awe,” says Fellows. He gave a speech, and the experienced rowers christened the boats before sliding them into the shallows and taking a trip around the lake. A ray of sunshine even peaked out from the cloudy sky while Fierce and Riptide were making their maiden voyages.

“It was a pretty emotional, but gratifying moment for such a tragedy,” Fellows says.

Fast forward a week, and Fellows and the Crew team are watching as the boats are carried over the banks of the chilly Connecticut River in Hartford and lowered into the waters once again – this time for their first race. The piers are abuzz with competing teams – some of which were pointing LSM’s shiny new boats out to their friends. Fellows says that “awestruck” was the best feeling to describe the moment.

After a solid performance on that cold day in Hartford, the two new boats were subsequently present at every regatta this season- and the Crew team aims to use them for as many races in the future as possible. Fall Crew Season may be over now, but “Fierce (Like Kailey)” and “Riptide” both have a bright future come this Spring season.

“All the behind-the-scenes work, there had been countless meetings about this boat, several trips to Bridgeport, several votes on what to do- how to name them, countless hours of financial networking- seeing all of that consolidated into that one moment. It was very gratifying for everyone involved.” Fellows says. “It was like, all this buildup, and finally it’s reality.”

Lewis S. Mills Crew starts its Spring season this coming March.