The town of Henley-on-Thames put on a grand fireworks show Saturday night, a fitting conclusion to an explosive semifinal day. The boat tent reduced population, rowers formally seen in unisuits were in blazers and/or skirts for the enclosures, for many, water time had come to an end.
Early in the schedule Sunday, those who remained were ready to go head-to-head. Today more than any you see how personal this regatta is to the competitors. At the end of that long course, faces of joy and faces of pain were the most telling evidence of the emotional sporting event that is Henley.
Cornell lightweights and Cal frosh heavies were first on the course for American crews. Early race times would suggest the inevitable: Cal would win. Cornell raced well, Coach Dan Roock said he crew was pleased with their race and had really left it all out there. I overheard in the boat enclosures, "Of course the Cal boys will win, they outweigh the others by about 2 stone each." In the extremely accurate words of their coach: "Well, there you have it." For those keeping tabs, the usual lightweight coach Todd Kennett is still waiting with his wife for the birth of their second child, we'll keep you posted.
The upset race of the day was Alan Campbell's (Tideways Scullers) victory over dual-World Champion (2005, 2006) Mahe Drysdale. Campbell had a great start, but was directly beside Drysdale. They fought it out staying within a length of each other, and within two beats of each other on the stroke rate, into the middle of the race. Campbell was warned for steering, but regained composure. Drysdale was disturbed by the wake of a passing boat, and pulling it together was not as complete, he fell behind a half length. Ultimately, it looked like Campbell had a race plan, a mission and incredible composure to beat this World Champion, even with Drysdale getting it together in the end, there wasn't any course left to correct any problems. Next stop? World Cup event in Luzerne; these men are not done with this.
Brentwood College School, who had been making steady progress through the draw this week, was, on paper, the team to beat for the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup. To almost seal the deal, they were on the Berkshire Station. The Shrewsbury School had a gutsy race, however, and equalized their advantage. As they came into the Stewards, they were dead-even; moving a foot, regaining a foot?you see how this is going? As they crossed the line, the announcer was silent. Both crews looked at each other?who should be congratulated? Minutes past, kids looking drained. When the announcer chimed in, this time the crowd was silent?at the announcement, shouts of elation and curses of real anguish rang over the Thames?it was Shrewsbury, in what looked like the most emotional finishes of the day.
Near the close of the day, Michelle Guerette faced Jennifer Goldsack of Wallingford Rowing Club. This was never anyone but Guerette's race, another case of more heft behind each oar--Michelle outweighs the British Lightweight, and had this race from the beginning.
That's it for now, folks; more will be posted to row2k when we get stateside early in the week, keep checking.