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IRA Reps & Fours: No Easy Rows
Thursday, May 31, 2012
John FX Flynn, row2k.com
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Cal V8
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UW four
There are no easy second chances at the IRA. Sure, the chance to race again in a repechage seems promising, offering up the chance to sidestep a tough heats draw by conserving some energy in the morning--but when the reps become four and five boat dogfights for the top three spots, the second chance race gets dicey real fast.

The first rep in the V8 served up a full five boat tussle for the semis, and was every bit as brutal on the water as it was on paper: Cal, Syracuse, Northeastern, Yale, Stanford, and Drexel. Apart from Drexel coming off the pace early and Cal getting out ahead, though never away, this one was a knives out fight the whole way. In the early going, Stanford and Syracuse went with Cal, putting Northeastern and Yale in a tough spot--but both put charges into the field, and late in the race it looked like Syracuse might fade. The Orange got all that back with a big more late in the third 500, and then Yale clawed up through Stanford. Northeastern, who had gone out so hard with Cornell in the heats, slipped entirely off the back here and--just three weeks removed from a Sprints that started with a ton of promise--Northeastern is headed to the third level final.

Rep #2 was a "just" a four boat race, but not much was being held back, especially by the Big Green of Dartmouth who opted just to make a break for it early. The Green led a tight pack--of Cornell, Navy, and Penn--for nearly a thousand meters, but when the fight came to them, it was Penn that grabbed the lead, and Navy and Cornell came through as well. With 750m to go, it was clear that Dartmouth was done, and Penn yielded to first Cornell and then Navy--but another good row from resurgent Quakers kept them within half a length of both Cornell and Navy, and sends them to the semis.

The wind was likely more than a bit player again in these afternoon races: turning into a full-on tail push, the wind prompted another lane shift--his time to move the three seeded lanes from 2-3-4 to 3-4-5. Might seem like a small change, but for the crews moving from lane 2 and over into the teeth of the wind in lane 5, it likely seemed like a big advantage.

2V8 Reps

Cornell and Navy made good with rep wins in the 2V8s: Cornell along the rail, as it were, over in Lane Five, and Navy with a full course on the front effort. BU and Stanford came through the Cornell rep, at Dartmouth's expense, while Syracuse and Penn came through behind Navy, sending Yale to the third level final.

1F8 Reps
Wisco went out hard to lead the first rep, but got caught when Princeton and Navy decided to make a race of it. The Tigers took it, but Navy was charging hard, and all three crews are headed to some tough semis tomorrow. Also through to semis: BU, Yale, and Dartmouth--but only after rowing down a Stanford crew that made a bid for it all in the early going.

V4 Heats & Rep

The Varsity Four may well be Washington's to lose, as well, and their four did as good a job stating that case as any Husky crew this morning, on margin at least. They got out early and left Yale, Holy Cross and Brown scrap it out for the other two spots in the semi. Bruno got themselves back on terms first with Holy Cross, and then rode that move right through Yale as well. Heat 2 was all Wisconsin and Northeastern from the gun, and the two pushed each other hard enough that both bested UW's time from Heat 1. Georgetown came third to advance, getting the better of BU in a race that dropped to just four entries after a last minute scratch by Drexel. Heat 3 became a parade pretty quickly, with Cal just in front of Navy and Harvard in the early going, but with Dartmouth off the back almost immediately, the three qualifiers were done with the actual racing long before the line; Cal took the win, Harvard went second, and Navy got through in third.

The repechage in this event was a stark affair: four boats for three spots, right at the end of the day's racing programme. Holy Cross had the legs to stay ahead in this round, a length and a bit up on Temple by the end; BU was the last crew into the semis, but trailed by nearly 10 seconds, and were themselves well ahead of Dartmouth.

Open 4 Heats

The open four is the only event that harkens back to the old IRA format: with a low number of entries, the heat winners get a full Friday off, with a ticket straight to the final, while everyone else does what used to be the tradition "reps day" on day two of the regatta. Even the boatings are a throw-back to the IRA of the eighties and nineties: with at least one frosh or one varsity rower in each boat, these are not crews that get a ton of practice before IRA camps starts each year, but that doesn't seem to slow them down all that much.

This year's Open Four started with a "heat of death"--a first round race with at least two of the most likely medallists and then four crews that could, in the right rep, make it to the final and a run at the last medal. In the heats, Washington and Wisconsin put on a veritable preview of the final, each daring the other to take it up another notch and both racing full tilt for the one, straight-to-final spot. It was a great boat race, and while the Huskies took it, you can fully expect a reprise of this on Saturday, after Wisconsin makes it through the rep. Brown, Harvard, Princeton, and Navy all took turns leading the battle behind these two, and any one of them could figure in the final.

The other heat was a bit more spread out, both on the front--where Cal strolled away with it--and in the pack, as Cornell and Northeastern were able to put ten plus seconds into Syracuse, Penn, and Drexel.


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