Tuesday, June 28, 2011

OTW with Matt Miller, Part V: The Draw

UVa at Henley abode (Photo: Allen Miller)
The latest installment in our OTW series – Matt catches us up on The Draw and the weekend in Henley, as UVa prepares to race tomorrow:

The Draw is out, and it feels like a complete reversal of luck from a Spring season with unfortunate circumstances and races we believe did not show our full potential. The stewards were obviously impressed by our ACRA results; beating the Dad Vail champions at our last regatta earned us a spot in the top eight seeded crews. The team watched intently from a crowded, hot town hall in the heart of Henley as stewards drew names from a cup. Somehow the other seeded American crews (Harvard, Yale and California) all appeared on the other side of the bracket, leaving us on the bottom against some undoubtedly fast unknown European talent. Even FIT, a team I expected to be seeded, is in the top-half of the bracket. The eight faces East Anglia at 11:35 AM on Wednesday.

The four will face the University of London in their first race at 10:50. In addition to being unfamiliar with European crews, the four has no race results in the United States on which to base their speed. They seem content with their seeding. If they win on Wednesday they’ll face Durham, a seeded crew, on Thursday. The Harvard vs. Harvard race on Wednesday is an unfortunate matchup, but one I’ll be sure to watch.

UVa eight on the water (Photo: Allen Miller)
Even though much is made of matchups, it’s obvious that the best team will win in the end. If we make a mistake or have a bad race, everything is meaningless. From what I’ve gathered, at Henley, the victors get all the spoils. There are no points for 2nd place, because the team that loses Sunday may or may not be the 2nd fastest team. Both Virginia boats will be taking races one at a time, keeping in mind it’s always ‘lose or go home.’

Early Monday morning, the eight raced Leander’s ‘A’ boat from the start to the barrier under perfect conditions. It was a fast piece for both crews, again providing valuable experience in racing conditions. After practice, the team had an additional weigh-in on official regatta scales. The weights seemed identical to submitted information.

UVa visits Warwick Castle (Photo: Allen Miller)
The team continues to soak in their surroundings during free time. Parents are rolling into town, and now join us on outings. On Sunday, many traveled to Oxford to see the town, school and their version of boathouse row. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in finding the official Oxford boathouse, which I’ve heard, like their reputation for boat speed, is quite impressive. Monday’s destination was Warwick Castle, about 90 minutes north of Henley. I was pleased to find more than just an old castle. Exhibits featured a working trebuchet, falconry, wax figures, social history, art, armor and archery. The team returned to Henley just in time for a reception for all overseas competitors at the River and Rowing Museum along the Thames. We showed up in our blazers, and got a preview of the blazers we’ll see around the steward’s enclosure starting Wednesday. Neil Donaldson spoke on composure and the thrill of racing at Henley Royal.

Glassy water, hot weather as HRR approaches (Photo: Matt Miller)
With the jump in Henley population we’ve already witnessed, I can’t imagine the buzz next weekend. The team was joined in our house Monday by the rowers of the Australian men’s eight. As is true at our Virginia boathouse, we love being surrounded by elite level rowers. They face tough competition in their first race: England. After a full week here, we’re ready to race and watch racing. Wednesday cannot come soon enough. -MM

Later today: RR Picks and Predictions for HRR 2011

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