For all the tight margins between the seeds, there was not a whole lot of upsetting to be had on Day 1 of the IRA... but there wasn't none: BU delivered a gem in the last heat of the V8 to send Cal to the rep, and nearly rowed down Harvard in the offing. Nice run by the Terriers, who just missed the EARC Grand three weeks ago, but looked this morning to be very much in the hunt to return to the big race this weekend.
The story of the morning was instead the annual IRA tradition of hand-wringing over lanes. With a stiff crosswind blowing from the north, Lane 1 side of the course, the IRA's Fairness Committee was on the water assessing the conditions until just before the Varsity eight heats were set to begin. The decision was made to hold the V8 races as drawn, but a re-evaluation at the end of the third heat led to a switch for the remainder of the seeded races this morning: the 2V8s and the Frosh 8s.
The switch moved the seeded crews to Lanes 1 and 2 (from 3 and 4); after the switch, four of the next six heat winners came out of lane 1, save the Harvard 2V, and the Cornell frosh, who took wins from lane 2. For the record, BU's V8 heat win over Cal was from lane 2, while Cal was still in Lane 4--the Terriers are fast, no question, but with not much separating many of these crews, one can't ignore the cross-wind's role.
Cal's result aside, the rest of the V8 went as seeded: Brown holding off Wisconsin in heat 1, Washington and Princeton striding away in Heat 2, and Harvard escaping with a quarter length to spare in that third heat, as BU chased through the Bears.
The really interesting results in the V8 heats came from the crews headed to the reps, who did a fair amount of hard racing even after the two advancement spots were spoke for in each heat. In the first heat, Syracuse put on a devilish pursuit of the Badgers before Wisconsin shifted into another gear in the third 500. Then in heat 2, Cornell and Northeastern -- both with unfinished business from a Sprints they spent in the Petites -- raced incredibly hard for a third place that may or may not be worth much, depending on the draw for the reps. It was a great boat race, though, with the Big Red getting the better of the Huskies by three-thousandths of a second-- - and once the afternoon draw came out, getting arguably the better of the two repechages, if they didn't pay too dearly for it.
So, in the reps then are a few crews with a shot to stir things up in the semis, if they have the legs for it after the next round: Cal, Syracuse, Cornell, Northeastern, Navy and a a Penn crew that just edged Yale in the first heat of the day.
All six top-seeds went through in the 2V's, which went like this, by heat: Harvard/Cal, Wisconsin/Princeton, Washington/Brown. The Crimson tagging the Bears was the only "upset" if you can can put much meaning on a 4 seed over a 3 seed when both have 14 seconds or so in hand over third place. The tightest races in this one before crews started to shut down for the reps came from Navy and Cornell--and the Big Red 2V took a page right out of their 1V's playbook, charging hard on Princeton coming into the finish line.
By the time we got to this round, and Cornell's second takedown-from-behind photo finish, it was clear that there might be something in the water up in Ithaca that had been missing earlier this spring. Cornell's frosh led Harvard to the 1000, then the Crimson went by as per usual – and then the Big Red reeled them back in to win Heat 3 by .01 seconds. Sure it was the slowest of the three heats, by a little bit, but it was a great boat race as the Big Red stalked the Crimson, and no doubt there will be another chapter to be written here as the weekend unfolds.
Cal and Washington, for their parts, put up faster times, but advanced with similar margins (Cal by 7 seconds, UW by 5), and Cal's was both the faster and the more comfortable of the two. There might be some good Ivy-sibling rivalry racing ahead in this event, but the top two spots seem reserved for a West Coast rematch.
After a lost day of practice on Wednesday for low water --and full-on crazy practice where only three lanes were open (total), and numerous skegs were lost --the Cooper was back to full depth today and, wind aside, offered some flat water to all the crews (also, the row2k photographers up at the start checked closely for current, and found none whatsoever).
The odd hiccup this morning was more high-tech: the live video started the day with a significant time delay--leading to this bizarre scene: dozens of parents and coaches anxiously watching the jumbotron, waiting for the start of the first race--while the crews, already racing in real-time, were rapidly approaching behind them. By the second race the delay was fully six minutes long, and race announce Bob Jaugstetter's voice was still chatting about what might happen in heat two as the crews were finishing.
The delay between the live action and the "plausibly live" video meant that viewers at home were getting results via row2k's tweets and the twitter bin for races that hadn't even started yet--leading a few to wonder how row2k could know who was going to win in advance. Sorry folks, row2k is not actually that prescient, just--well--present. (That said, anyone remember the movie "The Sting"??)