It was meant to be a private video shared among parents of local rowers.
Two days later, video footage of last weekend’s Riverhead Snowflake Regatta became a viral YouTube sensation.
The now infamous local video with nearly a half-million views, which exploded after it was shared by sports entertainment website Deadspin, NBC Sports and USA Today among others, was shot and published on YouTube by the mother of a local rower.
“I just happened to be taking video and some of the other parents were like ‘Oh, can you send me that?” explained Mary Kay O’Shaughnessy of Riverhead. “So I posted it and it was not listed. It was not public and I sent it to a few parents.
“I don’t know how it got out there.”
YouTube explains: “Making a video unlisted means that only people who have the link to the video can view it … but it could appear elsewhere on the web if you or anyone who you shared the video with shares it more broadly.”
The video depicts several mishaps during the annual racing event, including two crew teams stopped in the middle of the course with their boats apparently stuck.
Spectators along the riverwalk can be heard yelling and cursing at the boaters throughout the video.
Ms. O’Shaughnessy admits the video can be a bit misleading, though. At one point, the video shows an eight-women novice team striking a pier, appearing to force a teenage girl overboard as another team passes the rowers by.
But results show that race featured a staggered start time and the team that struck the pier continued on, and eventually won.
“Not one rower ended up in the water,” Ms. O’Shaughnessy confirmed. “It was very scary, let me tell you, very scary. But they popped back up, not one of them got in the water and they actually won the race.”
And even though websites are making statements like “Riverhead Rowing Sucks!” in headlines, no teams made up of rowers from Riverhead are featured erring in the video.
Ms. O’Shaughnessy, who acknowledged that she licensed the video at the suggestion of others after it went viral, said “it was never my intention to embarrass anybody. Absolutely not.”
“It was for the parents who watched it all happen,” she said. “It was sort of surreal.
“I had some new parents saying, ‘So, this is what happens?” she said. “I said, ‘No, this never happens.'”
One veteran rowing coach who witnessed the races — but asked not to be identified — said these sort of miscues do often happen during novice races.
“This does happen and it’s not a horrible thing,” he said, likening it to foot races where runners stumble over each other.
He said sometimes young rowers can’t hear instructions from their coaches while out on the water, or have trouble seeing over each other, which could make it appear that boats are stuck while the team tries to figured out what to do.
Ms. O’Shaughnessy said one positive from the video is that it might encourage coaches to address some safety issues within the sport.
“Maybe this can be used as a teaching tool for young kids [to learn] what to do when you get in a situation like that,” she said. “Or, you know, what not to do.”
Ms. O’Shaughnessy said she hopes the video doesn’t cause any trouble for the race organizers at East End Rowing.
“I’m so grateful the Snowflake Regatta is here,” she said. “It’s great for the local kids to go out and row.”