Judging by the list of entries, the 2019 San Diego Crew Classic looks to have attracted the same number of crews coming in from around the country, and the same level of competition as it has for years.
In every event, top to bottom, the number of crews and their competitive histories, marks the annual spring sprint festivale as the place to come to measure early season boat speed and team development.
Except, that is, for the top collegiate men's race, the Copley Cup Invitational. This year, there are only two crews, the University of California and Yale University. Even with the 2018 race format change that brought dual racing into play, and attracted six of the top teams from both sides of the country to Mission Bay, the slate this spring has only Cal and Yale.
That doesn't mean the race won't be worth watching. Yale is the defending IRA Champion and has been the team to beat for at least the past two seasons. And Cal, well, that storied program is the defending Copley Champion.
But the absence of crews was unavoidably noticeable. "That is sort of a glaring thing," said event executive director Luke Walton. "A lot of people have written me or called asking me about it."
The answer, Walton explained, is both a good, and a not so good, thing. The positive is that there are an expanding number of regattas offering the same level of competition, increasing the options for crews that have to fill their schedules with conference duals as the season moves into full swing. And the bad news - there are is expanding number of options for good, early season racing.
Just this weekend, in Redwood City, California, Stanford University is hosting the University of Washington, Northeastern University, Oregon State. This is the first year in 20 that Stanford will not race the Crew Classic.
Five weeks ago, Washington, Oregon, Cornell University and Marist College, all traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete at the three-year-old Las Vegas Invitational.
Both options have combined to limit this year's Copley Cup schedule. "On the men's side there is this sort of series of events in terms of where the men's teams have decided to put their time and their matchups and their scheduling," Walton said.
"So that is where we are this year," he said. "There are crews that were almost going to come this year, or said flat out we're not coming, but we want to talk about 2020."
And based on those comments and a determination to make an early push for next season, coupled with the dual racing format started last year, Walton said he believes the Copley Cup will fill out again.
"The switch in format for the Copley was definitely the right one," he said. "It's still the right format, I'm confident in that. It's just that this year seemed to be scheduling, and the different options crews had.
"I could look at it from a selfish side and say, well that's effecting the Crew Classic because we are not getting everybody. Or I could look at it from a holistic, all-encompassing side, and think, this is great."
But, he added, "I'm confident that this year's race between Cal and Yale will be super exciting. "We'll just continue to push and create the best match ups we can in 2020 for the Copley."
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