Founded by Coach James Mangan in 1990, the Saugatuck Rowing Club today is the realization of his vision, shared by Dr. Howard Winklevoss, Club Proprietor, whose twin sons learned to row at SRC under Mangan’s tutelage. A former oarsman with the Garda Siochana Rowing Club in Dublin, Ireland, Mangan came to the United States to coach crew at Fordham University for three years, all the while nurturing his dream of starting a rowing club that would make the sport more accessible to people of all ages.
On a visit to Westport, Mangan discovered an old freight station that had been moved from the old railroad stop to a property on the Saugatuck River. By an amazing bit of luck, it was the perfect shape and size to store rowing shells. After renting the site, Mangan built the special low docks needed to launch the shells and set off to recruit members for a new club, then called the Saugatuck Rowing Association. Mangan actually transported an eight to the village green, put it on slings, and told anyone passing by about the magic of rowing. Soon, the first crew, a women’s eight, was formed. They in turn recruited friends and family members and a dedicated group of rowers flourished on the Saugatuck.
Mangan, Nicoleta Mantescu, and member volunteers who joined the Club in 1995, spent the next decade building programs. Junior programs for kids from twelve to eighteen brought in new generations of rowers. Novice programs introduced rowing to men and women of every age, including senior rowers. All learned to revel in the challenge and camaraderie of rowing. The thriving club was fulfilling Mangan’s dream to insure that, at least in the Westport area, anyone who wanted to row had the opportunity.
Despite the success, SRC faced another challenge. The old freight/boathouse was deteriorating and the land underneath was up for sale. Enter the Winklevoss twins, who had become skilled and dedicated rowers at SRC, and their father, Dr. Howard Winklevoss. While coaching the twins, Mangan often spoke of his hope for a new clubhouse to them and their parents. Others thought it a pie in the sky idea, but Howard Winklevoss, a successful consultant and the owner of a construction firm that builds upscale residences, was the right audience. Impressed by the sports’ positive effect on his sons, Winklevoss decided to help Mangan, not only to buy the property and build a new clubhouse, but to work toward making rowing a more mainstream sport.
In a collaborative effort with his architect (club member Jon Halper) and Mangan, Winklevoss founded a new company, the Saugatuck Rowing Club, and transformed the site with a world-class showcase for rowing and fitness. The 15,000 square foot facility has a nautical theme that ties together the boathouse, an elite fitness center, dining deck and restaurant.
Over the last several years, all of the rowing programs at Saugatuck have grown and expanded to accommodate an ever-increasing population of rowers (both newcomers and experienced oarspeople alike) including in six of the last ten years, National Master’s Championships and U.S. Junior National Teem selectees as accomplisments. The club’s fitness center has also expanded, catering to the interests and needs of non-rowers as well as rowers.
With a staff of dedicated professionals committed to health and fitness, the Saugatuck Rowing Club has become a hub for residents of both Fairfield and Westchester Counties, either pursuing their athletic dreams or taking advantage of the tremendous resources that it offers.