Truly beautiful day on the Charles today – especially if you were not racing. For those on the course, the headwinds complicated things a bit, but the racing itself seemed as good as the sunshine felt.
Both the men's and women's championship singles crowned first time winners today; in the men's single, Santiago Fernando of Argentina won in dramatic fashion putting 16 seconds between himself and defending champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand; and in the women's single, Sophie Balmary of France bested two Canadian scullers, an Italian sculler, a South African sculler, and defending champ and local favorite Michelle Guerette, winning with a gap of over nine seconds on the field.
Both Fernando and Balmary claimed their titles racing from the middle of the pack; Santiago started 16th in his race, Balmary 14th. The twists and turns of the Charles combined with the simultaneous challenge of passing several singles affected the two scullers differently, albeit with the same result.
"I have only practiced on the river since Thursday,” Santiago said after the race, "but on my river in Buenos Aires there are many turns and bridges, and I have to turn around to look quite a bit. I am always rowing looking over my shoulder, so I am used to it.” Santiago felt he had a good row, but was still unsure of the outcome until he saw the result.
"Drysdale is very good, so I was not sure,” he said. "I thought I had a chance, and I am happy to have won.”
Balmary was less sure of the outcome when she crossed the line. Asked if she was surprised to have won, she replied "Uh – yeah!” with a laugh.
"I was thinking just to take some of the pressure off so I could keep a good direction, because I tried to row the course yesterday and it went very badly, so I knew I had to do something about that,” she said after the race. "It was very hard to keep a good direction while having to pass so many boats. Sometimes there were three boats to pass at a time!”
Gabriella Bascelli of Italy had a good row going at Riverside, pacing one second ahead of Balmary, when he footboards broke at the one mile mark. Bascelli limped the boat to the finish line, where she gave the shell to race officials in hopes of not doing any more damage to the borrowed boat. She then walked the half mile back to the Cambridge Boat Club; tough afternoon.
Handkerchief heads seem to be making a comeback, especially the in the senior masters single (also known as the Double Geezer Single in row2k parlance); interesting that these are folks in their 40s, who should know something about it – or perhaps should know better?
The double of Igor Boraska and Eduardo Palomo had a good row going until they arrived right in front of Cambridge Boat Club, where a series of turns, stops, and clashes ultimately resulted in 1:20 in penalties, which I believe was the largest penalty tally of the day; owwww. At age 36, Boraska is working on a comeback for the 2008 Olympics; "I am still young,” he said. While he has been sculling for the past couple years to stay in shape, he expects to get back in the sweep boats for the bid, however.
Oops, scratch that – Amherst College Alumni Rowing Association was assessed three minutes and 20 seconds in penalties in the Club Eights – and they didn't even come last in their event! That honor went to Halifax Rowing Club, which covered the course in 41:56.7; getting to Riverside alone took them over 28 minutes. Whatever happened, it could not have been fun.
Still on penalties, the Coast Guard women's Club Eight was assessed two minutes in penalties – huh? They're the Coast Guard!
Speaking of Olympians, if you thought you saw US 2004 Olympic gold medal eight stroke Bryan Volpenhein in the stroke seat today, you weren't wrong; Bryan led the Pocock crew to a win in the master's eight. Yes, you read that right.
Overheard at the regatta, also after the Double Geezer 1x: "I wasn't planning on racing, and my wife recently asked when I was going to stop rowing so much, and I wasn't sure, but when the rating dropped to around 28 in the second mile, I thought ‘Did I just quit rowing?'”
Today's headwinds had more than a couple folks wondering what the heck they were doing out there, but think on this: There are rumors of a light tailwind in store for Sunday; what if today's gusty winds had been a direct tailwind for much of the course, instead of a direct headwind? Many of those same folks would have been saying how fantastic their row had been; what a difference a wind vector makes.
The wind served to put some time between crews, and there were probably fewer ridiculously tight races as a result; one tight batch of crews came in the women's master's eight, where
Where was Steve Tucker today? He opted out of the Champ 1x this year, and will be stroking a lightweight eight tomorrow.
And while regatta director Fred Schoch could certainly take home a gold medal from his office with little notice, today he earned one the honest way by winning the senior master's men's eight. All in a day's work, congrats Fred!