Cornell V8 making it back to the semis.
Repechage - Varsity Eights
By Thursday afternoon, the tailwind, and the chop, had verged fully into the ridiculous, making for very short races where it was tough to make up a lot of ground on the leaders without a massive effort. The varsity eights who could get a clean start, then, were looking to end their race into the semis as early as possible. Both Stanford and Cornell uncorked this formula to perfection, taking care of advancing with wire-to-wire efforts, but both gave up a lot of their lead in the last 500 meters as the fields behind them fought over the last two spots. With three to go in each race, just 2.4 seconds separated Cornell from fourth place BU, while in Stanford’s rep, the margin was even tighter: just 1.4 seconds back to Penn.
Stanford saw its lead, which stretched to nearly a length at one point, gobbled up by Navy: the Midshipmen feasted on the rough water mid-course to reel in the Cardinal, with Penn close behind in the third and final spot. None of the three had shaken the field completely loose, though,, and in the final strokes Georgetown came right through Penn to advance by about a deck. For Georgetown, who missed the IRA as team last year and races here with pretty much the intact group of sophomores who made the Sprints final as frosh in 2010, this semi berth comes as a huge breakthrough. In fact, this rep saw fully three crews who either missed the semis or the IRA altogether in 2010: Navy won the third level final last year, two spots ahead of Stanford, while Georgetown raced only the four. That is a healthy bit of turnover in the top 12 here at the IRA in just one year, and more proof that racing here is as competitive as ever. Even Penn, who many regarded as the “last bid” awarded for this years IRA, being just 13th at Sprints, made a really strong step forward here today, even if they will head to the 3rd level final for a second straight year.
Cornell’s lead was never quite as large as Stanford, but the Big Red never looked like anything less than a lock to advance, not even as Yale, BU, Syracuse, and even Dartmouth (for a bit in the 3rd 500m) took a turn at being in the running, and pushing the torrid pace. Yale got a lock on second in the latter stages, and it looked as if BU had the measure of Syracuse once Dartmouth dropped back, but the Orange had one last gear in them. Despite coming a distant fifth in the morning heat, Syracuse was able to punch through BU here, and for the second year in row, finds themselves in the semi mix by the end of day one.
Repechage - Second Varsity Eights
Just one rep in this event, and it was never really a contest. Down to just five boats after Yale’s protest was upheld in the morning, the race quickly became a three boat race as Penn , Navy, and Princeton moved away from UCSD and Gonzaga. It did get interesting down the stretch though, as the three leaders decided to throw down in the tailwind and see who could take the win. At the line, Penn edged Navy just barely, with Princeton third, in a close finish that makes one wonder who would have been out altogether if Yale’s 2V had made it all the way to the line in the heat and kept this a six boat race.
Now, the third level final is just a two boat affair: with a number of teams opting not to field a 2V for whatever reason and the placement of Yale into a seven boat semi, UCSD and Gonzaga will meet only each other on Saturday, and do it all over again.
Repechage - Freshmen Eight
The two frosh crews who just missed in the morning--Brown and BU--got it right in their second chance, and by healthy margins. Brown dominated the first rep, putting a good length or two of open water on the nearest crews and managed to match their time from the morning almost exactly despite the worsening conditions. Stanford and UCSD battled for second, but a good margin back, where they held off the Yale freshmen to advance. The UCSD frosh are the only Triton crew to make the semis, surely a bright spot both for this regatta and the future of that program.
BU led the second rep by not as much, but looked very clean and sharp as they handled both the chop and the field. Columbia’ 1F looked much improved here to move on, and Dartmouth went right with Columbia to make the semis as well, over a Wisconsin 1F that never quite found its rhythm this spring despite another deep squad of talented athletes out in Madison.
Open Four - Heats
With just nine entries, the Open Four uses the old-school IRA progression: win today, get Friday entirely off, while the other six boats rep to join you. The first heat had pretty much all the schools that like to dominate this event (thank you, random draw), which meant that Cal, Washington and Wisconsin would likely need to show all their cards in a bid to win outright, with Navy and Penn along for the ride. Off the line, though, it was just a two boat race, with Washington in control and the Badgers going at it the one way they know best (hard!) to try and get that top spot back. Wisco led only briefly and labored in vain without getting back on terms before the line, though the Friday rep format gives them plenty of time to recharge and take another crack at UW in the final. Behind the W‘s, Navy took over the third spot from Cal and held on to grab a spot in what may turn out to be the better rep on Friday.
Heat two went to Harvard, whose 3rd and 4th V8s were the class of the lower boats out east all year. The Crimson looked to have this sewn up early, over a three overlapping crews: Brown, Yale, and Cornell. This one looked a bit more like the field eyeing each for the rep rather than racing for spots. Brown and Cornell will meet again in the Friday rep, against Navy; Yale draws the four boat rep with Cal, Penn, and a pretty certain medalist, Wisconsin. With just two spots open in each rep, should be some fun racing.
Varsity Four - Heats and Reps
The varsity four is a much bigger event--the biggest of the regatta, in fact--and features a mix of 3V rowers from the programs who received “team bids” and are racing the eights here, as well as what is often the top four rowers from the IRA-affiliated programs who missed getting a bid. Racing the “lower” folks from the better, and bigger, teams against the best of the other schools means makes this event hard to handicap until the heats actually start, so today was as much about who is here with a shot to perform as it was about sorting out the progression.
The crew with perhaps that best shot, to judge (as we will) by the morning, is Brown: the Bruno four crushed their heat, setting the best time across all four heats and winning by 11 seconds over the Syracuse four that won the fours race at Sprints and also moved on here. Washington, another clear favorite and the defending champs, took heat two, with Holy Cross--one of those “top four from the program” boats--handling Temple and Stanford fairly easily.
Northeastern won the tightest of the four heats, chased to the line by Drexel, who could probably see their hometown Philly skyline by the time they reached the end of the course. Drexel moved decisively through Georgetown and George Washington in the last 500 meters to move on. The final heat saw Wisconsin out early, but Navy closed on the Badgers in the final 250, making it just a half length or so for Wisco. Navy trailed an aggressive Hobart crew for most of the middle thousand, but the Mids patiently under-stroked the Hobart crew and carried that rhythm most of the way through Wisconsin as well.
In the reps, both George Washington and their TBC-mate Georgetown got wins to move on, with Temple taking second behind GW and Stanford putting Cal, Harvard and Yale in their wake to earn a surprise berth in the semis. The Harvard and Yale four will get to tussle again in the third level final, along with BU, Dartmouth, Hobart, Penn and Cal in what--based on the times today--should be a well matched seven boat final.
Now, on to Friday, where the racing schedule switches, putting the V8 semis at high noon (more or less), and the lightweight women get their potion of the regatta underway. Things just keep getting faster at the IRA, though thankfully that probably doesn’t include the wind speed: after gusts today as high as 29 miles an hour, Friday’s forecast is for 10-12 mph winds.
Also of note:
Crews racing this afternoon’s reps owe a dept of gratitude to the courageous referee who had to venture beneath the bridge leading to the warm-up area and dislodge a local fisherman who felt that IRA Thursday was as good a day to fish in the middle of a regatta as any. The negotiations eventually required the local police, dutifully ferried to the under-bridge showdown by said-referee, but when it was all over, the path to the warm-up area was fisherman-free and the IRA plowed on.