Rowers to hold Lubbers Cup Regatta

Don Lubbers stands with members of the GVSU Crew at a past Lubbers Cup Regatta. This years regatta will be held on April 2nd.

Eric Coulter

Don Lubbers stands with members of the GVSU Crew at a past Lubbers Cup Regatta. This years regatta will be held on April 2nd.

Kevin VanAntwerpen

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The 16th-annual Lubbers Cup rowing regatta – to be held in Spring Lake, Mich., this Saturday – is going to be the “biggest and best ever,” as put by GVSU head rowing coach John Bancheri. The regatta will include 13 schools, 130 boats and more than 600 athletes.

“We’ve basically been preparing since September for our spring racing season,” Bancheri said. “The students have put in a lot of mileage and worked very hard to get where they are today … but now it’s show time. It’s like putting on a huge Broadway show, and the opening act is our Lubbers Cup this weekend.”

The regatta will be held out of the Spring Lake Yacht Club. It will include teams from across North America, including the United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, Ct.), Brock University (Ontario, Canada), the University of Virginia and Wheaton University (from Wheaton, Ill.).

Both Brock University and the Coast Guard Academy have connections back to the area. For Brock University, Spring Lake resident Leo LeBlanc donated their “state of the art” indoor rowing and training center. For the Coast Guard Academy, one of their former chemistry professors – Thomas J. Haas – is now the fourth president of Grand Valley State University.

“You have all these connections that just grew, and I don’t want to say it’s like an act of divine intervention, but it’s almost serendipitous,” Bancheri said.

Bancheri emphasized a deep history behind the Lubbers Cup, which first began in 1996. It was named after Arend “Don” Lubbers, who was president of Grand Valley from 1969 to 2001.

“Lubbers was always very supportive of rowing,” said Shane Szalai, who was president of the Lakers rowing club when the regatta began. “It was just unanimous that we’d name it after him. I don’t think anyone even threw out any other ideas.”

Szalai said he had no idea how big the Lubbers Cup would become.

“It was first held at the Grand Valley Boathouse, right on campus and was just a home town sort of thing,” Szalai said. “There were eight boats, probably, with only eight races. Personally, I just expected it to remain a dual (meet) every spring … but it just grew. And since Bancheri’s come, we’ve had teams coming from very far away. That’s a really big deal.”

Since the meet has gotten so large, GVSU had no choice but to move it to Spring Lake.

“Partnering with GVSU to bring rowers from all over the country to Spring Lake is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our communities to parents, students and faculty,” said Joy Gaasch, president of the Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Bancheri added that he’d like to see even more come from the regatta in the future.

“I’d like to see this become the best run regatta for rowers on the water,” he added. “But I’d also like it to become a celebration of spring. It’s the opening of the waters when the ice is gone. Almost like a blessing of the boats.”

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