The talk of the town in Henley in the run-up to regatta is the weather - and unfortunately it's not idle chatter. Everything from parking problems to footwear has been under discussion, but the big deal at Henley this year is the rain and current. Southern England has had the wettest June on record, and the forecast calls for rain through the first half of next week, which could result in very wet and muddy conditions, and a Thames that is very high and very fast. We've heard crews speak of 8 minute steady state rows downstream taking 12 minutes upstream. The fast stream will certainly add time to the races, but the important discussion is whether the lanes are equally affected. Some folks think that the conventional wisdom that Berks beats Bucks in an even matchup is all but fate this year.
Even the look of the regatta site, an almost sacrosanct setup - if you look at photos over time, you'll see little if any variation in the placement and character of things - has suffered this year, with progress boards going missing, among other things.
But enough of the weather - it's a classic "it is what it is" scenario, and let's get on with it. Hopefully the 2007 regatta will ultimately be better remembered for being one of the most internationally popular HRR's ever; with a record number of US crews in attendance (41), and big Australian and Canadian contingents joined by Czech, Polish, and German contingents.
Although Trinity coach Larry Gluckman told row2k a couple years ago that you can tell at the official draw precisely what race at Henley will decide whether you win or lose, I'll not look past the first round of racing in today's preview. From a Yank-centric perspective, a couple Day One matchups will provide real fireworks. In the Temple, the Georgetown and Dartmouth lightweights, who are 1-1 on the year back home, meet at 3:35 for the tiebreaker (IRA champ Cornell is on the other side of the bracket, so could only see these crews in the final if any of them advance all the way); the Temple also has four US frosh crews in the mix. In the PE, seeded Belmont Hill meets St. Paul's right out of the gates; with seeded crews including four British crews, three US crew, and one Canadian crew, watching the brackets should provide some good fun. (If you are inclined toward predicting outcomes of the events, check out http://rowing.inklingmarkets.com/.)
Also notable among the heaps of eights and fours from the west side of the pond are the women's eights from Brown and Radcliffe, who were seeded on different sides of the bracket in the Remenham women's eights event. If the two advance on their first day of racing, they will meet a pair of national teams in the Saturday semifinals; Radcliffe is bracketed with the British team, Brown with the German team.
In the women's single, Michelle Guerette and Hillary Gehman are seeded along with Dutch and Belgium scullers. Gehman has not raced internationally since the 2004 Olympics; hard to know if it's a comeback given that she just got a new job! C.L. Infantino rounds out the American contingent in the race, which includes only one British sculler among the eight entries.
The Diamonds men's single should provide some real intrigue, with the defending champ Mahe Drysdale, German Marcel Hacker, British Alan Campbell, and American Jamie Schroeder getting the top seeds. As a former Oxford Blue Boat member, Schroeder has some local experience.
The men's pair has no fewer than four world medalist crews in Australia, Canada, Germany and South Africa. The British team apparently need to watch where they are walking and/or wash their hands more often (which is ironic, sinc above every urinal and posted in every toilet stall within the Competitor's dressing area is the admonition NOW WASH YOUR HANDS), as no fewer than three crews have withdrawn due to injury or illness - the women's quad, men's double, and men's pair.
Let the storm clouds abate and the racing begin!