“It was really bad at first,” Schonemann said. “The front wheels weren’t aligned, so I had some adjusting to do. We needed two pushers in the front and three in the back. We knew the time to beat was 1:08, and we weren’t even close to that.”
A wheel alignment was just part of what the Pirates had to endure. Traditionally, Simply Sweet, well, was simply overwhelming, having won the title twice prior.
“We had a lot of people telling us we couldn’t win,” said Vartabedian.
Twenty-four hours before race day at a basketball game, Schonemann still had no rider, which was a requirement. He approached Gary Davis, a local attorney in the basketball crew: Be at the top of Federal Street at 6 on Thursday. It was not a request.
“I did say that if he couldn’t find anyone else, I would do it,” Davis said. “I did wonder what I was getting myself into.”
Twenty-four hours later, Davis, the swashbuckling, flag-waving commandeer, would become the face of the Pirates of the Merrimack.
A rivalry sustained
There are rivalries in every sport: Sox-Yankees, Bruins-Canadiens, Packers-Bears. At the Bed Race, it is still Pirates of the Merrimack-Simply Sweet, even six years later.
That the record has eluded Simply Sweet gnaws at Winn. He wastes no opportunity to remind Schonemann, in any conversation, he will own the record again.
Winn unabashedly calls Simply Sweet the elite bed racing team.
“Simply Sweet has more first-place finishes than any other team,” he said. “We’ve got four times as many wins as they do. But those guys did a one-and-done and got the record, so it’s killing me.”
Winn has recruited members of the Amesbury High baseball team, track and field athletes from both Amesbury and Newburyport. Even NHS football players, to no avail. His teams have been agonizingly close: It came one second shy on 2010 and two seconds short in 2008 and 2011.