At the start of the dual season, Boston University was seating mostly a veteran lineup in the varsity eight. It was the crew head coach Tom Bohrer had in mind when the season started, and one he planned to work with.
"I'm traditionally a guy that sticks with what I have, and then work it, work it, work it," Bohrer said.
This year became different, in part because of the early season results. BU lost to Brown, Northeastern and Dartmouth in the first three duals of the year, which caused Bohrer to move outside of his own comfort zone as a coach to use a different approach. That meant trying some of the younger guys on the team in the top boat.
"After Brown, I kind of mixed it up and let these young guys prove themselves, and they did that. They are not afraid of anything and they don't know if they are in the 1V race or the 3V race, they just kind of race. So, it's been a little bit different, a mix of experience and giving some guys a shot that they worked hard for. And they have taken the ball and run with it."
BU head men's coach Tom Bohrer
To be clear, Bohrer did not say it was a panic move, that the year was slipping away in the results, even if that was the conversation outside of the DeWolfe Boathouse.
"I think, one, the league is very compressed," Bohrer told row2k. "The level across the board, of all the teams, is really, really tight. We lost to Northeastern and Dartmouth and Brown, but it wasn't bad racing.
"We had good points in them. We led in the Northeastern race, and the Dartmouth race, for at least half the race - and in Dartmouth's case at least 1600 meters. There have been good parts in each of the races, and we've been gaining speed throughout the season."
"I think people think you lost the first few dual races, you're not having a good season. I felt like we were having a good season. It wasn't reflecting in the results, but as a team, you keep thinking about what you're doing, and we were progressing each week.
"It's all about what's happening internally, and you block it out when people are saying, oh, but you lost this race and that race. It's a process and we know what we are capable of, and we hope to show it next week."
The process began to reflect in the results, first in Boston with the double dual against Columbia and Syracuse, both wins, and then last weekend with a road victory in Wisconsin. Now, with about a half of the varsity crew different from where the season began, BU is about set and going into tune up mode.
And they're not alone; tune up mode is pretty much the approach everywhere. With the collegiate regular season done, final exams on the docket and conference championships next up, followed by the IRA, crews will tinker a little here and there, but will look to find a lineup their athletes can get comfortable with.
"I'm pretty close," Bohrer said.
"I told the guys after Wisconsin that we weren't going to implode anything, but at the same time, and they all know it, there could be one or two different guys in a seat, with the goal of making every boat faster.
"At some point the guys want consistency, just to be able to know that this is the lineup, and we're not just throwing lineups out there to see if they work. But I'm close to being locked in. And I'm pretty excited about it all," Bohrer said.
Washington men racng at the 2016 Widermere Cup
Regular season racing might be all but over, but that doesn't mean there won't any racing to watch. And for the best all-around show this week, the place to be is in Seattle, Washington, for the 32nd Windermere Cup. The regatta has a little bit of everything a seaport/rowing town could ask for.
Tied into the opening of the sailing season and the Seattle Yacht Club's Opening Day Parade, the regatta has racing for masters through collegiate crews - and for both Washington's men and women, it is a serious test of speed.
Traveling over from Great Britain, is Oxford Brookes University men's eight, considered one of the top collegiate programs in the UK. Oxford Brookes will be joined on the international slate for the men by the University of British Columbia.
The national championship defending UW women will race the Dutch National Team. Both Oxford Brookes and the UBC are making their first appearances at the regatta.
(The "Brookies" are already Stateside, and are finding that rowing in Seattle means sharing space with seaplanes.)
Washington coach Mike Callahan has been eagerly awaiting this particular Saturday since it hit the schedule. He even brought it up during a call with row2k before the Washington-Cal dual a few weeks ago (a race Washington won to remain undefeated so far this spring).
"It's going to be a great race," Callahan said. "They've won Henley the last couple of years, and UBC won the Canadian national championships. I think it is actually going to be one of the best intercollegiate races this spring - not against an American university.
"This is one of the ones that people in the rowing world are really circling on the calendar, because intercollegiate rowing is also international. People are competing against the American intercollegiate system and this is GB's stake at getting into the intercollegiate rowing world at this level. It means a lot to them."
Princeton lightweight men
Some of the most competitive intercollegiate racing takes place in the Sprints lightweight league. This season has not disappointed. Until last Saturday in Derby, Connecticut, the only program with an undefeated varsity eight was Harvard. That ended with the HYP regatta.
Princeton, which had dropped varsity and second varsity dual races to Columbia the weekend of March 31 in New York, began to build momentum with wins against Dartmouth, Delaware, Cornell, Penn and Georgetown, and this past Saturday in the HYP in Derby, the Tigers sprinted past Yale in the final 500 and won. Harvard - ranked first in the polls coming in - finished third.
That, naturally has impacted the polls, most favorably for Columbia.
The Lions went into the pre-season polls at six, but with solid racing from their entire squad and a 1V that has so far only lost to Harvard, they have risen to the top. They stayed out of trouble and in the win column last weekend with wins over Dartmouth and Drexel.
All of these factors make next weekend's lightweight racing well worth watching. Not to exclude Cornell, the defending national champions seem to be finding some legs after a rough start. Cornell ended their season with a dual sweep over Dartmouth in Hanover on Sunday.
"The Big Red is in the midst of a great season," siad coach Chris Kerber. "We've seen a fair bit of weather, water conditions and a competitive dynamic in the league like no other - confirmed - especially this year.
"We are really looking forward to this Mother's Day showdown," he said about the upcoming Sprints. "A unique set of competitive nuances has been delivered in the dual season, and it will be on display at Eastern Sprints.
"With the athlete talent entering the league, this is and will be the new paradigm going forward. Our squad is not without challenges this go around, but we are gaining traction each week with the strong leadership of the seniors, a creative and passionate coaching staff and plenty of opportunities for our eager talent pool."
Virginia varsity eight
With some regionals already concluded and exams finishing up this week on a lot of the club campuses, ACRA squads will also be going into selection/fine tune mode as well ahead of the May 26 ACRA Championships.
Virginia has owned the top spot in the ACRA poll and that was not changed following the WIRA results, during which second ranked Orange Coast finished fourth in the varsity eight behind Santa Clara, UC Santa Barbara, and UC San Diego.
Orange Coast is off from racing until the ACRA Championships, but several other ACRA teams are gearing up for a trip to Philadelphia for Dad Vails. The largest collegiate championship is high stakes for Dad Vail schools, and not just because winning there is a big deal.
For teams that are hoping to score the single available IRA automatic qualifier available at Vails, or set themselves up for a convincing argument for an at-large invite, a top performance matters.
ACRA teams like Bucknell, Michigan, UNC, Purdue, and Virginia race on the Schuylkill as a final weekend of racing before their championships, but since ARCA is not an invitational regatta, placement in Dad Vails will not gain them anything toward the ACRA national championship.
Virginia head coach Frank Biller said this week that his group has a round of selection this weekend, and will use Dad Vail to test his decisions. Still, this late in the season, most programs have an idea of who will race the 1V, Biller included.
"Dad Vails, for us, is more for fun than anything," Biller said. "It's good competition and I have my options. I have a lineup in mind, and if they do well, I won't change it. If they don't, I know what I will do. It's more of a test than a tune-up," he said.
This Week's Poll Results
2018 EARC HW Men Seeding
American Collegiate Rowing Association Poll
USRowing Collegiate Poll