Friday, December 28, 2012

'Game of Inches: Masters Nationals, 2012' by Joe Abrams of the Dolphin Club, San Francisco

'Racing the heat' (Illustration: B. Kitch)
The following is Part One of Joe Abrams's account of his trip to the 2012 Masters Nationals at Lake Quinsigamond:

Driving West on I-90 in an oversized rental car, three thousand miles away from home, we were enjoying the freedom of a 4-day road trip. Marcus was his usual jovial, chatty self—the perfect antidote to my anxiety. We were still tired, feeling the effects of our red-eye flight two nights earlier, and it didn’t help that Marcus had stayed up till 4am the previous night, finishing up a project for work. But, after several cups of coffee, this morning’s trip from Cambridge to Worcester was going by quickly—we were absorbed in discussing our racing strategy. In truth, we knew exactly what we needed to do. Hundreds of hours and countless loops on Lake Merced in San Francisco had prepared us for this trip to take on the fastest boats in the country.

Finding a parking spot along the road leading to Lake Quinsigamond was proved challenging. There were almost two thousand boats entered this year at Nationals, from all across the country—the largest turnout ever. And by 8am, both sides of the access road were already bumper-to-bumper, packed with boat trailers and cars with boat racks. We finally shoehorned the Crown Vic into a spot far away and began the long walk back to where our boat awaited us on our trailer. Along the way, a familiar voice called out, “Hey Boys! Nice parking job! But what’s up with that undercover cop car you’re driving?” It was our old buddy from the Greenwich Crew who lived in Connecticut, but who had spent one summer rowing with us in San Francisco while on an extended work assignment far from home. Over the years he had stayed in touch, tracking our races from afar and popping up on email unexpectedly to congratulate us. Of course, his “congratulations” usually contained some sarcastic reference to our being “soft Californians.” As Marcus and I took in the hectic scene full of strangers all around us, he was a welcome and familiar voice.

The forecast called for high winds and thunderstorms in the afternoon, 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity—so different from the cool, foggy Lake Merced we trained on back home. But in the morning calm before the impending storm, the water on Lake Quinsigamond was still smooth and flat, with just a slight cross-headwind pushing its way down the course.

A few hours later, we were paddling out to the starting line for our first qualifying heat, carefully dodging other shells warming up in the area and motorboats with race officials directing traffic. It felt good to be back in our brand new Filippi. It had survived the long trip from San Francisco without a scratch. Having our own boat with us—especially a fast one—was a huge advantage where tenths of a second can make the difference between a gold medal, and no medal at all; we felt fortunate to have it with us for the big race.

Pre-race adrenaline was now displacing the butterflies, Power bars and Gatorade from just a few hours earlier. We contemplated the trial that lay ahead: 1000 meters in roughly 120 all-out strokes. For the first 250 meters, our oars would feel light and our legs elastic; by 500 meters we would begin to doubt our stamina—legs would stop compressing all the way and lungs would need twice as many breaths per stroke. At 750 meters, with just 30 strokes to go in the race, the exact moment when we would have to take the stroke rate up for the final sprint, there would be only one thought on either of our minds: “Can I make it?” Each stroke would feel like a race in and of itself.

We waited in the staging area, taking a few last sips of Gatorade and then dumping the rest. I recited our race strategy one last time quietly to Marcus: “…30 strokes high and hard off the start, settle down for 30, squeeze 10 hard at 500m, 20 more for boat run, then up 2 beats every 10 strokes for the last 250m.” If we did this right, like we’d been doing in practice for months, we knew we could win.

“Five minutes till the Men’s Masters ‘A’ double, Heat #1…Gentlemen, you may enter the starting area.” Along with the five other crews in our heat, we gently backed our boats into the waiting hands of the volunteers on the floating docks. It was Marcus’ job in bow to keep an eye on the competition and call out the race plan during the race. My job was simple: hold a consistent stroke rate throughout. By nature, I am eager to bark out commands and prone to panicking when the competition gets ahead. Marcus is the opposite, and prone to daydreaming: the role reversal in our boat worked very well for us, forcing Marcus to stay alert and me to stay calm.

Just before polling the crews, the race official high atop the starting tower called out to us on his megaphone: “Gentlemen, we may not get a final in this afternoon, if the storms come. So row this heat like it’s a Final. The fastest heat time may determine the actual winner.”

We were in Lane 1. Our bow was perfectly pointed down the center of the lane. “All boats, we have alignment.” Marcus stopped tapping. The starter began polling the crews starting with lane 1: “…DOLPH/PAC, Lincoln Park, CBC/Union, Community A, Community B…Attention…Go!” We were off.

The first 6 strokes were quick, effortless, clean, the kind of acceleration that made each stroke feel light, and after 30 strokes we were in the lead, opening up a comfortable margin on all crews. The starter had warned us that the Final could be rained out later, so we needed to race this as if it were the final. We were steering right down the center of the lane—no wasted time or energy correcting our course. At 750m I called our final 30 sprint, imagining we were neck and neck with some other crew and hoping Marcus would respond to this imaginary challenge to squeeze out our best possible time. When the horn sounded, we had crossed the line with the fastest time of either heat, by a nine second margin. Despite the headwind, our winning time of 3:33 was only five seconds slower than what had been our previous ‘personal best time’ as a crew. Needless to say, we were very pleased with our effort.

A few hours later, jet lag was finally catching up with us. Fortunately, we’d found a group of fellow rowers from the West who invited us to relax and recharge on some lawn chairs under their large canopied shelter between races. As our final race time drew near, so did the predicted squalls from the North now moving into the area. Within minutes the skies opened up and we were caught in a downpour, scrambling to put on warmer clothes/raingear and push lawn chairs to the center of the overhead tarp to stay dry. Occasional gusts would send sheets of water tumbling off a neighboring shelter’s canopy—blowing it sideways and sometimes splashing us below. At the first clap of thunder, we exhaled. We knew our day was over. The afternoon races were canceled due to lightning and we were declared the winner of the Men’s ‘A’ final. It was a welcome relief. Now we could conserve our energy, eat and sleep and be ready for the more important race the next day—the race we’d flown 3000 miles for: the Men’s ‘C’ double, featuring the fastest Masters doubles in the country.

Part Two of Joe Abrams's account will be posted next week, on Friday, 4 January 2013. Thanks very much to Joe for submitting the piece, and looking forward to the (very dramatic) conclusion!

[Updated: Read Part Two here]

-RR

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Will it make the boat go faster? Drew Ginn breaks down his approach to rowing technique



If you haven't seen this yet, it's well worth a watch. The above video, which splices together footage of Drew Ginn and Duncan Free rowing the pair prior to the Beijing Games (as well as some of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray training together in the lead up to London) with a now famous discussion of rowing technique, which Ginn recorded while driving home from a training session. The approach he suggests is well thought-out, and based on years of personal testing with various crews at various speeds, and the results reflect the level of thought and empirical data behind this discussion. As Ginn mentions, too often in rowing we find ourselves doing things simply because that is the way we were taught to do it. This is something we've touched on here before, and it bears further thought—to achieve to the best of your abilities requires constant analysis and evaluation. Are there some aspects of your program that might not stand up to the question, 'will it make the boat go faster?'

Coming up tomorrow: Part one of a two-part, first-ever RR masters feature by Joe Abrams on his experience racing at Masters Nationals, 2012.

-RR

Monday, December 24, 2012

Video Of The Week: Indoor Training with the French Under-23 Team



For most, it's holiday break time, and, here in the Northern Hemisphere, that means lots of training indoors as we build strength and fitness through the winter months for spring racing season on the water. So, we figured we'd give you a bit of inspiration—the above video shows the French U23 squad nailing it down via weight circuits, indoor cycling, and ergometer work. The key, as always is to have your eyes on the prize—as coaches everywhere are fond of reminding their athletes, this is the time of year when races are won.

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays from the whole team at RowingRelated! Only a few more days to vote in our reader poll—what would you like to see more of on RR?

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coaches' Corner: Sweat the Small Stuff

The Release (Photo: B. Kitch)
We know that the most talented teams or athletes do not always win. It is part of what makes watching and competing in competitive athletics so much fun. It is when the details are handled better that a team with a little less talent can prevail.

