The US collegiate rowing season officially ended in June. It must have been a good one, because several American universities have decided to carry on in Great Britain at the 2018 Henley Royal Regatta.
And Friday morning, Henley-On-Thames will be the site of another showdown between rival American schools, including a quarterfinal race in the Temple Challenge Cup between Yale and Princeton.
Which means the third-day of Henley racing should be a treat for the US college rowing audience, and not just because of a dual between two of the top rowing Ivy League schools, but because Brown, Washington and Syracuse also advanced out of the Thursday second round heats and will push to move into the Saturday semifinals tomorrow.
As if that isn't enough to get folks back in the states up early to watch the live stream racing, there are also women's crews. It might be a stretch to say that the best race in the Remenham Challenge Cup will be a match between top US schools, but in some ways, it is.
Washington varsity eight races U23 women Friday
Going head to head at 10:30 AM local time will be the University of Washington and an all-star cast of collegiate women who will be representing the US Princeton Under 23 women's training camp.
So, it is a collegiate women's showdown with a twist that gets better with the caveat that three of the women in the Washington eight are also part of the U23 2018 World Championship selection camp, but were told very early on that they could race for Washington.
And - also, advancing into the Remenham quarterfinals Thursday from the Wednesday heats was the Yale University varsity women who will race quarterfinals Friday against Dutch standouts A.S.R. Nereus, and the University of Iowa women, who are facing a team from the Australian National Training Center.
Both Yale University and Princeton TC women also have fours racing in the Town Challenge Cup in the opening races of that event. Yale races Leander Club & Bath University, while the U23 women race University of London.
Last year, no American crews made it to the Sunday prize giving ceremony, and with three days of racing to go, there are a lot of meters left to cover before that story is righted - or not. For now though, tomorrow is must see racing for anyone that loves US collegiate racing.
Especially Ivy league fans, who are also lightweight eights fans, because the Princeton crew that advanced Thursday afternoon past University of London A are the Princeton lightweights, and they are racing a composite crew of mostly second and third varsity guys from the 2018 IRA National Champion heavyweight men. Yale beat Bath University in the early afternoon Thursday to set up the Princeton dual.
Not interested enough yet? Well, try these matchups:
Brown University men's eight
Brown University advanced past Eton College Thursday, with a tiny bit of help from an oar vs. boom incident just past the start, and face Newcastle University 'A'; the University of Washington, the school that took the IRA team points trophy, eliminated Orange Coast College and will race Nereus from The Netherlands; Syracuse University won its second round race against Trinity College of Dublin and will face Oxford Brookes 'A'.
So, wake up America! It's light vs heavies and camp women vs, well Washington and their camp women, and an undercard of duals that are well worth missing a few hours of sleep over.
"It's going be fun," said Princeton lightweight head coach Marty Crotty. "It's university eights racing, and we are proud to be representing Princeton University. Lightweight, heavyweight, it doesn’t matter to me.
"Our goal today was to go and row and execute what we've done in practice dozens of times, if we're victorious, it's not going to be because we're lighter or heavier, it's going to be because we row better.
"But, man, this is going to be pretty cool," he said. "All year, lightweights kind of dream of the day they can go up against some heavyweights in a race. We get to do it in practice against our guys all the time, so it's not going to be anything new to our guys, we're going to have fun."
What Crotty is referencing is Princeton's Wednesday scrimmages against the heavyweight men they share the University boathouse with. Every Wednesday, the lights and heavies race each other in eights, and by Crotty's account, and that of freshman David Slear, they hold their own and are not worried about racing bigger men.
Yale men's eight
"I thought they represented themselves pretty well today, just the way they got off the line," Crotty said. "I'm sure everyone will be saying it's because it was a tailwind and fast conditions, but I think it's because they row well.
"Tomorrow is going to be great, but I will stick to the theme that we race heavyweights at the Princeton Boathouse from week to week, and we can hang."
And, yes, Slear agrees.
"It's going to be a challenge, definitely," he said. "But, I don't think it's beyond our limits. They're a fast crew, but we have been training against our heavyweights that race Yale throughout the year.
"It's probably not like we have been actually racing our heavyweights throughout the season, but I think it has prepared us for this."
Slear could not be prodded into saying anything like they are carrying the pride of lightweights everywhere to the line, but he did not shy away from looking at the challenge with a tone of confidence.
"I would say it is more of a pride thing, like, yea we're lighter than you, but we can beat you anyways."
Also, still in the game and racing tomorrow is the Columbia lightweight four racing in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup. Columbia won its opening heat Wednesday over Edinburgh University. They will race National University of Ireland, Galway, Friday.
