Here's our report on the races that took place before noon on Saturday, but first a full run down of the 12 US crews that won today, and still have shells in the nearly vacant Boat Tents:
From the Morning Races
Temple Challenge Cup - M8+
Univ of Washington
Hambleden Pairs Challenge Cup - W2-
M. Musnicki & J. Morrison
Prince Philip Challenge Trophy - JW8+
Winter Park Crew
From the Races after Lunch
Ladies Challenge Plate - M8+
Univ of California
Island Challenge Cup - W8+
Visitors' Challenge Cup - M4-
Univ of Washington
Queen Mother Challenge Cup - M4x
Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup - JW 4x
Prince Albert Challenge Cup - M4+
Univ of California "A"
Stonor Challenge Trophy - W2x
M.R. Fellows & M.A. Sechser
Princess Royal Challenge Cup
For every Semi-Final winner there is a crew that goes out, so here is the butcher's bill from today for the US contingent:
Who Went Out
US National Team (Remenham W8+); Dartmouth, Yale (Ladies Plate M8+); Cambridge BC & Craftsbury GRP-US Team (Princess Grace W4x); Liu & Heese-US LM2x (Double Sculls); Ahyi & Van Westreenen of Cal (Hambleden W2-)
Morning Racing - The Temple
Head Husky Coach Michael Callahan talked earlier in the week about managing the now-six days of racing and what he called "playing the game to advance to the next day." The Husky Crew in the Temple did just that this morning, outlasting Durham University in a ripping semi-final to advance by two-thirds of a length--close, but more than enough to make the final tomorrow.
They will face Oxford Brookes, who won a great deal here last year at the smaller, COVID-friendly Henley last August, and is a power in the UK's university rowing scene. Promises to be a great showdown between the top eights that each program entered here.
Morning Racing - The Hambledon
Megan Musnicki and her Australian partner Jess Morrison may not be in active selection or eyeing this year's Worlds, but today was a master class in what happens when you put three Olympic Golds worth of talent and skill in a pair-- and do what is probably a fair bit more training than they are letting on.
They won going away--and going straighter today-- over an Australian Team pair, and will face the Leander Pair that won at Women's Henley this year.
Morning Racing - The Prince Phillip
If there is a darling of this regatta on the US side, it would have to be the scrappy girls from Winter Park. Wearing unis that said "Vertullo Sisters" in honor of long-time coach Mike Vertullo, who got them here, the crew got out to a half-length that they clung to with an iron grip and took the win--beating yet another local favorite, Henley RC, and becoming the first US crew, and US Scholastic crew, to make the Final.
Sure, the event itself might only be in its second year, but a first is a first, and after what Winter Park did here today, they will own that distinction forever.
Coach Vertullo, who always wanted to bring a crew here, saw this opportunity when the Stewards added the Junior Women's event in 2021.
"I didn't really know the expectations," Vertullo, who was too nervous to watch a single stroke live, said afterwards. "It's just not knowing how fast we needed to be. The course today was incredibly difficult: 2112 meters into a 50 mile per hour swirling headwind. The cox got flagged twice but she recovered and we responded to all their moves. Great crew there in Henley [RC], and Headington did the same thing to us, but we never, never gave up and we just responded each time and I'm just happy to make the final.
"The toughest thing is that this water is nothing like we have in the States: you get hit by some wakes, then swirling winds when the booms open up, and they're getting crushed with with a crosswind. So it's a new experience each time out there for them, and we're just gonna continue to try to get one better."
Coxswain Delaney Gardner--who has some celebrity cred due to appearances in the row2k "Video of the Day" --did indeed get flagged as the crosswind kept sweeping her crew away from the booms, but her calls kept her crew in the lead, even as she laid on the rudder to appease the umpire.
"It was definitely very crazy conditions," she said. "In the United States, we're kind of used to lots of wind, so we're usually prepared for anything and I think just seeing all the girls being able to persevere for that long, it's still blowing my mind. To be where we are and to make it to finals? It's just a dream come true every day that we make it and I'm just I'm really excited for tomorrow."