We've all heard the phrase "don't sweat the small stuff" when it comes to managing our jobs, relationships, hobbies, etc. We tend to like this advice, because it allows us to focus on the big picture while letting the details fade off to the side. The idea is to prevent yourself from getting bogged down in the minutiae of a particular problem or pursuit, when the larger scale issues have yet to be resolved, or are the issues of real importance. While this may be valuable advice in many areas of our lives, I believe it can prove very detrimental when it comes to competitive athletics. This is true both for athletes and coaches, but especially for coaches, as they are the individuals responsible for organization and structure. If attention to detail is neglected when it comes to organizing and structuring a program or team and its individual athletes, the team will likely fall short of its maximum potential, and will have trouble performing better than an equally talented team or individual that has managed the details well.

At the top, it's down to percentage points
If you gave all of the top coaches, in any sport, a test on the Xs and Os of their sport, there probably wouldn't be much difference in their knowledge, understanding and command of all of the basic and advanced aspects. In American football, for instance, my guess is that pretty much every top college and NFL coach can sit in a room drawing up a playbook or reviewing film and be at the top of their field in terms of their big picture understanding of the specifics of coaching offense and defense. Despite a very similar ability to understand and manipulate the big picture aspects of their sport, some of these coaches succeed, while some fail or have only moderate success. The same is true in rowing. I don't think there is much separation among the very top collegiate coaches, or national team coaches from one rowing federation to the next, in terms of their knowledge and technical understanding of the basic, fundamental aspects of the sport. They all have a very good understanding of how to move a boat, how human physiology works, etc. It is the valuing and managing of the details that separates the best coaches in the world from everyone else.

I am often very impressed with the knowledge and command of many top coaches who struggle to have winning teams at the highest level. While they have the basic skills and expertise necessary, this isn't a math problem—it's not something that can be solved on paper. There are many more variables, not all of them easily defined, and this is where the details come into play. Details are the reason a coach can come in and have a substantial impact with the same athletes in just his or her first year of working with the same group that was unsuccessful the year or years prior.

A great example of this can be seen with Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. In just his first year with the team, he led the team to its first playoff appearance in nine years and an appearance in the conference championship game. Perhaps this is a case of the team simply being "ready," and Harbaugh just happened to be the guy who came in at the right time and was made to look good, but frankly, I am skeptical that this is the case (one need only look at the performance of quarterback Alex Smith from 2010 to 2011 to understand just what an effect Harbaugh had on the team as a whole).

Another great recent example of this can be seen in British distance runner Mo Farah, who went to work with well-known American coach Alberto Salazar less than two before the 2012 Olympics, having never won a medal at the World Championships or Olympics. In just his first year with Salazar, Farah became a World Champion for the first time in the 5000 meters while also earning a silver medal in the 10,000 meters, and later became a double Olympic champion for the same distances in London at the age of 29. How did Salazar get it done? "First of all, he is an obsessive stickler for detail who looks at every nuance of his athletes' performances in the restless search for improvement," reports Simon Hart of The Telegraph, UK (read the full article here).

Speech! Speech! Speech!
How do you talk to the athletes. Phrasing matters. How is everything conveyed? Are you setting them up for success? Are you on time for practice? Are the athletes on time for practice? We all know races can come down to tenths of a second after a year or more of training. With margins this slim, it makes sense sweat the details and make sure you do all the little things both for yourself and your athletes.

The other trick when it comes to details is that they are not always formulaic or patterned. In other words, every team and every individual is a little bit different. Similarly, the same team or individual athlete might need something different from a detail standpoint if the details of the situation are different. Perhaps your all-star, national champion athlete is injured or sick for a month or has a psychological problem derailing the training for a bit. Or maybe the crew that you led to success as an underdog last year is now in a different position as the favorite this year, having the target on their backs. Each of these situations calls for the details to be managed differently.

Don't let the phrase "don't sweat the small stuff" be confused with "don't worry about things that you can't control." These are two entirely different statements and I believe the latter to be beneficial, if not necessary for peak athletic coaching and performance, while I believe the former to be a detriment in many instances. International success, as discussed above, has less to do with talent differential and more to do with how these percentage points are managed—one need only look as far as the men's eight final at the Olympics to get a feeling for this idea. It is in the details of how the team is organized, selected and coached.

Sometimes this is a quick fix, sometimes it is over a few years. If the details were in recruiting and getting the right athletes, it will take several years to get the right athletes in place and teach them the right mentality. However, often the athletes are in place and it just takes the optimal management of the details to get it done. When we are talking about the elite level there is very little margin for error. Look at the difference between the German men's squad of the 2008 Olympic Games, and the 2009 world championships (and throughout the rest of the quadrennium leading up to 2012, when they took gold in the men's eight and men's quad). We all know the effect confidence or lack there of can have on your performance. This psychological variable can have a major impact in determining success based on how it is managed.

A few more details
All the training and fitness can be plenty good enough, but if the taper is blown, it can ruin the opportunity to have a peak performance on the day. Sleep & nutrition are also vital aspects that are too often neglected or mismanaged. The erg scores might be good, but how is the blade work? Is the rigging optimal and measured appropriately for the crew? Do all the electronics in the boat work? Has the boat been cleaned and all of the parts checked to make sure the equipment is working as smoothly and efficiently as possible? What time did you eat breakfast before the race? How long is the warm-up? These are just a few examples of the many important "small" things that might get (slightly) overlooked by coaches and athletes who spend all year logging hours and pounding the mileage to ensure maximum strength and fitness. The bottom line: when you spend that kind of time, and give that kind of effort, it's vital to make sure that your work is not undone by what may be as simple or seemingly unimportant as going to bed 30 minutes earlier. When it comes time to race, will you be able to say to yourself on the starting line that you've done everything in your power to achieve your goal?

-Justin and the RR Team

Monday, December 17, 2012

Evening Edition Video Of The Week: The African Rowing Championships, 2012



The above (very nicely produced) video covers the eighth African Rowing Championships, which were held in Alexandria, Egypt from 28 November-2 December, 2012, and saw athletes from nine countries compete across 16 events. While Egypt dominated the racing, taking home no less than nine gold medals when all was said and done, Algerian athlete Amina Rouba had a golden regatta of her own, as noted on the official website of FISA:
The standout athlete was Amina Rouba of Algeria. Rouba picked up three gold medals from racing in the lightweight women’s single sculls, lightweight women’s double sculls and women’s double sculls. Rouba, 26, was Algeria’s sole rower at the London Olympic Games where she competed in the women’s single sculls finishing 26th. [To read the full write-up on the FISA website, please follow the link.]
The event reflects ongoing efforts by the governing body of World Rowing to grow the sport on the African continent, with a recent and notable example coming from the London Games in the form of Niger's Hamadou Djibo Issaka, who competed in the men's single sculls at Eton Dorney as a 'wild-card' selection (more on the above, and video from the 2012 African Olympic Qualification Regatta here).

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jérémie Azou Sets New Lightweight Record for France



Lightweight standout Jérémie Azou of France has added yet another feather to his already considerably feathered cap, setting a new French record for lightweight men on the ergometer. Azou, who already holds the LM1x world best time (6:46.93, which he set at the U23 world rowing championships in 2011), blasted through the 2,000m test in 6:02.9. This result comes on the heels of his fourth place finish at the Olympic Games in London with lightweight double partner Stany Delayre, less than 0.8 seconds from a bronze medal. (The duo of Delayre and Azou had won back-to-back World Rowing Cup medals in Lucerne and Munich immediately prior to the Games.) Even more amazing? Azou celebrated his 23rd birthday in 2012.

The lightweight men's indoor world record for 2k is 5:57.4, set last year by none other than Danish lightweight Henrik Stephansen (for a video of the test, click here). In 2012, Stephansen decided to take a crack at qualifying for the Olympic Games in the men's heavyweight single–not only did he succeed in qualifying, Stephansen placed 13th overall. His teammates in the LM2x, Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist, went on to win Olympic gold in one of the most dramatic races at Eton Dorney, sprinting through local favorites and defending Olympic champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter on the way to the top of the podium.

