A warm morning turned into a hot high noon and then a blistering afternoon that topped out at over 90 degrees in Cherry Hill, but the hot tailwind that came with it made for fair racing and fast times throughout the day. No one went so fast as did west coast crews and arch rivals Washington and Cal, who ended up in the same morning heat – the third time the crews have met side by side this year – which came in about five seconds faster than any of the other four Varsity 8 heats, and found the two crews only 0.27 seconds apart at the finish line.
"Steve and I remarked this morning about how we came 3000 miles to race again in the heats," said UW head coach Bob Ernst while watching the afternoon reps from the bike path. "I don't know if the times mean anything, though. I suspect the other crews may just have been racing to come top two, but that's not the way we race Cal, or the way they race us. That's Washington and Cal out there! We weren't thinking that we would just let them go take the heat, and I'm sure Cal didn't say, sure, just let Washington win."
Washington certainly seems to have found some speed in the past couple weeks; at least one lineup change involving moving the stern pair from the 2V into the varsity seems to have helped the cause. "We had to find some speed eventually!" Ernst exclaimed. Their timing seems to be on.
Some of the top eastern crews, who have not seen Cal or Washington this year, weren't so sure that the times were of no consequence. "It's hard to know whether you can compare times, but since they were about five seconds faster than any of the other heats without a big change in conditions, and everyone else is in a tight group, that means something," said Curtis Jordan of Princeton. Jordan was also impressed with Brown's performance in the heat; "they just blasted out of there, it was impressive," Jordan noted of Brown's heat performance.
Harvard coach Harry Parker agreed with Jordan. "I was very impressed with Cal and Washington this morning," he said during the mid-day break. "Certainly the times would indicate they are very fast. Conditions could be variable, but that seemed to me to be no fluke." Parker has made one change in his varsity eight since Sprints, bringing a sophomore into the ranks, and sees considerable parity in the eastern crews. "They seem to be very similar to where they were two weeks ago at Sprints."
The racing got off to a slightly stuttering start after overnight changes in the water level of the lake by whoever controls these things caused the buoyed racecourse to look more like a Pollack painting than a rectangular grid. As a result, the pairs were sent back to the docks, their races postponed until the end of the morning program, and by the time the eights were scheduled to run, the course was ready. It took the officials only about four races to get everything back on schedule, and the regatta was underway.
Sign of the times: the Penn varsity had some minor equipment issues – a height spacer had fallen off – but the coxswain of the crew had a cellphone on him, turned it on, called back to the boating area, and Penn boatwright Shep hauled up to the starting line with the replacement part and the crew barely missed a beat. Sure beats the old method – tell an official, who tells another official back at the docks, who sends someone to try to find the coach, who then tries to figure out what parts are needed, etc….
The small boats at the IRA always bring a few crews at the top of the heap that you don't always see at the top of the heap alongside the Cals and Washingtons on the results boards (although these crews do hold their own at many regattas); today the Gonzaga 4+ was in this number, as were crews from Lehigh, Colgate, and Georgia Tech in the 4-. Also, a quick notice of the Cornell pair winning their heat – Cornell has won the event two years running with at least one athlete in the boat both times; this year he is in the seven seat of the light men's varsity eight (can I get a name anyone? sorry not to have it here), but Cornell won the heat anyway. Cornell lights seem to like the 2-…
When it comes to the small boats, without speaking to every coach in the regatta, it's hard to know exactly who is in the crew; the fours range from the best four guys at one program to the 3V lightweights at another. These events often provide some real interest, however, such as Army's performance last year. And the small boat triumphs sometimes lead to bigger boat efforts – Army has an eight at the regatta this year – which is certainly good for the sport.
Lightweight racing gets underway in the morning with the lightweight women; the crews weighed in tonight, race heats and reps tomorrow, with finals on Saturday. The men race more on a Sprints advancement – heats and finals on the same day on Saturday.
Finally, last and absolutely least, Bobs both Nyce and Appleyard showed up at the IRA sans beards for the first time ever. Appleyard, in fact, admitted that neither his daughter nor his wife had ever seen him without a beard. It was a good call given the temps on the day, whew.
It looks like there is strong potential for a very wet IRA from here on out; fingers crossed. But you don't need a weatherman to know that, as always, the crews are sure to bring it once they launch out onto the Cooper River.
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