A competitor in the lightweight women's 30-39 group, Howse had 350 meters remaining in her piece when her erg died.
"I just kept rowing, thinking it would come back" Howse said.
"I thought it was a horror movie," her coach, who identified herself as Kimberley, said.
So Howse retook the test, this time alongside lightweight juniors.
"I had to forget," she said. "I knew I could recover."
On Howse's second go, she won her event with a time of 7:22.6
"Thats a PB for me as a lightweight," she remarked, adding that the score was roughly what she had been able to hit a year ago as a heavyweight.
"It was just amazing," Kimberley added. "I have never seen anything so courageous."
Howse was not the only athlete to be taunted by a blank erg screen at the end of the piece. With a solid lead over his competitors, the Brazilian Rowing Federation's Marcos Ipiapina let go of his erg handle with around two meters to go and raised his hands in triumph. When he did so, the erg screen went blank, and a search by event volunteers could not find a score for his piece. The screen above Agannis showed lane seven hovering just before the finish line after all other competitors had passed. It appeared that Ipiapina's piece had been void, and Concept2's Nick Hannibalsen Larsen had taken the title with a time of 6:12.0. In fact, the C.R.A.S.H.-B. systems had recorded Ipiapina's time, and he won the event with a time of 6:10.0. The message, however, was sent: don't let go of your handle before you are sure the piece is done.
With 100 meters to go, Rose City Rowing Club's Ruth Narode held the lead in the junior women's race, but Concept2 Germany's Janina Scholz could not be stopped. Scholz would win the event in 6:54.6, while Narode took second in 6:55.4.
"This is the best time for her," coach Boris Orlowski said. "In Germany, she rowed 6:57.6. We know that the second part of the race is the important part. The last 500 meters were great. We hope that she rows for the German national team. She is the German [junior] champion on the erg. We hope that she rows in the [junior] eight."
Narode, meanwhile, was able to walk away from Agannis with a personal best.
"I had executed exactly how I wanted," Narode said. "I wanted to PR. I did exactly that. She sprinted more than I did."
The Big Guns
There was no such drama in the in women's open heavyweight event. Kaisa Pajusalu celebrated her 23rd birthday by winning the event in a time of 6:37.3, over 10 seconds faster than Riverside Boat Club's Lauren Schmetterling, who pulled a 6:48.3.
Team UNAM - RemoMexico's Juan Cabrera, who won the men's open heavyweight event, didn't leave quite as large a wake but still won by a convincing 2.3 seconds with a time of 5:55.1
"When I came here, I was thinking of winning and proudly representing the University of Mexico," Cabrera said through his coach, who acted as a translator.
As the only competitor from the University of Mexico, Cabrera added that the university is small and needs more people.
Finishing second was local Mike DiSanto, Harvard's captain and a Belmont Hill graduate.
"I rated too high for sure," DiSanto said. "I was pretty happy with it. I really wanted to win it, and I think I won the collegiate event. I'd never done this event. I had my high school coach coxing me, which was special."
New Sheriff in Town
World record holder Henrik Stephansen casts a shadow over his fellow lightweight ergers. Stephansen won the C.R.A.S.H.-B. open lightweight event in 2010 and 2011, and this winter he broke his own world record by going 5:57.4. But with Stephansen off pursuing his goal of competing in the Olympics in the heavyweight single, the floor was open for a new star.
Concept2's Steffen Bonde Jensen stepped in with a dominating victory of his own. Jensen's 6:04.5 was nearly 12 seconds faster than Riverside Boat Club's Andrew Hashway, who took second with a time of 6:16.1.
"The first 1000, I stuck to the plan," Jensen said. "I could feel that my legs weren't there. I had to fight much more. The last 500, I used to go much faster. It wasn't a fantastic day for me, [but] I'm very happy."
In Retrospect, a Pretty Big Win
Near the end of Open Lightweight Women's race, Triton Boat Club's Nienke van Hoogenhuyze saw the Riverside Boat Club's Sarah Schwegman was only eight or nine meters behind.
By the time Hoogenhuyze finished her sprint, she'd secured a seven second victory with a time of 7:06.3.
"I actually thought I was going to do it flat out," Hoogenhuyze said. "I saw the other girl eight or nine meters behind...Before a race, I anticipate when other people take a move. I do not react; I give myself confidence. I have the feeling, I know I am strong enough."
While the Netherlands, Hoogenhuyze's homeland, are full of rowers, she is a relative anomaly as a lightweight.
"There are not many above-23 lightweights," she said. "There are about five of us."
For most, C.R.A.S.H.-B. success is the result of years of training. For Deerfield's Claire Collins, it was the result of around 10 ergs. Collins finished one second off her school's record in her first 2k with a time of 7:26.8.
"I'm a swimmer," she said. "This was just for fun."
Collins was excited by her success but had no idea that she had been so close to the school record.
"That's really exciting," she said upon finding out.
"She just got it right away," Deerfield boys' coach Wayne Berger said. "She just seemed so relaxed. I think she has huge potential; she has the right mindset."
Another athlete making a successful crossover from swimming is Olympic swimmer Renate Lambert, who took third in the women's heavyweight 30-39 category with a time of 7:11.7.
"I bought an erg," Lambert said of her jump into the sport. "I got a letter from concept2: that's how I got into it."
So the Floridian headed to a local competition in Melbourne, Fla. around a year ago.
"A coach said, 'I'm going to teach you to row on the water,'" Lambert recalled.
And while some rowers might find their sport to be repetitive, Lambert offers a new perspective.
"It's much more fun," she said of rowing. "You don't star at a black line at the bottom of a pool."
Taking Care of Business
Larry O'Toole's biggest challenge of the weekend may have been a 2k at C.R.A.S.H.-B.s, but for his workers at Gentle Giant Moving Company, the real challenge is on its way.
O'Toole makes all of this workers do a tour of Harvard Stadium to ensure that they are up to the task of moving.
"In the beginning, 30 years ago, everyone did it anyway," O'Toole said. "If a 61-year-old guy can do it, they can bloody well do it."
O'Toole also noted his eagerness to hire rowers.
"Rowers are the greatest workers in the world," he said. "They might as well get paid for it."
O'Toole's time of 6:38.9 was good for second in the men's heavyweight 60-64 category, won by Occoquan Boat Club's Bob Spousta, who pulled a 6:32.4. Spousta and O'Toole also went 1-2 in the event last year, and Spousta won the event yesterday for the third year in a row.
In the past, Concept2 sponsored top German juniors who wanted to compete in Boston, but this year, the athletes had to pay for themselves. Orlowski commented that in the past he was able to bring over all of his top performers, but this year many strong rowers stayed at home because of the cost.
Three of the four runners up in the open events came from Riverside Boat Club, with Hashway taking second in the men's lightweight event and Schmetterling and Schwegman following suit in the women's heavyweight and lightweight races, respectively. Another local, Harvard's DiSanto, took second in the open heavyweight competition and won the collegiate event.