Keep sending us your submissions for our rowing recruiting video contest! The final deadline set for 31 December, with some JLRacing swag on the line, as well as a chance to be featured on RR as our Video Of The Week to kick off the New Year.

-RR

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oxford and Cambridge Trial Eights Take to the Tideway Tomorrow

Barnes Bridge, Tideway, London (Photo: © B. Kitch)
Tomorrow morning, Oxford and Cambridge will send their Trial Eights down the Boat Race course (from Putney to Mortlake) on the Tideway in London, in what will be an important, intra-squad tune-up for the main event, set for 31 March, 2013 at 4:30pm GMT. Dark Blue and Light Blue athletes seeking selection for the top boats have been divided into four crews.

Two crews from Oxford, this year called 'Hurricane' and 'Spitfire' for the two most important British fighter planes during the Second World War, will face off against one another. Hurricane includes Yale alum William Zeng at stroke (perhaps most famous for his eloquence following the disruption of the Boat Race last year), and GB 2012 bronze medalist Constantine Louloudis in the six seat, while the latter includes Canadian Olympic gold (Beijing) & silver (London) medalist Malcolm Howard at stroke.

Cambridge will line 'Bangers' up against 'Mash' in a culinary battle royale. The Bangers include two former Washington Huskies, Ty Otto (2012 Olympic alternate with the U.S. team) and Niles Garratt, and former Wisconsin Badger, Stephen Dudek, while 'Mash' will be coxed by another former Husky, Sam Ojserkis, and includes another Olympic medalist in Britain's George Nash at five seat.

Complete crew lists can be found on the official website of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, with racing set to kick off at 11:10am local time in London.

-RR

[Updated 13 December, 2012]: The official results from the Oxford and Cambridge Trial Eights are now posted.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Video Of The Week: Patrick Loliger Salas trains for London 2012



The above video puts together some silky smooth shots of rowing, a look at cross-training, and a little background on what it takes to push yourself to become better every day in pursuit of the Olympic dream. Patrick Loliger Salas of Remo Mexico has made some waves on the international stage, and is a two-time Olympian, having finished 15th in Beijing, and 14th in London, less than one second behind Danish lightweight phenom Henrik Stephansen at Eton Dorney last summer. Here, we get some insight into his thought process and emotions as he takes on the challenge of racing at the highest level, in his own voice (for those not proficient in Spanish, there is closed captioning available). Through the winter, it's important to keep in mind that every day is an opportunity to improve–rather than looking at the coming months of intense training as an obstacle, approach each day, and each session, as a chance to make yourself, however slightly, better than you were the day, or the session, before.

Thanks very much to Vanessa for submitting the video! We've gotten some very solid submissions already for our rowing recruiting video contest, with the final deadline set for 31 December. Submit a video for a shot at some JLRacing swag, as well as a chance to be featured on RR as our 'Video Of The Week' to kick off the New Year.

Also, make your voice heard in our reader poll (at the top of the page)–what would you like to see more of on RR?

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Changing of the Guard Continues in International Rowing: Ginn steps out of crew, into launch

December 2012 issue of Rowing Magazine
With midsummer approaching Down Under, a wave of retirements in the international rowing community has already drastically changed the landscape for the 2013 season, with the most recent announcement coming from Rowing Australia: four-time Olympic medalist Drew Ginn has decided to trade in his oar for a megaphone, and will be taking on a new role as joint head coach of the Aussie national team, alongside long-time coach Chris O'Brien. Not long ago, Kiwi Olympic bronze medalist Juliette Haigh announced her retirement from international rowing, as did Kiwi Matthew Trott, and it appears that Mahé Drysdale may be on the verge of calling it quits as well, after winning his first Olympic gold medal in London. Here in the U.S., Luke McGee and Bryan Volpenhein will be the new duo in charge of the U.S. men's team, as we've already discussed, while the DRV (Deutscher Ruderverband) will have to move on without the architect of their phenomenal success this quadrennium, following the departure of Hartmut Buschbacher. How things will shake out in 2013 remains a mystery, but it does appear that there is an ongoing changing of the guard in world rowing, with a number of younger coaches taking on new, prominent roles at the outset of a new quadrennium.

2012 is winding down, and what better time to reflect on the events that shaped such an amazing year in our sport? That's what the current issue of Rowing Magazine (pictured above) is all about, and we selected some of our favorite moments and top highlights from an outstanding, full summer of racing, which included (arguably) the most competitive Olympic Rowing Regatta to date. In this issue, you'll also find my in-depth interview with Luke and Portia McGee, as Luke makes begins his work as U.S. men's coach in Princeton.

To subscribe, or for a look inside a free digital edition, please visit the official website of Rowing Magazine.

Congratulations to Drew Ginn, Juliette Haigh, and Matthew Trott on your athletic careers–you're all outstanding competitors, we'll miss watching you in action on the water, though, in Drew's case, at least we can take solace in the fact that you'll be guiding the next generation of Aussie oarsmen!

-RR

Monday, December 3, 2012

Video Of The Week: Training with the Norwegian U-23 squad in Belgium



This week's (slightly delayed) video comes to us from the Norwegian under-23 men's rowing team, highlighting a day on training camp in Belgium. Again, here's a solid example of how to put a great recruiting video together (hint: small, waterproof digital cameras of an unspecified brand seem to do the trick), giving insight into multiple aspects of training, as well as showing multiple angles of the rowing stroke to create an overall impression of just what it takes to row on what looks to have been a three-session day for these guys in the coxless four.

Submissions for our rowing recruiting video contest have already started coming in, with the final deadline set for 31 December. Submit a video for a shot at some JLRacing swag, as well as a chance to be featured on RR as our Video Of The Week to kick off the New Year.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Friday, November 30, 2012

Film for the Weekend: An Inside Look at Portland Women's Rowing



The above film is an in-depth, inside look at Portland Women's Rowing–beautifully shot and expertly edited, this gets at the core of what rowing is all about, in a subtle, powerful way. Founded by Jeanne Niemer in 2006, Portland Women's Rowing now has a permanent place in the Portland Boathouse, alongside Station L Rowing and Rose City Rowing Club (home to Ruth Narode, who took silver at the 2012 C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints, and later backed that up with a silver medal performance at Junior Worlds in Plovdiv, Bulgaria). More on PWR can be found on the Oregon Public Broadcasting website, along with a slideshow from the 2012 Portland Fall Classic.

Thanks very much to writer and filmmaker Ifanyi Bell for sending us the video!

-RR

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slow-motion Stroke Analysis: Xeno Müller breaks down the Lightweight Men's Four in London



The above video, which is the third in a recent series by Olympic gold and silver medalist Xeno Müller, provides a 15-minute tech talk looking at some of the most technically sound, efficient athletes on the international rowing circuit.

The final of the lightweight men's four in London was, as expected, one of the most dramatic races of the regatta, and featured a bonafide rowing legend, Eskild Ebbesen (a five-time Olympic medalist, with three golds and two bronze-medal finishes), in the stroke seat of the Danish crew. Joining the Danes in the final were the 2011 World Champions from Australia, an excellent GB crew, a surprising Swiss crew, South Africa (now legends in their own right), and The Netherlands. We all know how it played out–the comeback victory for South Africa finished off what was an epic battle, marking the first-ever Olympic rowing gold medal for RSA. In light of their accomplishment, FISA honored the crew as its Male Crew of the Year, and recently published an article, "Making History – the South African lightweight men's four," on their performance at Eton Dorney.

For more on Xeno's stroke analyses, including his looks at the Men's Pair and Men's Eight events in London, visit his website at www.xenocoach.com.

-RR

Monday, November 26, 2012

Video Of The Week: Xing it up with Princeton Crew



Just to get you all in the mood for winter training, here's a look at what the Princeton Tigers have been up to recently–a great preview of the land-based fun to be had this season as the water starts to freeze and the humming of the ergo becomes an ever-present drone. As usual, the editors had a good time putting this film together–particularly good are the freeze-frame moments through the final minute (showcasing the watchful eye of head coach Greg Hughes).