When asked what she has learned about her crew from the two wins here and their come-from-behind stomping of the field at SRAAs, Gardner said:
"It's definitely just knowing what got us here. I really like making personal calls for them. When I call those, I can connect with them, too, and just knowing that they're the reason that we're here--and we have a lot of people supporting us back at home and here too--but just knowing that they're able to pull through every race. It's just it's really inspiring to see. I love being able to cox them.
"It's definitely intense," she said about being between the booms. "I think everybody would say it gets stressful out there, especially with the booms on one side and the crew on the other. But I think, just for myself, just to remain nice and calm and know that I'm in control of the boat."
Henley did make the end exciting, taking advantage of the cheering crowd to make one final push, and Gardner wished she could be part of her crew's response:
"Towards the end, it was it was extremely tense. I mean, I can't do much physically--I cox them verbally--but I started pushing off that footplate and just trying to inch us towards the end because in the end, it's a split second that counts and I was just wanting to be there with them, getting us to that line."
In the final, we will see a true match up of crews that battled to make their way through the draw: St Catherine's School, Australia, is the crew we spoke with earlier in the week, when the stroke seat lost her seat for a heart-stopping moment but recovered--and we are looking forward to a great race and, if the wind ever stops, a chance for either or both to break the Prince Phillip course record...owned, since yesterday, by Winter Park Crew.
Done on the Saturday
Jasper Liu and Zach Heese, the newly qualified and named USA Light Men's Double, looked good getting to today in their opening heat, and sculled strongly today, but were simply overmatched.
So too for the US Team Women in the Princess Grace Open Quad, who could not match the Australian's pace down the course. The Australians finished just off the podium at the Poznan World Cup, but now get a final against the gold-medal winning Chinese tomorrow. The Cal pair also came up against the "open" nature of the event: meeting a very senior GB squad pair.
Today's blazer: those of the Black Sheep Rowing, only truly complete with a matching vest--and the ties are pretty cool, too.
Founded 25 years ago, the Club has had a few years with multiple HRR entries and been to America to race the Charles. Reportedly, its name and logo come from a discussion along the lines of what's the opposite of a Leander Club pink hippo and their priorities, in this order, are "kit, beer, and rowing." Cheers, gents.
BTW: there is a story about the lettering on the sleeve of the Black Sheep on the left--"Survivors of the Friday Cull"--and it is a good one, but we'll save it for another time.
Notes from the Course
Gusting, Blowing, And Crossing: the Regatta probably keeps official records of these things, but unofficially today's stiff-and-then-some breeze was "the worst I've ever seen at Henley" according to one veteran of the regatta.
Calling Data Geeks: if you are an eagle-eyed row2k Gallery visitor, you may have asked yourself why are there iPhones on the stern decks of some crews--and no, it is not for Instagramming. Ludum, which did rate and speed telemetry for the Fixtures ahead of The Boat Race here is testing their technology here at Henley. In the Ludum "HQ" up in the Press Center, you can watch the crews they are tracking--and being able to see the crew racing up close in real-time thanks to the Regatta broadcast, is helping Ludum fine-tune their tracking and double-check their tech. You can see the speed data up on the screen in selected races, and the setup also explains the strange square antenna on the stern of one umpire's launch. Oh, and it plots the crews course and tracks how straight it is; coxswains will love it.
Fun British Phrase of the Day: "they don't pay a peppercorn"...this in a place were history does stretch back to a time when a peppercorn, apparently, was worth something.
No row2k? One Aussie was overheard to lament along the lines of, "well, we don't have anything like row2k for that." Sorry about that, Oz folks.
Could we be the pot of gold? When the rain that soaked the proceedings broke for a moment, there was some excitement in the press box about the chance of seeing a rainbow, then a debate as to where it might appear, and then a realization that it might be above us...and that we were the pot of gold...
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