If relative margins are to be believed, then for all intents and purposes the heavyweight racing at the 108th IRA Regatta could read like Pac-10s with a few eastern buddies joining in at the middle of the field. The facts are that the University of Washington Men have had few, if any stumbling blocks this season and look to be the team to beat in the Varsity, JV and Freshman eights this weekend.
In the Varsity Eight, the picture may be clearest at the moment as the Huskies haven't had a close race all season. There was a little open water between UW and Cal at the Pac-10s, about 4 seconds; is Cal the closest competitor UW has at the moment, or could two or even three other crews fit in that four-second gap? The knock on the eastern crews this season has been that there are no really dominant crews in the EARC; that said, the racing on the east coast has been fantastic right through Sprints, with a very young Harvard V8 taking that title ahead of a resurgent Princeton crew and Brown, a crew that seemed to falter to the bronze medal at Sprints, after coming into the regatta ranked first.
It's also not possible to count out Wisconsin entirely; the Badgers won this regatta and this title in 2008, and while Wisco doesn't tend to run with the same consistency as the Washington Huskies, they do tend to peak later in the year and could be a credible threat in Camden.
All told, while Washington does have the luxury of looking at the field from ahead going into the racing, all 5 crews in the chase pack are dangerous, and a serious tussle amongst those entries could take the racing to UW.
In the JV, the initial seedings also read "Washington-Cal" at the top of the sheet, but with that margin having been only 4 seats at Pac-10s, and with the top three crews at Sprints, Brown, Cornell and Wisconsin having all been within a length of each other, this event might be home to some of the best racing of the weekend.
The Freshman 8+ ought to be great as well, with a very successful Washington crew matched against a very strong Harvard entry at the top of the stack. Washington cleaned up at Pac-10s, with Cal almost a full length of open water back, while Harvard was pushed to the end of the racecourse by Princeton at Sprints; these four crews make up the top four seeds at IRAs and the likely medallists. Cornell, a strong BU entry and Stanford round out the list of top seeds here.
Other heavyweight events being contested at the IRA are the Men's Varsity and Open Fours. Always difficult to handicap, with lower varsity rowers, freshman, and lightweight oarsmen all in the mix, these events have also been playgrounds for Washington and Cal in recent years.
Just on paper, the 108th IRA regatta looks to be a Husky party, but that's why we race. On to Camden!