Sloppy water even in first race of the day for UW.
With the ever-rough IRA semis looming on Friday--and a field deep enough to make the reps hairy, too--getting the Thursday morning heats done right here at the IRA is at as much a premium as ever. Coaches and crews have been pouring over the draw since Tuesday, gauging their chances and weighing just how many gears they were willing to use in a bid to escape the reps.
All that planning and hoping paid off for some, and the seeding did deliver a few crews a comfortable margin over boats bound for the reps. That said, few crews had an easy time of winning any of the heats this morning, apart from the stand-out rows delivered the Harvard 2V, the Brown V4, and the rightly-favored Cal frosh.
Washington opened the day by opening it up early; the Huskies, who are wearing warm-up shirts emblazoned with their one word mission for 2011(“Finish”), got that job started by putting their deck ahead for good right out of the blocks. Yet, as we mentioned, nothing was given away in these V8s, and Washington only won the heat after weathering a fierce battle for second between Brown and Cornell, with Stanford making a brief appearance in the mix early. The Ivy bear-fight was even going Cornell’s way for a good while, but the Big Red dropped off the pace when they ran across some of the debris that would soon become a big story on the day. Cornell kept rowing, but whatever they hit delayed them just enough for Brown to escape and keep after the Huskies. Cornell took the bad luck without protest, and heads to the rep with, it would appear, plenty of boat speed to keep progressing.
In heat 2, Cal did a few seats better than UW off the line, grabbing four seats on the first five strokes with a start that left even Wisconsin a bit off the pace. Early, it was only Navy and UCSD who went with Cal on the high strokes, but by the time the crews shifted to base power, the Badgers clawed their way back while under stroking the field. Cal and Wisco went through the thousand near level, up on BU and Navy, but Cal took the momentum away from Wisconsin in the third 500 to get in front for good. Third place may have been worth something here, too, in the end, and it was Navy taking it smoothly to push back through a BU crew that was a medal favorite at the Sprints just a few weeks back. The third spot put Navy in what might be the better of the two reps, and opening the IRA by getting in front of a Sprints Grand finalist is never a bad thing.
Heat three wound up a bit easier on the front end, with Yale taking a brief stab at things but Harvard and Princeton able to advance comfortably in the end. The Tigers were getting their third crack at the Crimson here and the other two (the Compton Cup and the Sprints final) were pretty epic. Here though, it was Yale that made things interesting, and they put a few charges into Princeton that hinted at some better boat-moving that Yale showed at the Sprints in the 1V. Princeton was able to respond, but look for Yale to be very much in the hunt once the semis start, if they can escape the reps this afternoon.
Second Varsity Eight
Racing in the 2V’s was just as tight, and then got a bit crazy--all as the tailwind turned from brisk to full-on raging.
The first heat went right to the line, photo-finish style, with Washington’s stacked 2V pressed hard by an EARC trio desperate to edge each other out. Brown just touched out a BU crew that was really on the move, and that left Princeton on the far side just short of the semis. The third heat saw some heated racing, too, but not from Cal, at least not at first. Cal was actually running third off the line, back with Navy, as Wisconsin blasted out to the lead, matched by the Big Red of Cornell. With three semi spots available, and Navy struggling to keep pace, Cal had advancing all sewn up, but that is just not how the Golden Bear roll apparently: they opted instead to row down first Cornell and then Wisconsin for the win. Wisco may have chosen to let Cal have what they wanted, but it was still an impressive march through the field . . . and the best 2V time by a good five seconds for Cal.
It was the second heat of the 2V that had all drama and put the IRA Ombudsman and Committee to work just 5 races into the weekend. In this one, with Harvard leading the tightly packed Yale, Syracuse and Dartmouth, there was a sudden swerve in the Yale crew that took them off the course and out of the race. This was just past the 1250, where the crews really start to come into view from the grandstand, and the Yale 2V made an abrupt turn to port, crossed lane 1 just ahead of still-racing UCSD, and wound up in the transit lane of the near side of the course. It would turn out that Yale hit a log--perhaps the same one Cornell’s 1V found--and lost the skeg altogether. The crew looked to be in a battle, at least, for one of the 2V event’s three qualifying spots when it happened, and coxswain made a game effort of getting her crew back into their lane, but the three crews ahead were gone. In fact, when Yale peeled off, the three crews up front (Harvard, Syracuse, and Dartmouth) shut it down pretty hard, their relative positions staying unchanged as they cruised across to qualify. That makes comparing times a bit tricky in this event--or maybe not: Harvard matched UW’s time to the second with no late effort. Just a bit in reserve there for Harvard to be sure.
As for Yale, they prevailed in a protest to the powers that be, and were awarded a spot in the semis. That means that there will be a seven-boat semi tomorrow, and then a seven boat petite final on Saturday and (for this undersubscribed event) just a two boat third level final.
Best race in this batch was Princeton’s frosh rowing down the Grunties from Washington. The Tiger Cubs are a really good crew overshadowed just a bit by the Harvard frosh all season, so to open like this was quite a statement.
Harvard rolled in heat 2, out to their usual length or so of control, while Navy and Brown waged a “Severn vs. Seekonk” argument in what had become quite the tailwind chop. Navy, in the flatter bit of the course, pushed on Harvard, but Brown took advantage of the rough stuff to pull level with the Midshipmen. The race announcer kept calling each crew as “going up” in turns and even wondered if Navy would have enough gears to escape Bruno, but they did: Navy, by just 0.04, to the semis; Brown to the reps.
Cal did Harvard one better in the final heat, storming away from the field with an early and “very impressive” move, according to the chase boat. In Cal’s wake, where the rest of the frosh field might be left all weekend, Cornell put on a show of their late season gains, getting out on the BU frosh who had started the season so well-regarded, and defending that spot all the way to the line.
Reps start soon, with the wind showing no sign of letting up. Full report on the Repechages and all the fours racing later this afternoon. Enjoy the racing, folks: this is as good as it gets.
Also noted: With the gutsiest call of the day, the Penn 1V coxswain refused to leave the line, forcing the other five crews to be stopped and the race re-started. Presumably having lost a good point in the crossing wind at the start, the Penn cox was “not ready” and stuck to it. It is well with in the rules, of course, but it is pretty rare to find a coxswain who has done it--and to keep eight guys from blasting away from the line in an IRA race? That is some strong leadership in the stern.
The Yale 1F sure wishes the locals, or maybe the kids from earlier regattas, had disposed of their trash a bit more carefully. Late in their heat, the Yale frosh got a plastic water bottle jammed in their rudder and found themselves steered out of the race. Two Yale eights with debris-cause steering issues in as many events? Rough luck to be sure. The Yale 1F will go to its rep, and hopefully find a clearer lane.