Henley Semis Saturday: Records Fall in Tar-Melting Heat; Two US Crews Reach Finals
July 7, 2018 Ed Moran, row2k.com
Y Quad Cities raced into the final Saturday
Listening to the broadcast chatter while the US junior women's crew from Y Quad Cities came back on Henley Boat Club Friday gave the impression that the four young women from Moline, Illinois would have very little trouble getting to the Sunday Gift Giving at the 2018 Henley Royal Regatta.
The comeback on the Henley Boat Club, a local favorite to win the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup, the junior women's quad event, was that impressive. And the race certainly had all the makings of a championship caliber 2018 Henley Royal Regatta run.
Henley jumped into a commanding lead and used the open water they had gained to try and control the race from in front. The US girls, however, proved to be seasoned and patient racers, easing out of the Henley boat wake and into the calm side of their lane, while the referee steered the British crew back into a more neutral position.
And when Y Quad made a break to take control and move into the front, the broadcast team all but yelled "look at them go." The result was a well-earned victory that had people at the regatta venue talking about the Americans, and how they were destined to win in the final.
But all that talk came before the girls rowed to the line for the semifinal Saturday against the junior girls' quad from Latymer Upper School, the British school that not only has a strong junior sculling program, but has held the course record in the Diamond Jubilee Challenge since 2013.
What most people weren't seeing while the odds were being tossed around was how spent the Y Quad girls looked in the boat tent following the race, and how just standing up looked challenging to some.
The pain and fatigue built up in the quarterfinal sprint was dealt with as much as possible in the group's cool down routine. The girls have all raced at the highest junior levels before, some internationally, they are well coached and know how to take care of themselves.
Still, that kind of effort, coming from open water down and winning in a sprint and in blazing hot weather, in a pressure packed regatta - and in front of the home team's fans - does not go away easily, or quickly.
And so Saturday, the four Y Quad Cities girls carried their shell and oars on sore legs onto the dock before launching to row down the course again for the semifinal.
This time, the race was to reach the Sunday final, and the girls the opportunity to get to the awards ceremony. As the race against Latymer began, the commentary went straight back to the previous days' race, even as the British quad pulled into the lead and Y Quad Cities trailed again.
It was not going to be an easy row to the final.
Not only were the young women feeling the effort from the day before, they were dealing with a cross head wind, making it hard for bow Delaney Evans to execute the steering they crew had worked out ahead of the race.
"I had to work really hard at bow to keep us in the right places where the currents are strongest and really focus on having good technique while pulling on port the whole time," Evans said
"And it was harder today because we had two hard races in a row. Our legs were shot from the quarterfinal. We had to really kick it in yesterday. So today, we had to really use the endurance that we've been working on to try our best to get into tomorrow."
Which they did.
Keeping a steady course and pace while Latymer struggled with their steering, moving toward and then away from the booms on their side, the US girls pulled into the lead just after Fawley. The move powered them past the Latymer girls to the win, the final, and the Henley record books.
When they crossed the finish, they had tcut three seconds from he record set in 2013 by Latymer.
"It's amazing," Evans said. "We've been waiting to come to this regatta, and we've been training really hard for this, and we can have the kind of close races that we want to have. We're taking it one race at a time, and really focusing on the one race we have to win that day, not thinking ahead too much, just doing everything we can to get the best result."
The best result has them in one of the best positions to get an American crew to a Henley victory again, something that did not happen in the 2017 regatta.
"It's great to make it past Saturday, and we really want to get it done tomorrow," said stroke Caroline Sharis, who was part of the Y Quad Cities crew that made a run here three years ago, but was eliminated earlier.
"We had a great race today, but we need to get it done tomorrow," she said. "It was a tough race, Latymer is a tough crew, and we knew it going in, but we had a really well executed race and we trusted our training and our coaching, and it really all came together.
"Now tomorrow we have to do it one more time."
While the Y Quad Cities crew looks to be fast enough to perhaps beat their finals opponent from the Marlow Rowing Club, another club that calls Henley-On-Thames their home course, they will share the pressure with the University of Washington men who reached the Temple Challenge Cup final from their semi Saturday.
Washington men's eight also advanced
The UW combination crew of second and third varsity athletes from the 2018 season defeated a crew of similar composition from Yale University in the semifinal of that event to earn a chance to face the Temple entry from Oxford Brookes.
All week long, the races between US crews could have been billed as rematches of sorts from the American spring collegiate season. Yale defeated Washington to win the IRA final two consecutive seasons, while Washington's combined effort in the two IRAs earned them consecutive team points trophies.
The Temple Challenge semifinal was another one of those races - just like the one tomorrow will be.
The twist is, with Oxford Brookes, this one involves a university from Great Britain.
Brookes came to Seattle in the spring to race the Huskies at the Windermere Cup Regatta and lost to Washington by a deck. These two crews are not the same crews, or the top crews, from each university. But given the depth of the two university programs, (Brookes has three men's eights in two finals, including both finalists in the Ladies Challenge Plate, and one in the Temple Challenge) this will be a fun one to watch.
As for the semifinal Saturday, Washington took the lead at the start from Yale and held to win and advance. So, bring on Oxford Brookes.
"We're looking forward to it," said Sean Kelly. "It's nice being able to go up against Brookes again. I was out of that boat for that race, but I was cheering those guys on all the way. This race has just been really building throughout the week," he said.