We kicked off a contest for all our RR readers last week, and the submissions have already started coming in for a shot at some JLRacing swag and a featured VOTW for the best rowing recruiting video. Given the prevalence of small, HD video cameras with waterproof cases these days, putting together something worth watching shouldn't be too tall a task–and once you do, ship it on over! The deadline is 31 December, 2012.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Contest–Rowing Recruiting Videos: A Great Example from the University of London Boat Club



The above video, produced by UCL following the Head of the River Race earlier this year, is a fine example of a recruiting video (whether or not it was intended as such), as it gives the viewer a window into the sport, visually as well as from the athletes' perspective. And, it accomplishes all this making use of very little footage, concise interviews, and a classical soundtrack–quite different from the norm. Much like the series of videos that Oxford produced last year during the lead-up to the 2012 Boat Race (you can view the whole series of seven videos here), this short film gets at just what rowing is all about–it is, well, beautiful.

RR readers: Have a recruiting video you want us to see? Ship it our way! Don't have one? Create one! Let us know in the comments on this post, via email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages. Should we gather enough responses, we will pick our favorite and feature it as a Video Of The Week, and JLRacing will throw some swag into the mix as well*!

*[You must have created the video to win swag]

Deadline: 31 December, 2012. Thanks in advance to all those who choose to participate, and Happy Thanksgiving! More on the University of London Boat Club via the official ULBC website.

-RR

Monday, November 19, 2012

Video Of The Week: Footage from the 2012 USRowing West Coast Fall Speed Order



This week's video comes to us thanks to Mike Modlin's YouTube Channel, and gives us an inside look at last weekend's West Coast Fall Speed Order, hosted by California Rowing Club on the Oakland Estuary. The East Coast, Midwest and West Coast Speed Orders are all in the books for 2012, and there were a number of notable new faces in the mix with a view toward Rio 2016, including a healthy number of under-23 veterans looking to make the next step in their international rowing careers. Interestingly, two of the three Speed Orders saw lightweight scullers win the men's heavyweight single, with John Graves taking East Coast honors, and RR interviewee Nick Trojan doing work on the West Coast.

For complete results from the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast Speed Orders, visit the official website of USRowing.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Friday, November 16, 2012

USRowing Coaching Changes: Discussion and Analysis



As I'm sure you all know, there was some big news for those of us stateside last week. That's right, USRowing announced that it would be taking on none other than Washington frosh coach Luke McGee to take over the responsibilities of coaching the U.S. men's eight and U23 men's eight, while current lightweight coach Bryan Volpenhein will take on the additional duty of coaching the men's heavyweight four. Oh, and we elected a president.

Getting right down to it, there are some reasons to like this move, and some major questions regarding the timing and the new roles that these two coaches will take on as we begin a new quadrennium. First, let's look on the bright side.

Personally, I was excited to hear that Luke McGee would be taking on a role with the U.S. national team, particularly after we named him as one of our top candidates (along with our top pick, Tom Bohrer, and California's Dave O'Neill) in our piece calling out USRowing for not being aggressive enough in recruiting top collegiate coaches for national team positions. McGee has a very strong track record at the college level, helping to build Washington from a perennial powerhouse into a true dynasty over the past several seasons, culminating in a sweep of the IRA last June (and a new course record in the frosh eight, among other events). He then went on to lead the U.S. under-23 men's eight to a gold medal in Trakai, with a lineup that included several Washington Huskies whom McGee himself had helped to develop. The atmosphere and intensity that surrounds the Conibear Shellhouse under the current regime is unparalleled, and McGee shares a bit about that in the upcoming feature I've written for the next issue of Rowing Magazine. The long and the short of it is, Mike Callahan and McGee have created a culture where everyone's efforts are appreciated, as the will of the entire team is focused on one goal, such that the athletes in the third varsity eight feel equally valued for the pressure that they put on the top two crews as the squad strives for yet another Ten Eyck trophy this season.

If McGee can accomplish anything close to this within the first two seasons in Princeton (which is to become the home of the men's senior and under-23 eights once again), then we could be well positioned for Rio. McGee can make use of his existing relationships with college coaches and athletes to build a bridge to the under-23 national team (something that he stressed would be a top priority in our interview), and make for more personal investment on the part of both the coaches and the athletes in the college system by giving each of them a sense of ownership, recognizing hard work and appreciating support. The location in Princeton also means that McGee will have the chance to work in close proximity to Tom Terhaar, who, perhaps better than any other coach in the U.S. at this time, knows how to create a culture of competition and success that is sustainable—simply looking at the long list of athletes who have contributed to the seven-straight seasons of victories in the women's eight is proof enough of that. Finally, McGee was a senior national team member, and making the U.S. system competitive on the world stage will have a strong personal tie for him that might not have been the present had USRowing hired an international coach.

As for Bryan Volpenhein, he has anchored the program in Oklahoma City since 2011, and it appears clear that the financial and social backing of the sport in OKC is not going anywhere anytime soon. USRowing, therefore, must have a training center there, and, given Volpenhein's familiarity with the place, it seems almost natural that he be asked to continue there in a more prominent role following the departure of McLaren. He accomplished a goal of getting the men's lightweight four to the Olympic Games last summer, where they performed well in one of the most competitive fields at the Olympic Regatta. Also, Volpenhein and McGee are former teammates with the U.S. national squad—perhaps this will benefit them in terms of communication and creating a positive working environment.

Okay, so now that we've examined the positives, it's time to turn our eyes to the possible negative outcomes of this move. First, McGee has a great track record with Brown and Washington, but the kind of system he will be dealing with at USRowing is much more complex, and the competition much more fierce. It is going to take some time to adapt—the question is, how much time? Secondly, there is the question of elevating Volpenhein to coach of the bronze medal-winning crew at the 2012 Olympic Games. While I've heard many voices backing Volp's coaching chops (particularly those of his athletes—a good sign, one would think), the trouble is, his coaching resume is very short at this point. This doesn't mean he can't get the job done—he did well to get the lightweight men's four to the Games, as I've already discussed—but it means that the jury is still out regarding future prospects (i.e., nobody really knows). Furthermore, how will selection function, with athletes spread out as they will be across two or three cities (and time zones) in the men's heavyweight sweep group? Will CRC continue to have a central role with the national team post-Speed Order? The most recent communication from USRowing seems to indicate that it will–does this mean involvement from both Bernhard Stomporowski and Mike Teti? Given such complexity, Curtis Jordan's role becomes truly pivotal. Fortunately, he brings a great deal of knowledge and experience, in the U.S. and abroad, to the table.

Can the new-look U.S. system, as yet not clearly defined, take flight before spring and the first wave of international competition?

-Bryan

Monday, November 12, 2012

Video Of The Week: Kicking off the 2012 Head of the River Fours



This week's video comes to us from the Thames, where the 2012 Head of the River Fours took place over the weekend, showcasing some of the top international and club athletes in the UK battling to begin a new quadrennium with a bang. The video shows the first 52 crews coming through the starting queue, led off by Leander Club's elite men's quad, who repeated as champions by just over two seconds ahead of Tideway Scullers in a time of 17:51.0. Oxford and Cambridge also had crews on the water, facing off for the first time, albeit not in match-race style. This time, Oxford's Elite Coxed Four bested bested their rivals, with Oxford's Isis II (a crew that included GB Olympic men's eight stroke Constantine Louloudis, and Canadian Olympic silver medalist Malcolm Howard) placing seventh overall to CUBC's 11th, though Cambridge I (featuring GB Olympic bronze medalist George Nash) crossed the finish just five second back of the Dark Blues.

For complete results from the 2012 Head of the River Fours, please visit the official website of the event, and click here for a breakdown of the Oxford and Cambridge results from the official website of the Boat Race.

-RR

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Aussie Boat Race 2012: Pragnell's Outstanding Challenge



The above video comes to us from Down Under, and is easily among the top contenders for best boat race challenge ever issued. Aussie national teamer Fergus Pragnell lays down the gauntlet in style, and even draws some laughs from the MUBC crews along the way.

