Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 IRA National Championship Regatta Picks and Predictions

The 2012 edition of the IRA Regatta begins tomorrow morning, and the look of the field has changed since the beginning of the year, though the front runners in our minds, Harvard, Washington, and Brown, had fantastic outings at the Head Of The Charles (finishing first, third, and fifth, respectively, with only a USRowing national team crew and a Deutscher Ruderverband eight forming the interstices). Our pick following last year's IRA, as well as in January, was Harvard, but the overwhelming feeling in the rowing community (and, more specifically, our readership) shows that Washington is the favorite, and the Huskies will enter as the No. 1 team in all three eights.

The incredible race for the Sprints title in the varsity eight between Harvard and Brown saw Harvard's bid for an undefeated season come to an end, and, while the Crimson were unbeaten prior to that race, they have not pushed out the margins in any of their races this season–Washington, by contrast, has won every race by open water. Still, we expect the Crimson to be the one to throw down a serious challenge to Washington for supremacy at the varsity level–Harvard will be hungry to atone for the loss at Sprints, and always seem put together a great race on the Cooper River.

In our opinion, Brown and Cal will be battling for the bronze medal. California seems to be the hardest hit following the loss of Olympic standout and seven seat of the Dutch men's eight, Olivier Siegelaar, but were still talking about only a few percentage points between the Golden Bears and the front of the pack–it wouldn't surprise us if Cal gets it right and sneaks in for a bronze. Other crews of note this season have been Wisconsin–the Badgers battled well against West Coast opponents in the early season, and took third at Sprints in the varsity eight, albeit some 10 seconds behind the top two crews–and Princeton. A resurgent Navy had quality results during the regular season and a solid fifth-place finish at Sprints, and Yale is a bit of a wild card–the Bulldog heavies seem to have found good early season speed, but, as in the recent past, have had difficulty holding onto it when championship racing comes along. Case in point, Harvard swept the Bulldogs once again at the 147th Harvard-Yale Regatta. Syracuse, Boston University, and Northeastern will also be fighting for spots in the Grand Final on Saturday.

In the second varsity eight, we are taking Washington to win, with Harvard and Wisconsin rounding out the medals in that order. Washington has been outstanding all season, most notably at the Cal dual, when the Huskies went sub 5:40 in all three eights (varsity, JV, and frosh), but both Harvard and Wisco will pose a serious challenge for the gold. In the frosh eight, we're taking Washington as well, ahead of Cal, whom we think will be close. Harvard is our pick for the bronze.

The Harvard lightweights are on pace for an undefeated season–and will remember that last year, in very similar circumstances, Yale reached out and snatched a perfect season away from the Crimson by the narrowest of margins to claim the IRA title. We are picking Harvard to take it this year, with Dartmouth solidly on the podium. Yale and Princeton will fight for a place on the podium as well. 

As for the women's lightweights, it's a tough call between Stanford and Wisconsin. The Badgers got the season started with a bang, dominating the field at the Head Of The Charles, but since then, the Cardinal have won two-of-three match-ups with Wisconsin, and are the defending champions.  At this point, because of the last meeting between Stanford and Wisco, which saw the Cardinal defeat the No. 1 Badgers by five seconds, we are taking Stanford, but, as with all lightweight racing, it will come down to who gets it done on the day. Bucknell and Radcliffe will be battling for the final place on the podium, with the Bison coming off a one-second victory over the Black and White at Sprints. 

-RR

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NCAAs and ACRAs: Hoos Who in Rowing

The 2012 NCAA Championships were, as expected, characterized by closely fought heats, semis, and finals, with the depth of the entire field improving from year to year and the top-end continually reaching new heights. Our pick to win the Division I title since January, Virginia, delivered in both the varsity eight and team points, with a solid performances from the varsity four (second) and second varsity eight (fifth) to set up the first eight for success in the grands. The Hoos left no doubt in the 1V, pushing out the margin in the second 1000m enough to hold off a very strong Michigan crew–with a second-place finish in the varsity eight and first place in the 2V, the Wolverines locked up second place in the team points standings, ahead of No. 1 California.

As for our pick of Western Washington, well, the Jacks of Humboldt State showed that a new era may have begun in DII women's rowing. The Jacks were the class of the field in the varsity four, finishing roughly nine seconds ahead of second-place Nova SE to win the event. In the varsity eight, despite the nerves that can come with a restart, and a new attack by Western Washington, the Jacks stayed loose, had confidence in their rhythm, and gradually reeled the Vikings in throughout the race, edging into first place in the final 250m and securing the title in the varsity eight and team points with a sweep. The victory for the Jacks ended a seven-year winning streak for WWU.

