Curious what it was like rowing in the Great Eight? American single sculler Warren Anderson shared his thoughts with row2k following his weekend with the crew at the 45th Head of the Charles Regatta.
row2k - So you were 6-seat in the "Great Eight" for Head of the Charles, filling in for Olaf Tufte. How did your selection for the boat come about?
Warren Anderson - Well I had already met everyone in the boat in my time over the summer racing as the US single sculler in the World Cup circuit and at the World Championships this last year, so they all knew I had some experience and power. And when Bill Barry, their coach called me up for the first time, he told me that this is America's race so it seems only fitting that they would want to put an American in the boat.
row2k - Describe how the Regatta went prior to the racing. Did the eight spend much time together in Boston?
Warren Anderson - We went everywhere together. Bill kept us on a pretty tight schedule, before I went, I thought that this would be great, row an eight a few times and party at Ned Devine's and call it a week. But when we were sent our schedule just before flying out, it became obvious that this was not going to be the case. We were together for all our meals and two or three shorter rows a day.
row2k - You raced in the Champ Double on Saturday with Iztop Cop, what's it like racing with 14-time World and Olympic Medalist?
Warren Anderson - Not gonna lie, it was a bit intimidating. One guy asked him, on our first day rowing together, how many international medals he had, and he couldn't answer. "Over Fifty," was his official response. That makes you think, if there is something wrong in the boat, it's probably you. So I did the best I could to learn from him what I could in the 25K worth of rowing we did together in the double. And hopefully there are some tid-bits I can take back to my own team boats ability.
row2k - How many times did you row the 8 before Sunday's race?
Warren Anderson - We went out 4 times with the complete crew, and one row on Wednesday with two subs filling if for Mahe and Lassi. We didn't have all hands reporting till Thursday Morning. (And Mahe got Straight off a plane from New Zealand and into the boat for two rows in the eight and one in the single, ouch!)
row2k - Any idea on how the line-up was determined?
Warren Anderson - You know I don't think the exact line-up was so critical. You had Tim who was the Small one (a.k.a. Tiny Tim) so there you have a bow seat, and Iztok with the most experience in both sweep and sculling, so you have a stroke there. The rest of the guys are all between 100 - 105 kilo's with big 'ol ergs, so there you go.
row2k - What was the group dynamic like? Was there a clear leader among the single scullers?
Warren Anderson - I really don't think so. There was a level of respect amongst all of us that was well shared, and now that it is October the level of seriousness is at it's minimum. It was really just fun to hang out with these guys, all of them.
row2k - The eight cruised to a pretty convincing victory despite some rudder issues. Describe the race for us.
Warren Anderson - Already in our practice rows we had broken two rudders attempting to practice the turns. In desperation we used a carbon fin dagger fin/rudder combo that Filippi offers which definitely gave the boat a new feel, but we thought it wouldn't break. On the warmup we did a power 15 around the Riverside boathouse then that rudder was gone too.
Ali, our cox was a bit stunned, but Iztok had her take us over to BU's boathouse where they were very generous and lent us a rudder from one of their Filippi fours (it was all that would fit) and helped us put it on. Then we went straight to the start to just wait and see what would happen. We went out hard and just kept the rate as high as we could, and realizing on the starting line that Ali would just have to steer with her hands, we just went with the flow, trusting her and Iztok. There wasn't much else we could do, and in the end it served us well.
row2k - The weather and conditions were pretty abnormal for the Head of the Charles, how did the crew handle the conditions?
Warren Anderson - We did fine I think (not saying that there weren't a few cold fingers and toes and maybe a bit of whining), but we all decided that if we were to do this again it would be someplace warm, my vote was to talk to Angel, the Cuban single sculler.
row2k - The Great Eight was treated like rock stars during thier stay in Boston; for oarspeople this doesn't happen too often. What was that like?
Warren Anderson - Truth be told, everything was amazing, we were given all that anyone could ask for, people were very nice and outgoing, we had a full social schedule, and I had to learn to sign my autograph, but it was a very new experience for me, and something I'm not expecting to really come across again (except in the light of some great Olympic achievement... hopefully). Over the past couple years I have come to believe that rowing is a sport that (for most of us) if you are great at it, and do some amazing things, most people will still never know, but every now and then you will come across someone that saw you give everything you had one good day on the water and want to buy you a beer. So to come out getting a chance to do something so amazing, and receiving such a welcome, was a bit of a shock, and something I will remember for the rest of my life.
row2k - Anything weird or totally unexpected happen during the weekend?
Warren Anderson - I don't think there has been anything more unusual that I have done than go and race the biggest regatta in the world with friends from seven other countries, so nothing really stands out in my mind.
row2k - If you haven't already mentioned it, what is the one memory you will always remember from the 2009 Head of the Charles?
Warren Anderson - Sprinting for the finish line. With a couple hundred meters to go Ali told us that we were passing 42 strokes a minute and still wanted more. That kind of moment sticks with you. I never thought I'd be closing out the Charles like that!... Oww
row2k - There have been varying reports that you have the fastest erg on the US team right now, care to share what your 2k and 6k are?
Warren Anderson - I go 5:46 for my 2k and 18:39 for my 6k. I don't know if that is indeed the fastest USA has right now, but it's something we all need to work on. Let me tell you, I was dragging down the erg average of the Great Eight. Now that's motivation to me.