This year's Aussie Boat Race continued the trends on both the men's and women's sides, with the men from Sydney winning their third straight title and the women from Melbourne doing the same. More news and info is available on the official website of the Australian Boat Race.

Also, as I'm sure you all know, there was some big news for those of us stateside on Tuesday evening. That's right, USRowing announced that it would be hiring none other than Washington frosh coach Luke McGee to take over the responsibilities of coaching the U.S. men's eight and U23 men's eight, while current lightweight coach Bryan Volpenhein will take on the additional duty of coaching the men's heavyweight four. We've got some opinions on this (as you might have guessed), so watch this space next week for more.

-RR

Monday, November 5, 2012

Video Of The Week: The 2012 Princeton Chase



This week's video comes to us from Princeton pre-Sandy, and covers the 2012 Princeton Chase on Lake Carnegie. With race footage from the men's varsity heavyweight and lightweight eights, as well as the women's varsity eight event, this video is a thorough look at the racing and the atmosphere around the course, with a healthy amount of humor thrown into the mix – let's just say we're impressed with Greg Hughes' repertoire of movie voice impersonations. Hats off to Princeton for another entertaining & informative race video!

Follow this link for complete 2012 Chase results

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Thursday, November 1, 2012

RR Interview: 2012 Olympian and former Princeton Tiger Gevvie Stone of Cambridge Boat Club

Gevvie Stone in Bled, 2011 (Photo: B. Kitch)
Not only has Gevvie Stone accumulated quite a resume on the water, she’s no slouch in the classroom either. The eight-time (yes, eight-time) winner of the Head Of The Charles capped off an Olympic year that saw her take seventh overall in the women’s single with her third consecutive title in the women’s champ single on the Chuck. Now, she has her sights set on more than just Rio: Stone is a medical student, whose goals for the next Olympic cycle include graduating from her program at Tufts University in 2014. Here, Stone shares a little about her background in the sport, her time at Princeton, her experience in London, and just how she manages to keep climbing the podium on her home course – the bottom line? There's no substitute for experience.

RR: If my research is correct, this year marked the eighth time you've won the Head Of The Charles, including winning the top women's sculling event for three years running. I know it's your home course, but what else is there that helps you to achieve such an amazing level of success on the Charles?

GS: You are indeed correct in your arithmetic. And, as a 27 year old, this was my 27th year attending the regatta! (It was cancelled in 1996.) The regatta is somewhat like Christmas in my family, and I think part of my success at the HOCR is that I love everything about the regatta--the turns and bridges, the time of year, the cheering, the longer distance (v. 2k racing), etc. It's special to have such an event on my home river, where I learned to row and where I train now. Additionally, I have been fortunate to be part of fast, fit crews and to have good coaches and coxswains. All of that helped me to be successful in team boats at the regatta. In the single, I have benefitted from my knowledge of the course, my hometown support from friends and family, my mental preparation for the race, and my endurance (a relative strength of mine).

RR: Last year, you raced to an eleventh place finish in Bled, and, this past summer, continually built upon your results, moving through the Final Qualification Regatta to a seventh place finish in London. How much do you think the international racing experience you had from previous years, as well as the World Cup circuit this year, added to your ability to bring it on race day in Eton Dorney?

GS: The single is a technical and mental boat in addition to requiring strength, power, and fitness. I think that time in general – time both training and racing – helped me to continue to get faster over this last cycle. The miles on the water, hours in the weight room, and experiences on the start line all add up. All that time helped me to get stronger both physically and mentally and, in doing that, helped me to become faster. Also, I keep learning and have tried some new things this year that seemed to work – a winter on the water in San Diego, new oars, etc. As for the international race experiences in particular, they taught me invaluable lessons by exposing my weaknesses and my strengths. They also helped me to be mentally and emotionally prepared for my Olympic final.

RR: While you graduated from Princeton in 2007, you are still, in some ways, a 'student athlete,' as you are pursuing a medical degree at Tufts. How have you managed to build a schedule for yourself that balances such a demanding work schedule with your athletic endeavors? Any advice to junior and collegiate level student-athletes out there?

GS: Haha, I have pretty much made a(n) (unpaid) career out of being a "student-athlete". I got started in high school, and here I am now a "few" years later building on the same concept. I find that the mental and physical challenges balance each other quite well. When I am exhausted from a workout, I can concentrate more easily on the books. When my head feels congested with information, I can relax on the water and release my aggression on the oars. If I focus too much on side of the balance, I find myself over-thinking things. Practicing both allows me a daily chance to step away, reassess, and return re-energized. But it's not always a perfectly easy balance. Sometimes, I wonder why I try to extend myself into both areas. It requires time-management skills, dedication, and a love for both. It's hard and sometimes my social life is what suffers.

RR: While at Princeton, you won an NCAA title in the women's varsity eight. How much influence on your rowing career do you feel your experience at Princeton had, being a key part of one of the most competitive programs in the country? Do you still draw on those years at Princeton in your international racing career?

GS: Princeton Rowing – the team and my coaches (Wendy and Lori) – taught me countless lessons about life and, of course, about rowing. I think most importantly, I learned to be tough. Rowing on a top team with dedicated teammates and coaches who constantly challenged the team made me a fighter. That lesson is something I apply every time I am on the water – whether I'm doing side-by-side pieces or simply doing steady state and racing some unaware high school boat. Another thing I learned that I apply frequently is that my fitness and strength respond well to many shorter, high-intensity workouts. A significant amount of my training plan – especially during erg season – is lifted from workouts we did in college. Oh, one last good one is to continue focusing on technique and not to be lazy while paddling. It really helps to apply technical changes. I could go on, but I don't want to spill any more of Lori's coaching secrets. All the junior girls out there will just have to go to Princeton to find out how much you can learn!

RR: What are you plans for the next Olympic cycle? Are your sights already set on Rio? Given your results at the Charles (another victory in the women's champ single, and a near miss in the women's champ eight with the 'Great Eight' you helped to assemble), it certainly seems that way!

GS: My first goal is to graduate from med school in 2014. Along the way these next two years, I am going to see how much training I can fit in. If all goes well, I would love to continue racing through Rio 2016. I still love rowing, and I'm continuing to get faster; consequently, I don't feel ready to retire.

Thanks very much to Gevvie for taking the time! One further note for RR readers – Gevvie was largely responsible for putting together the women's Great Eight at the HOCR this year (read about it in the November edition of Rowing Magazine), and was one ten second penalty away from becoming a nine-time Charles champ! All best to Gevvie in all her endeavors from everyone here at RowingRelated! 

-RR

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Aussie Rowing Banter: Drew Ginn interviews James Chapman and Will Lockwood



Three new videos via Drew Ginn – The Australian men's four, shown training in the video above (yet another beautiful example of Australian rowing technique), took silver in London in one of the most highly anticipated and dramatic finals of the Olympic Regatta – a drama heightened by their performance on the World Cup circuit. If they were nervous, however, it sure didn't show. Given the interviews below, Aussie phenom Drew Ginn might just have a bright future as a sports journo, to back up one of the most impressive rowing resumes in the world. Here, we get a (humorous) inside look at just what it takes to race at the elite level, following the final at the second World Rowing Cup in Lucerne/Luzern, Switzerland.



I'm not sure whether James Chapman is a medical man, but he certainly seems to be well aware of the 'Latin' terminology for post-race fatigue. His boat mate, Will Lockwood, also throws around some decent banter, and proves that, even at the elite level, rowers can only dream that others will de-rig and load the trailer for them...



Recently, Chapman took a trip to Boston and competed in the 48th Head Of The Charles Regatta, taking 20th overall in the men's championship single.

Coming this week: RR Interviews 2012 U.S. Olympian and Princeton grad Gevvie Stone of Cambridge Boat Club, following her third-straight title at the Head Of The Charles.

Happy Halloween everyone!