In Division III, Williams was as good as advertised, as Kate Maloney's program showed poise and depth, winning the 2V by a considerable margin and taking the varsity eight for the seventh straight time. It speaks highly of the athletes that they were able to adapt to a new coach (albeit a talented and experienced one), and continue to perform at the top of their game through the regime change. Needless to say, they were pretty Ephing excited (I know, I know–it's pronounced 'eephs').

Meanwhile, down in Georgia, the ACRA finals underway, and saw a few surprises in another increasingly deep field. Our pick for first place all year has been Michigan, and the Wolverines delivered at Dad Vails earlier this month, winning both the varsity eight and JV eight events. This time, however, history repeated itself, as Frank Biller's Virginia squad went from fourth place at Dad Vails to a second consecutive championship title at ACRAs in the men's varsity eight, breaking the course record in the process (NB: Lake Lanier hosted the rowing at the 1996 Olympic Games–Biller's crew rowed a 5:40.9 in tailwind conditions, besting the Olympic champion Dutch eight's previous record of 5:42.7 by nearly two seconds). Roughly one length back from UVa was Bucknell–the Bison had a fantastic regatta, also upsetting Michigan, who had to be content with third place in the varsity eight after the closely fought nine-boat final came to an end. Grand Valley State finished fourth, three tenths of a second behind Michigan and four tenths ahead of Notre Dame. The Wolverines pulled off an undefeated season in the JV eight, with a win over Virginia and GVSU in that order. Another of our crews to watch, Orange Coast college, edged UVa to win the frosh eight title, as well as the frosh four event.

On the women's side, our pick to win, Grand Valley State, did just that in convincing fashion, taking the varsity eight by roughly seven seconds over the field. Purdue, our pick for second, took silver in Gainesville, with New Hampshire in third place ahead of UCSB. The Lakers backed up their success at the varsity level with another win, this time in the women's novice eight, with a surprising crew from Middlebury taking second place overall.

Still to come: IRA 2012 picks and predictions–the polls close tomorrow!

-RR

Monday, May 28, 2012

Video of the Week: Mike Teti from the Final Olympic Qualifier in Lucerne



This week's video comes to us courtesy of the World Rowing FISA YouTube Channel, and features U.S. men's eight head coach Mike Teti, standing on the dock in Lucerne following the qualification of his crew for the 2012 Olympic Games. Basically, this is classic Mike–engaging, down to earth, and funny. Having been brought in following the eight's failure to qualify for the Olympics last year in Bled, Teti was charged with the task of assembling a crew that would ensure the U.S. would claw its way back to the Games–and he did just that. Now, it's time to refocus and get ready for London. Given Teti's experience coaching the eight (let's just say we might have seen this coming), not to mention the job he has already done, we're confident that good things are on the horizon in Eton.

Still to come this week: NCAAs and ACRAs recap and review–time to take a look at how our picks and predictions turned out over the weekend!

-RR

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 NCAA and ACRA Championships Picks and Predictions

The NCAA Rowing Championships and ACRA National Championships are now just hours away, and it wouldn't be right if we didn't throw some picks and predictions out there. We released some season-long predictions in January, and we are sticking to our guns, though things have certainly heated up in both fields (not to mention the IRA field that will take to the water in just under a week). Now, let's get started.

NCAA Rowing Championships:

We picked Virginia to win the Division I team title last Winter, and Kevin Sauer's Cavaliers are looking on pace to do just that, despite their No. 2 ranking behind Pac-12 power California. The RR readers' poll agrees with that assessment at this point, with 29% of the vote currently going to Virginia, versus 24% to Cal. The Golden Bears will enter NCAAs this year on a tremendous high, having swept the Pac-12 Championships for the first time a little less than two weeks ago–Cal is certainly not to be taken lightly, nor would it be a surprise if they upset our top seed, given the Bears' depth this year (and, after all, they are the No. 1 team according to the official rankings). However, Virginia is also coming off a sweep of its own, and is arguably the deepest team in the country–look for the Cavaliers to take top honors in team points this year, though they will have tough competition in the varsity eight.

Further contenders for the team title, as our readers' survey indicates, are (in no particular order) Washington, Princeton, Michigan, UCLA, Harvard (Radcliffe), and The Ohio State University. Washington has received the third-most votes thus far in our poll, with 20% of the vote. Somehow, too, it feels wrong to leave Brown off this list–it's hard to argue with seven titles in 15 tries, and last year Bruno came out of (virtually) nowhere to win it all in Sacramento. It will be a very interesting weekend in West Windsor, to be sure.

