Hard not to draw attention at any international event when you are an eight flying USA colors, so it is no surprise that the debut of the US Women's eight that came together after Poznan's World Cup was a draw. They looked sharp, and not just because of their new kit and the fact they row Filippi shells now, complete with the US National Team logo on the bow deck.
Their experience--seven of the crew rowed in Tokyo--was telling, as they saw off a U23 squad from Leander. Next stop will be the semis, where the four National Team eights will meet, as The Draw intended, on Saturday. For the US Women it will be a bit of a Groundhog Day, since the GB eight they race also hails in part from Leander Club, in combination with Imperial College, London.
Great racing ahead, indeed.
Who Moved On After Tea Time (US crews):
US National Team (Remenham W8+); Dartmouth (Ladies Plate M8+); Washington (Visitors M4-); California "A" (Prince Albert M4+); Redwood Scullers (Diamond Jubilee JW4x)
Who Went Out After Tea Time (US crews)
Washington (Remenham W8+); California (Island W8+); Riverside (Thames M8+); Stocovz & Pienaar (Goblets M2-)
Video Replays - Friday
Different Script, Same Result for Redwood
Race of the evening belong to the women from Redwood Scullers. After their first win, on Thursday, stroke Caroline Phipps told row 2k that "our goal is to get ahead at the start because in a one on one race, it can be really demoralizing to fall behind at the beginning."
In their opening race they were able to do so, but on Friday, they were the crew trailing, and to a well-drilled quad of GB junior teamers from Tideway Scullers School. Yet, the Redwood Scullers look anything but demoralized, and--flipping the scrip doggedly held Tideway to a half-length margin until finally launching a move that put them ahead, but only just, at the final marker. By the progress board, Redwood had a slim but clear edge and took the win.
It was, Assistant Coach Theresa Hashiguchi, the closest race Redwood has all year, and those in the launch had the feeling they may had just seen a race worthy of being the final, rather than "just" a quarterfinal.
Redwood is racing with a medical sub here, and the women who jumped in is high caliber: Meena Baher, who joined the club to be in a U23 Double with Hailey Mead after winning this year's Youth Single title with Los Gatos, is no ordinary sub. In turn, this was no ordinary day at Henley for Baher: before helping Redwood to their dramatic win, she had opened the day racing in the Stonor Double, lining up against the senior internationals racing here in the Ukraine/Poland double, Olena Buriak & Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska. The Internationals prevailed in the morning, but Baher clearly helped her new lineup in the quad in the evening.
And Dartmouth Makes Three
With Dartmouth's win in their evening Ladies Plate fixture, there will now be three US men's colleges in the semis, guaranteeing at least one "US interest" final on Sunday--and the tantalizing possibility of an all-American final.
(We won't even mention the most tantalizing possibility created by the results and the form Cal and Yale have shown here, but it starts with a "re" and ends with "match")
Dartmouth, a selected crew, was getting in their first go down the course in the win over a Dutch crew from Njord & Maastricht SS.
"I thought they did a good job," said head coach Wyatt Allen. "I think there was a lot of nerves. Been a few weeks since they've lined up against anyone else and then to do it on this course, I think it was nerve racking for the guys, so I'm happy with the way they executed: focused on controlling what they can control, and rowing their fastest speeds."
"It's always interesting here, as you know nothing about your competitors a lot of the time. So we figured they would be fast and they were, so that was a good assumption."
Washington moved on in the Vistors', rowing what Coach Mike Callahan called the "F1 Racing" event of rowing--eights being drag races and the coxed fours being, he said with a grin, "NASCAR."
His point was that the coxless four requires real finesse to row both straight and fast:
"It is very sophisticated boat to row," he said, "and there's a lot of ways to change the dynamic, plus of course, here you have the booms and barriers and wind and current. So it really tests all your skills and I was liking it to F1: You have a lot of skills in order to race it."
"I think the steering was outstanding by Mattijs [Holler]: we put the steering in the bow on this course. We had a couple of gusts that kind of brought him sideways but he corrected, and even the umpire at the end commended him on his line. So hopefully we're able to continue that. I think we switch stations tonight, but we'll see if the wind plays around with us. Seems to be doing a little bit of everything, so I think it goes back to the dynamics: we're kind of testing everyone's skills."
The skill level is fairly high in the Husky crew, all of whom rowed in the V8 this year, and the stroke--Jack Walkey--might be a freshmen (or "Gruntie" in the parlance of the UW program) but spent last summer in the same seat for the Canadian U23 team.
Racing Up, but Out
Washington's Women saw all three of their remaining crews go out, but when you consider that it was their Varsity Eight and Pair losing to Australian National team crews fresh off a World Cup, and their 2nd Varsity losing to a nearly intact Yale Varsity that looks sharp here, the Huskies were really out there racing up to the next level.
Beating a national team eight is a tough ask for any college varsity, even Washington's super charged crew, with its 4 U23 medalists and their Italian Olympian, but that has been the fun feature of college crews racing the wide open Remenham Cup with its annual draw of National Teams.
This year, Washington was the only university to give it a go against the best women's crews in the world--with the Island event an option now, that is where the other US schools chose to race.
Doing so allowed Washington Coach Yaz Farooq to bring nearly her entire NCAA squad, and to keep her very experienced Varsity together.
"The foreign tour rule only allows you to bring a team every four years," Farooq said. "So I felt like I wanted to bring as many people as I could because it's a magical experience. We come every four years, you know, that's our plan, and so that way, every person who comes [to UW] knows that they have a chance to go to Henley."
"My first time was in 2015. I came here with Stanford and I had heard how awesome it was. I mean, when I raced, it wasn't an opportunity [to race here with women] and so finally I did it. And not only did the rowers say it was the experience of a lifetime, but certainly all of the parents do, too"
"If you think about it, all the parents clap your kids out of the Boat Tents and if they have the Stewards' Enclosure badge? It's pretty cool: it's a unique environment where they get to be a part of sending the team off onto the water and I think it's, I think it makes it that much more special."
Farooq talked about her entries and how the Regatta has changed:
"Our varsity eight is in the Remenham, and we're the only US team that is, and then everybody else, including our 2V is in the Island. There were 40 or 42 entries in the Island, so I mean, I think what's cool is that the regatta is trying to equalize the experience for women. They added first the women's eight, and then I think the quad and the double, so they just keep adding in."
Now Saturday looms and, as one coach remarked, "It's going to be a big one"--but that is what we're here for, isn't it: to see the crews that remain take some big swings to make Finals Day at Henley.
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