-RR

Monday, October 29, 2012

Video Of The Week: Kiwis at it again, plus results from Philly and Princeton



As we start to think about winter, it's time to enjoy the last few weeks of on-the-water training – while plenty of water is currently headed toward the Eastern Seaboard, as 'Frankenstorm' Sandy arrives (stay safe over there everyone!), the indoor season is nearly upon us. So, here's another great look solid sculling from Rowing New Zealand, once again matched with a bass-heavy, dubstep mix. Plain and simple, this is a bad ass training video. Watch the bodies and legs move together, the hands flow around the turn, and the run of the boat, undisturbed by the recovery as the athletes slide forward to the catch, particularly in the stern pair. And, let it be a reminder for all those about to head indoors – appreciate your time on the water, and be ready to take lessons learned outdoors to your indoor training this winter, further ingraining the right progression into your muscle memory so that you can make a smooth transition back to the water next spring.

The Head of the Schuylkill and the Princeton Chase are in the books, with more strong results for the Virginia women coming on Lake Carnegie. The Cavaliers won a commanding victory in the varsity eight event, some 17 seconds ahead of the Tigers on Princeton's home course, and added a victory in the novice eight as well. The Princeton men, however, defended home turf against an excellent Northeastern crew, who took second place just two seconds behind the Tigers and ahead of California – the third-place finisher in Boston. Please follow the links for complete results from the 2012 Head of the Schuylkill and Princeton Chase.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Thursday, October 25, 2012

48th Head Of The Charles Regatta: Recap and Review

Keeping an eye on the Charles (Photo: © B. Kitch)
The 2012 edition of the Head Of The Charles was up there with the most stacked (in terms of Olympians on the course) and most dramatic (in terms of collisions) regattas to date. As we indicated last week, the field in the women's championship eight event was perhaps deeper than ever, with no less than five boats full of Olympians – the USRowing entry, The Netherlands, Canada, the 'Great Eight' (racing as Cambridge Boat Club), and London Rowing Club (made up of GB athletes). The men's champ eight showcased a Washington crew that has Canadian standout (and 2012 Olympic silver medalist) Conlin McCabe holding down the engine room – the Huskies are, once again, looking like a dominant force in collegiate rowing for the 2012-2013 season. Let's take a look at how our picks turned out in Boston.

Women's Champ Single
As we predicted, defending champ Gevvie Stone was duking it out with a fellow Olympian for the top spot this year. However, we thought that Mirka Knapkova might be the fellow Olympian in question, suggesting that her experience my trump against Kim Crow on a tricky course. Evidently, Crow was just fine – the Aussie phenom took a very close second behind Stone, who made it three in a row in Boston. We predicted that Stone, Crow, Knapkova, Ursula Grobler, Kathleen Bertko, and Debbie Flood would be the top six, and we were nearly right – Flood finished seventh behind Lauren Schmetterling of Riverside Boat Club.

Men's Champ Single
In retrospect, I suppose it's always risky to pick an Olympic champion to win the following Charles – likely, Mahé has taken some time off and came to Boston more for fun than for glory. While we weren't surprised by Kjetil Borch, Tom Paradiso, Lassi Karonen, and Will Daly being among the leaders, we were very impressed by the results from Stephen Whelpley (second overall), Hans Struzyna (fifth), and John Graves (eighth, ahead of Drysdale). Mike Sivigny and Mike Perry finished 10th and 12th overall, respectively, though places 7-12 were separated by little more than six seconds.

Women's Champ Double
Our predicted winner, Rowing Canada's Emily Cameron and Kelly Shaffer, took third overall, behind Katie Stainken and Morgan Wimberley of Potomac Boat Club, and Rachel Stortvedt and Sherri Kline of Long Beach Rowing Association. The CRC entry with 2011 champ Jen Goldsack and Meg George took sixth.

Men's Champ Double
While we didn't get the order exactly right, we did pick the top three crews in this event. Our predicted winners – the combination of Alan Campbell and Aleksandar Aleksandrov placed third, with our other crews to watch, Olaf Tufte and Iztok Cop taking the title, the new combination of Sam Stitt and Matt Miller claiming the second spot, and Glenn Ochal and Marcel Hacker taking fourth. Congrats to 'unaffiliated (CAN)' crew Nick and Dylan Harris on a great fifth place result, as well as to Joe Spencer (2011 Pan Am champ in the U.S. men's eight) and Erich Schwirtz of Penn AC for a solid sixth place finish in a very tough field.

Women's Champ Eight
Again, we took the Canadian women's crew to claim the title, and again we missed the mark – not only did the RCA crew not win, they lost to three university crews (Virginia, Princeton and Radcliffe) en route to an eighth place finish overall. However, our prediction of a close second place for the 'Great Eight' proved true (if only because of a penalty that moved them from the top of the leaderboard), and our pick for third, USRowing, claimed top honors. As we expected, Virginia was the top collegiate crew, placing an impressive third overall ahead of both the Dutch and Canadian Olympic crews, as well as a heavily stacked London Rowing Club entry.

Men's Champ Eight
Our pick was the 'Great Eight' to win it all, but U.S. men's intercollegiate rowing showed that it is going to be another outstanding season this year, with Washington, Harvard and Cal all moving ahead of the Tideway Scullers crew, which took fourth place. The collision with the USRowing crew was certainly significant, and the fact that the Huskies were still able to post the fastest time of the day is an indication of just how much speed UW will have come spring time.

Women's Collegiate Eights
While we weren't far off, Trinity College and William Smith both edged our top picks, Williams College and Grand Valley State, into third and fourth place, respectively. While Williams has been on an incredible streak spanning the last seven seasons, the plight of Western Washington at the 2012 NCAA championships will no doubt be on the minds of the Ephs as they train for the 2013 sprint season this winter, with Trinity emerging as a potential force. The result for GVSU was solid, and we'll be expecting another strong season from the Lakers this year.

Men's Collegiate Eights
Nailed it! The UVa men's squad did not disappoint in Boston, winning both the men's collegiate four and collegiate eight events, just ahead of Michigan in both cases. Also, as we predicted, GVSU posted a top-three finish in the men's collegiate eight, showing that they'll once again be a force to be reckoned with in the deepening ACRA field this spring.

For complete results, please visit the official website of the Head Of The Charles Regatta. Also, for a FISA gallery of this year's HOCR, check out our Facebook page.

-RR

Monday, October 22, 2012

Video Of The Week: Radcliffe Takes on the Charles Challenge



This week's video comes to us fresh from the Charles 'Rivah,' posted last Friday as Radcliffe's preview for the weekend of racing in Boston. When all was said and done, the Black and White had edged the Canadian women's eight from the 2012 Olympic Games by just over one second to take seventh place overall in the women's championship eight. The 2012 Head Of The Charles was fraught with controversy this year in both the men's and women's champ eight events, which saw both 'Great Eights' fall to domestic crews. In the heavily stacked women's event, USRowing's 2012 Olympic medalist combination edged the Cambridge Boat Club women's 'Great Eight' on a penalty, while the men's champ eight event saw a collision between race leaders Washington and another USRowing crew (with three onboard from the 2012 boat) nearly result in a second-straight victory for Harvard. However, after a thorough review, the penalty that had been assessed to UW was reversed, and the Huskies were awarded the title, having posted the fastest time of the day.

For more on the weekend and the controversy surrounding several of the results at the Charles, check out today's Rowing Magazine eNewsletter, and for complete results, see the official website of the Head Of The Charles Regatta. Our own HOCR recap and review is on the way, to be posted later this week – time to take a look at how our picks and predictions played out!

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Charles Chat: RR Picks and Predictions for the 2012 Head Of The Charles Regatta

Home stretch! (Photo: B. Kitch)
The 48th Head Of The Charles is set to begin Saturday in Boston, MA, and it is arguably the best-ever in terms of sheer numbers of Olympians and national team athletes racing and attending the regatta. In addition to a large contingent of U.S. Olympians, there will be athletes from the British, Dutch, Canadian, Slovenian, Norwegian, New Zealand and Australian national rowing federations on hand, among others. Given the huge number of events at the Charles, one must needs be selective in making picks – as usual, opinions to follow!

Women's Champ Single
We see this as a showdown between local favorite Gevvie Stone (last year's Charles champ), and Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova. While Kim Crow is arguably the best athlete in women's rowing right now, we're wondering if her competitors experience and familiarity with the Charles course will prove too much for Crow this go around. We're also looking for strong performances from Debbie Flood of the GB squad, Kathleen Bertko, and Ursula Grobler. Look for these athletes to round out the top six.