Columbia entered two fours in the regatta. The second boat lost its opening heat in the Visitors Challenge Cup to Cambridge University and Leander Club Thursday.
When the racing is done tomorrow a good number of the top US crews in the various events will have been eliminated. Thirty-five crews entered; 17 were left Thursday afternoon.
Included among the US crews still racing are the junior women's quad from Y Quad Cities and the club eight from the Montclair Mounties, who were originally supposed to be racing in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, or the "PE", which is the junior boys' eights event.
After a devastating car accident sidelined two of the high school crew from Montclair, New Jersey, three weeks ago, two former Montclair juniors that still row in the team's club program were pulled into the boat, and the entry was moved into the Thames Challenge Cup.
They advanced from the second-round Thursday, defeating London B and will face the Irish crew from Cork.
In the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup, the only event dedicated for girls' juniors, Y Quad Cities crew won their heat against the Glasgow Academy and will face the Henley 'A' quad. Y Quad Cities has won the last five US Youth National Championships and has been to Henley before.
Caroline Sharis was in the crew that came four years ago and is happy to be back and finishing out her junior career at Henley-On-Thames. "It's definitely a different feel this time, but I have some great girls to row with and they're super-aggressive and super-fast, so it's been really a pleasure to able to race in this boat with them," Sharis said after the morning heat.
"We're excited to see what we can do here. I think just having the experience from before, knowing how there is so much traffic around, what the atmosphere is like, but it's a different year, a different feel. This is going to be my last race as a Y Quad Cities Junior, so its bitter sweet, but it's a really cool place to end it."
Y Quad Cities in their first race
The University of Washington will have two additional crews racing Friday and they will be seeking to take two of the three new Henley Trophies just presented to the regatta this year.
The first is the women's double - Klara Grube and Kenzie Waltar racing in the Stonor Challenge Trophy against a crew from Gloucester Rowing Club.
Also racing is a women's quad made up of Washington's sweep crews. They face Sydney University/Edinburgh University composite crew in the Princess Grace Challenge Cup.
When the quarter finals end tomorrow, some of the more prestigious international races will come into focus, including one that has an American racing.
Tom Graves, whose brother John went to the finals at Henley last year, will get his first chance at the course racing Portugal's Nuno Mendes. Mendes got his start defeating Sam Bannister Thursday.
Another sculler of interest, great interest actually, that will begin racing is New Zealand's defending two-time Olympic singles champion Mahe Drysdale.
Drysdale is on a campaign to win his seat in the single for New Zealand after taking a year off, making this competition slightly more important to him than breaking a simple Diamond Sculls Championship record - Drysdale has won five Diamond Sculls championships so far and a sixth would be a record.
And making their Henley debut will be the lightweight Rio silver medal double, brother, team of Paul and Gary O'Donovan.
Notes from the Course
St. Paul's School set two Henley records yesterday
One crew involved in a lot of the conversation on the Henley course this week is the junior boys eight from St. Paul's School. They not only advanced into the quarterfinals by defeating Abingdon School, they set two Henley records in the process: 1.47 to the Barrier and 3.00 to Fawley.
Booms and Crashes
There is always some steering excitement at Henley. Sometimes it effects the outcome of the race. Like, this morning when Eton College hit a boom in the opening of their race against Brown University.
Who can say if Brown would not have won anyway? But it does not hurt their chances if the other crew has to push off a boom to get back on the course - does it!
Eton strikes a boom
Speaking of Henley mishaps - with so much traffic in a small area at the finish and launch area being shared by crews and pleasure boaters and floating spectators, it is inevitable that some unfortunate crew would get run into.
And that is exactly what happened Thursday when just after racing in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup, London Rowing Club's Meg Jackson was struck by the bow of a large pleasure boat. Jackson was not injured.
New Zealand photographer Steve McArthur (@rowingcelebration) captured the moment of the collision.
Hold Onto Your Sandwiches
A newcomer to Henley-On-Thames might look up at the beautiful Red Kite hawks floating over the course and the regatta grounds and marvel at their grace.
Locals scowl, close their picnic baskets and cover any open food. Seems the birds were closing in on extinction and a bunch were brought over from Norway. "They took over," said a women with a small dog, who said she watches the pooch as well when they are overhead. "They are very bold and will scope in and take food right out of your hand."
Finally, a word on the social scene.
A local caterer taking a break and enjoying the sun across from Temple Island yesterday said he has been working the event since he was a 16-year-old, or "about 30 years past. The first few days, this is a sporting event, tomorrow and through the weekend, it becomes a social event. Just watch."