Whoa, that got a little crazy.
The cold front that rolled into California on Sunday to bring forecasted heavy wind, rain and potential thunderstorms held off for nearly the entire regatta, with most events getting somewhat tame conditions. There was something brewing during the men’s varsity 8+ final (more on the actual race in bit) though, and shortly after the men crossed the line Mother Nature unleashed a strong headwind, heavy rain and hail, and even some lightning on the regatta.
The storm cell hit Lake Natoma minutes before the start of the women’s varsity 8 race, and conditions deteriorated rapidly moving down the course towards the start. Officials called the WV8 race to the start as soon as the men had passed the breakage area and attempted to organize a quick start to beat as much of the storm as possible. They didn’t get far; by 250 meters in to the race, the crews hit the 25mph headwind and rain, and by the 1000 it had turned to hail, lightning, and white caps for the rest of the course.
The actual race turned out to be “Epic” according to Cal coach Dave O’Neill, whose crew fought off a furious sprint by Stanford to win by half a second and lock up the Bear’s fourth consecutive Pac-10 team title.
“We were just kind of joking around afterward,” O’Neill said. “There was some thunder and lightning going on during the race; and the weather was kind of crazy too!” It was a great day all around for the Cal women, with the Novice 8, Varsity 4, and Varsity 8 winning gold and the 2V bringing home the silver.
Following the finish of the WV8 final, officials announced that all crews must get to shore as quickly as possible and it was a mad dash to spin and row back to land while the electrical storm raged just to the north of the course.
The men’s varsity eight final turned out to be another classic race between Washington and Cal. The two crews broke free of the field in the second 500 with Washington holding a half-length lead. The Huskies fought off multiple challenges in the second thousand and maintained their advantage all the way to the line.
“Our competitors are a known quantity and we knew they were going to be tough all the way down the course, and they were,” UW coach Michael Callahan said following the race. “I think it puts the Pac-10 in a really strong position for our national championship in a couple weeks.”
The win sets up another IRA championship with Washington as the favorites, with Cal and Sprints champs Harvard the two likely crews with the best shot to knock off the UW. Washington dominated the JV8 and V4, winning by 11 and 20 seconds respectively. The lone crew to beat the Washington men on Sunday was the Cal Freshmen 8 who put in another strong performance to win by 6 seconds and cap an unbeaten regular season.
The regatta marked the end of the season for a few crews, and with NCAA and IRA selection to come, it now becomes a waiting game for others. The Stanford men, who had frosh in their V8 during the regular season, did race an IRA eligible crew in the Varsity event and are now qualified for the regatta in three weeks. For the women; Cal, Stanford, and USC look to be locks for selection with WSU and UW strong hopefuls, and UCLA on the bubble.