Men's Champ Single
In the world of men's single sculling, it's hard to bet against West End Rowing Club's Mahé Drysdale at the moment. He's the defending champion in this event, is coming off another extremely successful season that included his first Olympic gold medal, and, of course, he'll be starting in pole position. Look for Mahé to repeat this year. There are several other Olympians in the mix, including Lassi Karonen, James Chapman (of the Aussie men's four), and Kjetil Borch (of the Norwegian men's double), as well as U.S. lightweights Tom Paradiso and Will Daly. We're also looking for another solid showing at the Charles for both Mike Sivigny and Mike Perry, both of whom put together a solid race in Boston every year. With so many talented athletes in the field, it's tough to predict an order, but look for the above scullers to be in the top ten.

Women's Champ Double
The favorites in the women's champ double have to be Emily Cameron and Kelly Shaffer of Canada, who represented their country in this combination at the Olympic Games in London. Along with them, we also see Vesper (with Catherine Reddick), USTC-OKC (with Grace Luczak), and CRC (with Jen Goldsack) as strong contenders for the medals.

Men's Champ Double
While the brothers Pete and Tom Graves have won this event for three straight years, we're picking a new winner this year – look for the combination of Alan Campbell and Aleksandar Aleksandrov to take the title. We expect the combination of Olaf Tufte and Iztok Cop to be contenting for the title as well, and the new-look Potomac BC combination of Sam Stitt and Matt Miller (formerly of UVa) could prove very competitive. Also, the duo of Glenn Ochal and Marcel Hacker will be in the mix. And don't ever count the 'Brothers Graves' out – they are great racers and (obviously) know very well how to get in done in Boston.

Women's Champ Eight
Again, the Canadians have brought an extremely successful and competitive Olympic entry to Boston, and we are looking for them to get the best of their North American rivals this time on the Charles. Look for the women's 'Great Eight' to place second behind Canada, with the USRowing taking third place overall. We see Virginia as the top collegiate contender, and are looking for another strong performance from Radcliffe this year as well.

Men's Champ Eight
This will be a showdown between a very solid combo Olympic/under-23 USRowing men's eight, and the 'Great Eight' (Tideway Scullers). It's hard not to give the edge to Tideway, though they'll all have a race under their belts by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around. Also, look for the University of Washington to post another strong result, along with Harvard and Brown at the top of the intercollegiate ranks.

Women's Collegiate Eights
We're expecting a battle between Grand Valley State University and Williams, with Williams entering as the favorite. Bates has been consistently solid, and will be starting second, so look for another strong performance from them as well (these three made up the top three crews last year).

Men's Collegiate Eights
This year we're betting on the University of Virginia to take first place ahead of Williams, given the strength of the UVa program last year and the momentum they will have entering the 2012-2013 season. And, as on the women's side, we're also looking for Grand Valley State to be among the top three this year, with John Bancheri's programs both making strides last year.

So there you have it! Just do us a favor and try not to be bored this weekend, given we've already laid out the results. But seriously, as we've promised before, if we do indeed prove insightful, we'll do our best to keep from calling ourselves 'Rowstradamus' or anything like that. For now.

Good luck to all those racing in Boston! For a full list of entries, see Regatta Central, and check out the live webcast on the Charles website this weekend.

-RR

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CRC Red Bulling: Inside the XRow Experience



As we'd hoped, CRC head coach Bernhard Stomporowski has released a video with images and interviews from the California Rowing Club men's eight's experience of the 2012 Red Bull XRow, from Zug to Lucerne, Switzerland. Listening to the interviews, it certainly sounds grueling, but in many ways a great race to kick off fall training, and a complete departure from the norm.

Speaking of fall training and racing, the Head Of The Charles kicks off this weekend in Boston, and, as you might have imagined, we're ready to shoot our mouths off about who's going to win. Picks and predictions coming up tomorrow on RR!

-RR

Monday, October 15, 2012

Video Of The Week: The Australian Boat Race



This week's video comes to us from Down Under, and features a tour of the new course for the third annual Australian Boat Race – a head-to-head race between Melbourne University and Sydney University Boat Clubs, which alternates between the Yarra and Sydney Harbour – set to take place on November 4, 2012. The rivalry enjoyed by these two universities, and cities, is clear in the video included below, with highlights, interviews, and footage from inside the boats from the first-ever Aussie Boat Race from 2010.



This year, the Australian Boat Race will be broadcast for the first time to some 420 million viewers across Southeast Asia, and the crews will feature multiple Olympians and national team members.

Thanks very much to Michael of the Organising Committee for getting in touch, and we look forward to seeing how this year's race turns out! (As a former disciple of Paul Reedy, I've got to back MUBC!)

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Thursday, October 11, 2012

RR Turns Two: Some highlights from the first two years of RowingRelated



Two years ago today, RowingRelated began with a Statement of Purpose. Since that time, we've tried to adhere to those guiding principles and provide the most accurate coverage and informed opinion pieces we can, in an effort to create a resource for rowers and help move our sport forward – and quite a journey it has been. The above video includes clips from interviews, races, travel and other boathouse banter accumulated over that time, and we're looking forward to much, much more.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way – and a special thanks to the RR Editorial Staff and the RR International Research Department for all your hard work. Special thanks also goes to everyone at Rowing Magazine for the fantastic opportunity to work together and continue push coverage of the sport to the next level.

Whether you're submitting research, written work, or simply reading and enjoying what we're doing, you're helping us to grow, and it is greatly appreciated by everyone here at RowingRelated.

Thanks again,

Bryan

Monday, October 8, 2012

Video Of The Week: The 2012 Red Bull XRow



This week's video comes to us from Die Schweiz, and features highlights of last weekend's Red Bull XRow – an event that includes 19 kilometers of rowing and 7km of running (all while carrying the boat and oars). As we mentioned previously, a crew from California Rowing Club headed over to compete in the event – though it was their first XRow, the crew performed very well, placing sixth overall in a field of 17. This year, the home team took top honors, successfully defending their title from 2011. The Swiss crew was led by 2012 Olympians Mario Gyr and André Vonarburg, who, along with their teammates, edged two German crews (one of which, the Frankfurter RG Germania All-Stars, included Marcel Hacker) into second and third place. For more on the event, check out the official website of the Red Bull XRow.

Note for RR mobile readers: please follow the link above to view the video.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Friday, October 5, 2012

Video Highlights from the Zurich City Sprints, via World Rowing



The Zurich City Sprints, which featured 450m races across all boat classes, were a success despite the weather, and another example of FISA's continuing efforts to bring rowing to a wider community. Innovative rowing races in Europe (last year's Golden Blades in St. Petersburg, the Red Bull XRow, and others) and the U.S. (the OG&E NightSprints is a good example) are helping to make the sport more accessible, and the event in Zurich was certainly no exception.

The 2012 Red Bull XRow (watch last year's event here) is coming up this weekend, and will feature a crew from California Rowing Club that includes multiple athletes with national team experience, stroked by Grand Challenge Cup winner Brandon Shald, with two-time Olympian Olivier Siegelaar in the seven seat. Also making the trip are recent Harvard alum and former team captain Michael DiSanto, and Alan Kush of Virginia's 2011 ACRA champion varsity eight. Good luck to CRC in what looks to be one of the most challenging rowing/racing events out there!

For a gallery of photos of the CRC XRow crew training in Oakland, just follow the link.

-RR

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to USRowing – Coaching Matters

USRowing and Rowing Canada Aviron are at a turning point, with both programs in search of coaching and leadership following the Olympic Games. While RCA's issues are more to do with the polarizing effect of Mike Spracklen, USRowing has only itself to blame. In USRowing's case, there appears to be a continuing shift in favor of bureaucracy and away from what makes boats go fast. This is especially troubling considering the comparatively limited budget of USRowing in the international rowing sphere.