"We came in knowing we had to execute the first race well, and then just keep building day-by-day, so we're looking forward to having our best race tomorrow."
In the race Saturday, the plan was to get into the lead early. "We've been able to move off the line pretty well, and we knew we were going to have that in our favor. But Yale is, of course, a strong crew, so we also knew that we were going to have to power up in the middle."
For Yale, the loss was not as much of a sting as it would have been if it had been a race back home in the US and in the spring dual season. It also helps that they get to rally for Washington, a fellow American university crew and enjoy the Henley Saturday night activity.
"I would be doing better if we had won," said Cole Tilden, the only member of the crew that rowed in the Yale 1V this season. "Washington is a great crew. We both had combination boats and it was really good to come out here as a senior and put the Y on the chest for a few more races and just be with the guys a little longer.
"Of course, you would like to walk away with a championship, but worse case scenario is losing against a great crew and getting to enjoy Henley with some of your best friends.
Yale men's eight
"The race went a little unexpectedly," he said. "They really jumped us, and we're used to being up off the start. We tried to reel them back in, but the rate just didn't really come, and they're just a really, really good crew," he said.
"So, hats off to them for putting down a good piece and good luck to them against Brookes tomorrow. We'll be cheering for UW absolutely - gotta support the American crews."
And so, there are two of them left.
Of the 35 US crews that entered Henley, there were nine in contention Saturday morning.
By the time the program reached the lunch break, the US chances of finding a boat that would advance to the Sunday finals were dwindling.
In the Remenham Challenge semifinal, the University of Washington women's eight was been beaten by the British national team eight from Leander Club and University of London and eliminated, while the Montclair Mounties, a crew of mostly high school kids, were dashed from the Thames Challenge by Thames Rowing Club A.
It was a memorable week for the Montclair crew that had its plan to race in the boys high school PE event crushed by a car accident three weeks ago. Replacements brought in from the team's club organization required Montclair to be moved into the men's club event, a level they were able to remain competitive though the first two rounds. (See the Wednesday race report for the details.)
So, three semifinals before noon, and three crews eliminated.
Washington women's eight
Of the three US boats to go out in the morning, the University of Washington had arguably the best showing. They were a university crew - albeit a university crew with a boatload of US national team senior and U23 selection camp athletes - going up against essentially one of the top British women's crews.
Washington held pace through the first part of the race and even made a move at Fawley that put them in front. As the two boats approached the Enclosure grandstand, the Brits jacked up the rate and pressure, moving out for good in front of the appreciative home crowd.
The Washington eight came together from several locations around the country, and they did it to have one last regatta with a senior class that has distinguished itself with a 2017 National Championship, and a 2018 campaign that saw them place second to the University of California at the NCAA championships.
"Coming here was like a huge treat," said senior Jess Thoennes, who said that every woman on the team jumped at the chance to come. "That was a hell of a race, and getting here was not easy. Everybody was coming from different spots from all over the US."
"When we pulled up to the line against the GB team today, we knew that this was an Olympic level boat race, that this was a huge class act and we wanted to go out there and show the love for the legacy that we've been taught.
"We put all of our love for Washington, and each other, into this race. Today, maybe it wasn't enough. But that was one of the best races that we've ever had and I would do it all over again."
Into the afternoon, the US crews continued to reach the end of their week.
Yale women's eight
Yale University's women's eight entry in the Remenham had reached the semifinal in a sprint to the line Friday.
Saturday, by the time they were approaching the last 100-meters in the semifinal, the Australia's National Team had already dropped their rating and easily had a ticket to the final.
Back in the boat tents, the Yale women parted with a feeling that their trip to Henley, one that started almost three weeks ago at the women's Henley Regatta, had been a satisfying experience.
"Big week," said rising senior Arwen Neski. "It was a lot of fun and it was definitely not a week I will forget for the rest of my life. It's not every day that you get to come from a small college program and race the Australian national team. That's an amazing experience, truly humbling and absolutely unforgettable."
Washington's Klara Grube and Kenzie Waltar lost their bid for the double sculls Stonor Challenge bid to Exeter University, and they were followed to the exit by Tom Graves who was racing the Diamond Sculls.
Graves was seeded and able to sit out the first round of heats. He won his second race but drew New Zealand's Mahe Drysdale. Drysdale left no doubt who was going to advance from the first few stroke of the race.
For the second day in a row, Henley race official decided that it was too hot to make the gentlemen in the Stewards Enclosure keep their blazers on. They again stuck to the tie and badge wearing rule. Going to be hot again Sunday. Can we get to three?
How Hot Was It?
The tar pavement on the walkways through the boatyard were melting and people walking over them sounded like they were wearing Velcro on the soles of their shoes. More than one person stopped to examine their footwear.
Football First, Last and Always
Yes, Great Britain loves crew and Henley is British over the top, but let's face it, football tops rowing. Two examples of that.
First. The waterway all along the course on the River Thames on a Henley Saturday is normally clogged tight and basically like a Los Angeles Freeway. Not yesterday. And not during the broadcast of the World Cup match between Sweden and England.
Second. When a crew British wins at Henley, the Gentlemen stand to applaud, the women remain seated and clap quietly, imagine golf clap quiet. Yesterday, because more people on the course were watching the match on laptops and computers, when Harry Maguire headed one in to put England up one-nil, the claps were replaced by raucous cheers and shouts. And a few women joined the men on their feet.