The shortest day of racing of the week was tightened up even more by a 9am starting time and five minute centers, causing racing to be done by 10:15am. It was a good call by the commissions, as by the end of racing, the water was getting pretty chunky, and it was hot enough for pretty much everyone.
One note: there are a couple typhoons in the region, one of which will likely track right toward Tokyo, so there has been some discussion of moving Sunday's racing to Saturday, as was done in Rio ahead of a large approaching storm. It appears that the decision was made not to change the schedule thus far, and looking at the forecasts, it doesn't seem to be a big problem.
The biggest difference is likely to be the presence of a cross headwind, instead of a crosstail, which could keep the fairness folks on their toes, and maybe make for some bumpy conditions in the early parts of the races.
We failed to mention yesterday that there were two records set in the women's coxed four heats, one at just over seven minutes, then in the next heat a 6:58, so the field is improving, and the conditions are fairly fast.
Four US crews advanced to A finals today: the men's eight, women's four, and women's coxed four from the reps, and the women's eight automatically by completing their preliminary race for lanes in the five-boat event.
The men's eight took the race under control fairly early that helped keep them clear of fairly intense brawl behind them that resulted in a difference of 1.05 seconds from second to fifth place. The US was open water clear of the pile-up.
"We were just trying to get over some nerves that we had yesterday and just get out there and race a hard race," six seat John Ozaeta said. "Obviously, it's super competitive here. Every country is coming out and putting everything on the water, and we're just trying to do our best to stay with everybody and push off as much as we can."
We asked men's eight coach Jesse Foglia about the potential value of going through the rep in a straight-to-the-final event.
"We didn't set out yesterday with the hope of needing to go through the rep to progress, but with the field as competitive as it is found ourself in that position," he said. "I'm pleased we progressed because that’s all you can hope for at this stage and we will continue to work to improve as we see out the final chapter in this narrative."
Stroke Harrison Schofield added that "Our 8+ learned a good deal about ourselves through the heat. We found the understanding that the world championships is a place where every crew is extremely fast.
"Today we didn't do anything to stay away from the pack other than try to row our own race; for the final, the key focal points is just keep working as a crew and focus on what we can do," he said.
When the US women's four got off the water, they shared some immediate impressions with coach Liz Trond.
"The crew came back to the dock and the first thing they said was, did you see the first 500?'
"I told them no, as with the five minute centers the video picks up at 1000m. Here it is how they described it:
- Solid off the start and with the leader if not ahead.
- Sudden swerve to the port buoy line during the high strokes. Both port blades insert under the buoy line, and at one point one port in the bucket was at the catch and the other at the release.
- They got it together and raced as hard (not clean) as possible to make the A final after being down to everyone except India."
Descriptions of what can go on in a 2000 meter race don't get a lot more real than that, whew.
Trond was happy with the overall approach, however, and the crew is looking forward to the finals.
"Super happy with their intensity (different than their heat...) so now we have to put together the best race possible Sunday!!"
Women's Coxed Four
The US women's coxed four took the third of four A final spots from the rep, and race for medals on Sunday.
"Yesterday, we kind of dipped our toes in the water internationally. It was the first race for all of us," Aidan Wrenn-Walz said. "Today, I think we're finding out what we need to do going into the final. I think we're really pumped for it."
"It's nice now that we've raced all of the boats that we can kind of put together a plan for the final, so we're super excited," Linsey Rust said. "I think we learned a lot from racing twice, and we had things to work on from the first race and second race, and we want to put it all together for the third.
"We were all very nervous going into the heat since it was our first international race and we had no idea how fast any of the other boats were. The first half of the heat we were a little conservative but had a very strong second half. We definitely learned a lot from the heat and made some changes to our race plan going into reps. After looking at all of the data from both heats, we decided that it would be beneficial to have a much stronger start to hang closer to some of the other crews. We were able to execute a strong first half of our rep, but didn't have as strong of a second half. We are very happy that we got another chance to race, and are confident that we can combine these two race experiences into a very strong and fast final race."
Three seat Morgan Linsley concurred, noting "We want to take the good start from today and the good finish from yesterday, and put them together."
The crew is racing in an increasing fast event, and welcomes the challenge.
"Racing in such a fast field allows us to really test our speed," Rust said. "We came here to race the fastest crews in the world, and everyone is living up to those expectations. Having two new worlds best times being set only encourages us to fight even harder against the other teams. Going against crews at the international level requires us to push ourselves to levels we have not experienced during races at home. With such a competitive field, we know that we will have to work together as one to achieve our goals."
Women's Eight Gets Underway with Prelim Race
With five entries this year, the women's eights rowed a "preliminary" race today, sometimes called a race for lanes, with Italy leading pretty much wire to wire, followed at the line by the United States, as well as almost everyone else save for Russia – the top four crews were within 1.41 seconds.
On racing a prelim race, which doesn't specifically have any implications, the crew offered the following thoughts.
"It's important to look at racing with excitement instead of fear. It was a little difficult to see the rest of the team get geared up to race while we had to wait but we just continued to get more and more pumped which allowed us to stay internal and focused when it came to race day. We wanted to approach the 'test race' as if it were the finals because we were confident in our abilities and wanted to utilize this race to learn from and translate what we learned into our race plan for Sunday."
On the challenge of waiting almost until the end of the week to start racing, they were somewhat unphased.
"Although we were excited to get to racing, we appreciated the extra time to adjust to a new course and conditions, and work out any last kinks. As we watched everyone else prepare, we just had to work together as a crew to make sure our heads were all in the right places and no one was holding in any stress."
Coach Brian Ebke concurred, noting that any opportunity to go down the course is worth seizing.
"It's such a cool experience to race at Worlds, and the athletes work so hard to be able to put their best out there, that we wanted to take advantage of both opportunities to race 2k, and have fun with the racing," he said.
"It was good to get the jitters out," US three seat Samantha Henriksen said after the race. "We're the only boat class that gets to race all of our competitors that will be in the final, so now we know what we need to work on for Sunday's race, which is really good."
For the final, the crew is anticipating a hard race and potentially tough conditions.
"We talked a lot about staying cleaner in the last 500 because it is the craziest part of the race; staying calm, staying clean," Violet Barletta said.
"It's going to be tough conditions on Sunday, so we want to stay relaxed about that, not get worked up," Mia Levy added. Gabrielle Graves offered some overall perspective: "It was really exciting to race as a crew on the Olympic course in our first race together."
"We have a lot of confidence, so we need to work a little bit more on our technique and a few other things tomorrow, and we'll be set for Sunday," Lettice Cabot concluded.
Notes from the Course
This is a first from 20+ years of photographing crews at the line; a water bottle we well aligned with the camera to make a perfect circle.
The Uzbekistan sculler had an odd stint in the starting blocks; he was laughing and making gestures, pulled up socks during the polling, as the light went off he took his hand off the oar to turn off his stroke coach, then he almost flipped.
Water bottle toss contest?
In contrast, some local style.
Cain't nobody tell me nothing...
It was windy to end the day as evidenced by these shirts in the vendor tents flying due to wind.