As most in the rowing community expected, USRowing parted ways with Tim McLaren immediately following the 2012 Olympics. Let's face it – bronze medal at the Games aside (the product of the head coach becoming the men's four coach), it was not a successful Olympic cycle. However, instead of making a new men's head coach priority Number One, USRowing hired Curtis Jordan as the new high performance director. The problem is, USRowing already had a high performance director, Matt Imes, who has not left the organization – now, Imes is listed as the 'Associate Director of High Performance' on the USRowing website. What does that mean? What it sounds like is that USRowing has created yet another bureaucratic position, likely to the tune of $100,000+, and not hired a coach. You know, that guy (or gal) who works with athletes and boats?

Sound familiar? That's because USRowing did (almost) the same thing in 2010, moving Kris Korzeniowski into a bureaucratic position and away from coaching the national team. As far as an explanation, USRowing has been typically cryptic (i.e., USRowing has simply not addressed Imes' new position in any way). How crafty! Maybe no one will notice!

That being said, USRowing is unlikely to reverse course. Despite the unaddressed financial implications of the move, the situation can still, possibly, work out for the best. It keys entirely on one thing – hiring the right candidate for the men's head coaching position – and, fortunately, that candidate is out there.

Top Pick: Tom Bohrer
Tom Bohrer is an outstanding coach, with a fantastic athletic background that includes an Olympic silver medal in the coxless four. He has a proven track record of developing talent, and has taken a stagnant Boston University program into a position of national prominence during his tenure there. He would have the immediate respect of the athletes in the USRowing community, and he understands the nature of rowing in the United States – he will not spend the next four years trying to make this into a European/Australian system, and instead will know just how to take advantage of the existing situation. The bottom line is, Bohrer would be a great hire.

Dave O'Neill
As the head coach of the California women's rowing team, O'Neill has had tremendous success, from recruiting to developing top-end speed. Just looking at the list of athletes from O'Neill's program at the 2012 Olympic Games will give you a glimpse into just how competitive the Cal Bears are, as well as an idea of the kind of culture O'Neill knows how to create. Also, O'Neill has a club background, and knows exactly how to make the most of available resources to field the most competitive team possible. And, he has international coaching experience, having worked with Julie Nichols (a Cal alum) and Kristin Hedstrom during the last Olympic cycle.

Luke McGee
As Washington men's head coach Mike Callahan knows and appreciates, Luke McGee is arguably the best assistant coach in the United States, helping Callahan and the UW Huskies to a record six straight Ten Eyck trophies, not to mention his work as coach of the victorious U.S. men's eight at the 2012 under-23 world championships earlier this year. Again, McGee knows how to build a successful culture, and, like Bohrer, has international racing experience at the elite level. While some might argue that his youth would work against him (McGee is in his mid thirties), it didn't seem to hurt Mike Teti, who led the U.S. lightweight men's four to a bronze at the 1996 Olympic Games at age 40.

The first response from much of the rowing community to this post will be, understandably, 'fat chance. You're never going to convince those guys to leave top-flight collegiate programs to take over with USRowing.'

And that's the heart of the problem. Everyone on the above list is extremely competitive, and has a track record of success already at the collegiate level – indeed, at the elite level in some cases. Why wouldn't such driven competitors jump at the chance to lead the United States national team into Rio? The answer is that USRowing has made what should be the most coveted position in the United States into something to be avoided – which explains the rumors about USRowing's hunt for a head coach going outside the U.S. once again. The problem is not that we don't have many able candidates on home turf, it's that, in the past, USRowing has proven too unstable and too untrustworthy for any of the top U.S. coaches to take interest. With the exception, of course, of Mike Teti, who left unappreciated by USRowing top brass in 2008, only to return as a 'savior' in 2011-2012.

So, the way I see it, the job of USRowing's staff of high performance directors is to change all that, as soon as possible. The position of men's head coach for the United States national team should be the best position in the country. It should be easy to fill that position, because it should be the most attractive coaching position out there – not a worldwide scramble to try to find a foreign coach too unfamiliar with the program to know he nature of its advantages and shortcomings. This is not a xenophobic sentiment – despite his polarizing effect, Mike Spracklen is familiar with the U.S. system and could prove an effective choice – rather, it is a call for decisive action in transparent terms from USRowing.

There is no dearth of great coaching in the United States. If no one comes knocking, then you are the problem, and it's time to make some changes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Video Of The Week: The Oklahoma Regatta Festival and OCU Head of the Oklahoma, 2012



This week's video comes to us from The Oklahoman's website, NewsOK, and features clips and interviews from around the course during the four-day Oklahoma Regatta Festival, which began on Thursday with the OG&E NightSprints (500m races under the lights) and finished Sunday with the distance races. During the festival, there was a rare public appearance from USRowing CEO Glenn Merry, as well as Harvard alums and 2012 Olympic gold medalists Esther Lofgren, and Caryn Davies, who attended the regatta festival to sign autographs and celebrate the sport. The festival takes full advantage of the Devon Boathouse's event space, which provides a great view of the course as well as ample facilities for the athletes – it's a very cool building, as I found out first hand last season while attending the 2011 regatta (follow the link for a Devon boathouse tour with Henley Grand Challenge Cup champion Ryan Monaghan).

[Note for mobile users: Please follow this link to view the video.]

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-RR

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Esther Lofgren on the 'Backwards' Experience



After taking gold in London, Esther Lofgren and her teammates from the U.S. women's squad have been on a whirlwind tour, most recently attending the Philadelphia premiere of the new feature film, Backwards, written, produced, and directed by Sarah Megan Thomas (who also plays one of the lead roles). Here, Esther shares a little about her experience of the premiere, which included a meeting with Thomas, as well as her thoughts on the film. Read on!
Thursday night, I headed to the Philadelphia Art Museum – as famous for the "Rocky" steps out front as the amazing collection inside – for the red carpet premiere of Backwards. Joining me were teammates Sara Hendershot, from the Olympic pair, and Adrienne Martelli and Megan Kalmoe, Olympic bronze medallists in the quad. We decided to have fun with our first red carpet, and borrowed designer dresses for the occasion. I even managed to find one that was floor-length while wearing four-inch heels 
We arrived on the red carpet and met Sarah Megan Thomas, the writer, director and producer of the film. She's lovely, quick to smile and incredibly driven – all great qualities for a rower! After a few photos, we headed inside to watch the film. 
My expectations for rowing movies aren't particularly high. The Boy in Blue? Oxford Blues? The first scene in The Skulls? And who can forget Rowing Through
But "Backwards" was, in fact, one of the best sports movies I've seen. It certainly captures a modern team boat rower's experience extremely well. And it captures the competitive drive of rowers – that urge to thrash ourselves, to sacrifice everything for the shot at a seat in the boat, to approach everything as something to be won – so well that it pulled at my heart. I'm not a particularly sentimental person, so that's saying something. 
Having lived this life for several years now, I also thought that Thomas portrayed those around the rowers well, too – the very supportive parents who want their child to be happy, even if nearly all of what they see is a poor, exhausted athlete who is too immersed in an obscure sport to care much about the real world. Or the ex-boyfriend that you had to break things off with because of rowing (and the one who dumped you because you cared more about rowing than you did about him.) Or the coach who uses whatever tools necessary to get the desired results. And Backwards also paints the main character's relationships with these figures very well. 
As my boatmate Susan Francia put it, the great thing about Backwards is that the things that are a little off – the things that make you shake your head as a rower – were all little things. No, our team doesn't all put our hands in for a group cheer just after getting reamed out after a bad erg test. But Backwards captures that horrible glance down the row of ergs as you finish your test, looking for the girl you know you have to beat, and seeing that she's already done and staring at you. And it tells the joy of victory, the beauty of flat, calm water through a rower's eyes, and the appreciation for the journey of a rowing career, not just the final race. 
So, both wearing my rowing hat and without it, I highly encourage you to go see Backwards. And bring your teammates, because they'll like it too (and so that you're not the only one in the theater eating puppy chow with your long legs sticking out in the aisle). 
-Esther Lofgren
Thanks very much to Esther for her take on the film – now I guess it's high time that we go track down a ticket ourselves! Read all about Esther's journey to London 2012 on her blog, the aptly named 'Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.'

-RR