Braving trip around L.I. for our country’s bravest

08/12/2010 12:00 AM |

Ryan (left) and Chris Cuddihy of Riverside and Chris Rizopoulos of Coram practice rowing Friday in Reeves Bay in Flanders.

Chris Cuddihy of Riverside is at it again.

This time Mr. Cuddihy will be one of three computer technicians rowing non-stop around Long Island to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Mr. Cuddihy, 56, an office systems analyst at the County Center in Riverside, will be joined by his son, Ryan, who is an office systems analyst for the Suffolk County Police Department; Chris Rizopoulos of Coram, also an office systems analyst for the county; and Rick Shalvoy, the only member of the crew to have done the trip before.

Mr. Shalvoy, 57, lives in Long Beach and has done the “Row for the Cure” around Long Island several times to raise money for cancer research, although he would stop for the night and continue the following day.

Mr. Cuddihy says his group intends to do the entire 300-mile trip, called the Round the Island Row, without stopping — and without a support boat following them.

“From what we understand, no one has ever done this before,” Mr. Cuddihy said.

The row will start at Eaton’s Neck near Northport on Monday morning and proceed counter-clockwise around the island, traveling first through New York City, then heading back east and finishing at Eaton’s Neck.

The crew hopes to complete the trip in three days, but they’re taking along enough water for five days and enough food for four days, Chris Cuddihy said. They plan to have one person take a 30-minute break while the other three row, and rotate the person taking the break, he said.

They have set up a website — — where their progress can be tracked through a GPS device on the boat. The site also will have a link to the Wounded Warrior website, so donations can be made directly to the organization.

“We want to do something for the Wounded Warrior Project every year,” Mr. Cuddihy said. He hopes to hold a yearly event in which boats compete in a timed, staged race, he said.

“It’s a no-brainer charity,” Ryan Cuddihy said. “It’s not political in any way. It’s about servicemen and -women who aren’t getting enough from our government, so they need help. I don’t think anyone can say no to veterans. It’s like saying no to homeless children.”

While he was never a runner or a rower until a few years ago, Chris Cuddihy has had some experience with endurance events since then.

In 2008, he was part of a four-man team that rowed from Barbados to Africa — 3,000 miles — in a double-hulled rowboat, an effort that landed the crew in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In early 2009, to raise money for a charity in England, Mr. Cuddihy and another man set another record, becoming the first to run seven ultra-marathons in seven days on seven continents. Two others who started with them were unable to finish, and one caught a parasite in Hong Kong and nearly died.

Then, in November 2009, Mr. Cuddihy set out to run from New York City to Washington, D.C., to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that provides support for wounded veterans. Halfway through the run, he switched to bicycling, but he made it to Washington.

“Everything has its own challenge and its own risk involved,” he said. “I would say I’m more nervous about this because you can get complacent.”

Ryan Cuddihy, 28, also of Riverside, had planned to take part in last year’s seven marathon event, but was unable to because of a knee injury. Instead, he hiked the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia, during the spring and summer of 2009, also as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. It took him 140 days.

Ryan Cuddihy admits he has had no rowing experience. “I’ve never even gotten on a rowing machine,” he said Friday.

Mr. Rizopoulos, 37, also has never done anything like this before.

“I work with Chris and we’ve been talking about this for a good year,” he said. “I wanted to try something adventurous, something new.”

He said he had no rowing experience and, as of Friday, had practiced only once with the Cuddihys. “It went pretty good,” he said. “It had some down points to it, too.”

The boat they are using is a Whitehall rowboat, 24 feet long and four feet wide, that they borrowed from Bay Shore High School’s rowing team, The Cuddihys originally bought a 24-foot boat in New Jersey that was only two feet wide, but when they launched it to practice in Wildwood Lake in Northampton, they found it was very difficult to steer.

“It took us a while to flip it over,” Ryan Cuddihy said. And when they did, the boat hit Chris on the head and Ryan got his foot caught in it while Chris was trapped under the boat.

“When we came back up, I said, ‘We need a bigger boat, guys,’â” Ryan recalled.

On the cross-Atlantic row, Mr. Cuddihy did mostly rowing, not navigating. So for the upcoming venture, he wanted some advice on how to navigate rough areas like Hell Gate in New York and Plum Gut. So he called Mr. Shalvoy and ended up inviting him to join the group. Mr. Shalvoy, who was friends with Bill Blackman, the rowing coach at Bay Shore High School, arranged for them to borrow the boat they will use.

Chris Cuddihy said the Round the Island Row will be dedicated to the memory of Stony Brook native Nate Bruckenthal, the first Coast Guardsman to die in wartime action since the Vietnam War. He died in 2004 trying to interrupt a suicide attack off the coast of Iraq. On Sunday morning, the rowers will participate in a memorial ceremony at Eaton’s Neck Coast Guard station with Mr. Bruckenthal’s father, Eric.

[email protected]