"It's going to be quite a long race with that kind of head breeze," observed a Brit launch occupant before the start of the Fawley Challenge race between Malvern Prep from the Philadelphia area and Cathedral School from Australia.
It was a significant wind that kicked up in the morning, literally as this race began. As the official's launch that would follow the race pulled away from the docks, the water was flat and the wind was still, 2200 meters and 10 minutes down the course, it was blustery and the water was full of chop. It changed, and for the worse as the day progressed. In the mean time, Malvern is at the start.
This Malvern Prep team has had quite a run this spring. They have won Philadelphia City Championships, Stotesbury Cup, Scholastic Nationals and Youth Nationals. The boys, Brandon Hanna, Mike Rawlings, Mike Bohs and Mike Donahue (coaching this crew must be easy - "Mike! Slow the slide!" covers 3/4s of the team - or difficult - "Mike, you're late" just means that Brandon must be early?), have had the composure to keep it together consistently for every championship race. They demonstrated it again here in this heat.
"They have good swing," says Coach Craig Hoffman. Report confirmed. The Malvern crew was down by a length at Fawley; the Cathedral School crew had a strong stroke that kept the tempo and power up. Over the next half mile, Malvern hit their groove while Cathedral floundered from a minor crab, and had pulled ahead by 1 and ? lengths at the enclosures. There is some concern that an American scholastic crew might run out of steam after their accustomed 1500 meters, but this wasn't the case here, as Malvern won by more than 3 lengths.
The next race down the course was a US dual between the Gabe Winkler and Donny Simkin of California Rowing Club, and Peter and Tom Graves of Bantam Rowing Club. The crews were even for the early part of the race or jockeying for a foot or a canvas. At Remenham, the Graves brothers pulled ahead with a consistently higher rating that didn't lose any power despite the bullying wind. In the end they won by 5 lengths to advance in the Doubles Sculls Challenge Cup.
The Grand Challenge Cup hit the water today, and with times that weren't too Grand thanks to the wind. In the University of Southern California boat were six members of the Estonian National team that didn't make the Olympic qualification in Poznan. They faced a crew from Denmark that had several international-level athletes themselves, including the Levring twin brothers Gunnar and Asbjorn who have competed in European championships and World Cups. The USC crew lead from the start, by as much as 2 and 1/2 lengths at Remenham, and looked more unified than the Danes. Although the Danish crew pulled out a sprint to the finish, drawing in a length, it wasn't enough, and USC advances.
As the races progressed through the day, the wind and accompanying currents and chop were big players, slowing small boat races dramatically and cooling the folks in their finery in the Stewards'. Some reports say that the wind hit as much as 40 mile per hour gusts, enough that photographers on the slightly precarious progress boards on the water were rethinking the use of their giant lens in the wind. Said one: "it picks up the wind like a sail."
One more thing, this one from one of the Stewards' on some reluctance to follow tradition in recent years:
When a Steward instructed a guest to not have drinks on the lawn, she shot back: "What is this, a bloody convent?"
His reply: "Yes, and I am mother superior."
That's it from the morning, action in the Temple and more this afternoon.