Lenny Futterman knew something was not quite right with one of his oars just before the start of his time trial Sunday evening in the men's single event at the 2018 Senior and Para II World Championship Trials on Mercer Lake.
"I found out that one of my oars was three centimeters shorter than the other one right before the start," Futterman said. "It felt a little bit lose, like my pitch was off. Right as we were queueing up, out of nervousness, I was (jiggling) my oar and it was rattling a little bit. So, I just looked down and turned it over, and saw one of the screws has come loose," he said.
"I didn't have any tools, and who knows if I had been training on it, so I thought, have a rip, everyone advances from the time trial, and just go from there. There was a little fishtail action when I was rowing, but I pretty much train alone so it's a matter of gaging against other people and seeing what the field is doing.
"Racing the single is chess, it's not checkers and you've just got to do what you've got to do to get to the next round, learn from it, trunk that data, and get faster for the next time."
The decision to press on without interruption was apparently the right one for Futterman. He rowed through the issue in the time trial, finished sixth overall, advanced into the Monday heat, where he rowed to a second-place finish and a spot in the Tuesday semifinal, which he won and will now row the Wednesday final.
If he can make his way into first in that race, Futterman will be among the last 13 crews that will be named to the 2018 US National Team that will compete next month in the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Joining Futterman, and finishing in second in the same Tuesday semifinal, was Riverside Boat Club's Kevin Meador, who was second to Futterman, and Tyler Nase and Matt O'Leary, who advanced first and second, in the second semifinal.
Nase, who rowed the lightweight men's four in the 2016 Olympics, said he has only been rowing the single for two months and is participating in the event for fun and training.
"It feels awesome, and I'm just happy to be here," said Nase. "I'm having fun. I love being here. I hurt my knee after 2016, and it just feels incredible to be back. I'm just doing this race as fun, just to get some more training in. I've been in the single now for two months, so this will be kind of the end of the summer racing for me," he said.
And if he wins?
"Well, after tomorrow, that's what I'll think about tomorrow."
Wednesday's finals are the last races for the spots not yet filled on the 2018 US World Championship team. In addition to the men's single, finals are set to be run in the men's and women's pairs, the men's quad, lightweight men's and women's pairs, lightweight men's double, lightweight men's and women's quads and four para events.
The lightweight men's pair and lightweight men's and women's quads are rowing unopposed.
The para events include the PR3 mixed double, PR3 men's and women's pairs, and PR2 women's single. The women's single and men's pair are rowing unopposed.
In the women's pairs, finals were decided from the time trials. Six US Princeton training center crews were entered; two scratched before racing, and of the four that rowed in the Sunday time trial, the fastest crew - Felice Mueller and Kristine O'Brien - withdrew Tuesday.
Of the eight US men's pairs that started the regatta, all four that advanced into the final are from the US Men's Oakland Training Center. Two of those crews, Jordan Vanderstoep and Max Meyer-Bosse, and Anders Weiss and Michael Colella, earned their places in the Monday heats.
Joining them from the Tuesday morning reps were Robert Moffitt and Spencer Furey, and Finn Meeks and Greg Davis.
Robert Moffitt and Spencer Furey
"I'm excited to make the final," said Moffitt.
"Today was a do or die situation, and my pair partner and I, Spencer Furey, are just really excited to have an opportunity to compete to represent our country. We train with all the guys we're going to be racing, and we know all the pairs are fast. So, we're just looking for a complete effort and a good base," he said.
Weiss and Colella have the most experience racing the pair as a crew, having represented the US in the event at last year's World Rowing Championships. Weiss also rowed the pair in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
However, the fastest crew in this so far is Vanderstoep and Meyer-Bosse, who finished almost four seconds ahead of Weiss and Colella in the heat.
Colella said Tuesday he was not surprised to see the racing this fast and close.
Anders Weiss and Michael Colella
"We knew at the beginning of the pairs training that everyone would have a steeper learning curve since we had the experience," he said. "But we knew that by the time that trials came around, it was going to be tight racing, and we were prepared for that.
"The racing this year is a whole step up from last year, which is great to see," Colella said. "Everyone has made huge improvements, so it's exciting to be part of this group. We're one year closer to the Olympics, and everyone has been taking their training really seriously. We've got a really competitive, but collaborative, environment in Oakland. So, it's an awesome opportunity and everyone is just trying to perform.
"For (our boat), it's just about trusting each other and racing hard, and hopefully we can come out on top," he said. "But we are all just trying to go fast together."
For complete results and Wednesday's final draw, go here.