In Division II, we are expecting the Western Washington Vikings to continue their roll with yet another NCAA title this year. The Humboldt State Jacks upset the Vikings at the Northwestern Conference Rowing Championships last month, but WWU responded at WIRAs, winning the varsity and second varsity eight events. Mercyhurst, coming off a Dad Vail victory, will be another team to watch, along with Nova Southeastern.

The Division III field looks to belong to Williams once again under new head coach and RR interviewee Kate Maloney (click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of her interview). The Ephs are looking to make it seven straight titles, and are on their way to doing just that after a solid win in the varsity eight at ECACs. Look for Bates, Trinity, William Smith and Wellesley to be in the mix for the podium.

ACRA National Championships:

Again, we picked the Michigan men to win it all in January, and we are sticking with our early take, as Michigan recently defended its title in the men's varsity eight at the 2012 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, winning the second varsity eight event as well over rivals Grand Valley State and Virginia, in that order. We are looking for another strong performance from the UVa men, as their fourth place finish at Dad Vails likely reflected their trip to the Windermere Cup Regatta in Seattle just four days before the racing in Philly (not to mention that UVa took fourth at Dad Vails in 2011, only to come back and win the men's varsity eight at ACRAs over Michigan). The Grand Valley State men will be another team to watch, as the Lakers have had a strong season, beginning with an early season victory in the Cal Cup at San Diego Crew Classic, and then again at the Lubbers Cup Regatta, where GVSU defeated the Michigan varsity eight. The Wolverines have since defeated GVSU on two separate occasions, however, with wins at the MACRA Regatta and Dad Vails (where GVSU placed seventh overall). Other teams to watch on the men's side will be Notre Dame (last year's bronze medalists in the varsity and second varsity eights), and Purdue, coming off a strong performance in Philadelphia, as well as Orange Coast College. Michigan State also had a strong performance at MACRAs, placing a close fifth behind fourth-place Purdue.

On the women's side, we are looking for Grand Valley to bounce back from a tough Aberdeen Dad Vail to win ACRAs in the varsity eight this year ahead of Purdue. Other teams to watch will be New Hampshire and UC Santa Barbara.

All right! That's out two cents–now it's time to see how it all plays out on Lake Mercer and Lake Lanier this weekend. Best of luck to all crews!

-RR

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

RR Interview: Iain Weir of Rowing Photography UK and Rowing Journal

Weir (center) and father (right), LRC chief coach Paul Reedy (left), Image: © Iain Weir
Following a successful career as an oarsman that included a Henley Royal Regatta victory in the Thames Cup, photographer and entrepreneur Iain Weir has found a number of ways to stay involved with the sport that he knows and loves so well. Having begun as a photographer while competing for the London Rowing Club on the Putney Embankment, Weir has since established himself as one of the premier rowing photographers in the U.K., as well as taken on other ventures, including his most recent creation, RowingJournal.com. Here, Weir shares a little about his background, how he got started, and how you can get involved with Rowing Journal, as it continues to grow worldwide.

RR: How did you get started in the sport of rowing? What was it about the sport that captivated you, and what has sustained that interest in the sport?

Iain Weir: I couldn't tell you exactly at what moment I decided that I'd give rowing a go. I'm not from a rowing family and so I'd watched the occasional boat race on TV and would always watch the rowing coverage at Olympic Games. I think my earliest memory of it was my gran laughing hysterically at Gary Herbert bawling his eyes out in Barcelona... She still laughs at the "greetin' wee man"...

Having played golf at a good junior level I actually intended to play golf when I went to university, but the guy recruiting on the stall was such an obnoxious arse that I decided against it. (Being honest I'd already lost interest in golf having discovered cars, beer & women.)

Determined to join a sports club, I thrust myself into the arms of the rowing club who promptly pushed me away telling me that they were full! Rejected! So in my first year I did no sport and just had fun.

But then the BBC series Gold Fever happened following Steve Redgrave et al., and I got hooked on the idea of rowing. I proceeded to spend the summer on an ergo ingraining the bad habits that have taken an entire rowing career to shed, so that I'd be so strong they'd have no choice but to take me on the following year. And it worked... Through nothing more than hard work, always being there, and being vocal I won myself opportunities to occasionally sit in the University first eight when they needed a sub, which they must have hated (I earned the nickname 'the dredger'), but it gave me a taste for speed and of what rowing 'could' feel like... With the sporting equivalent of heroin pumping through my system I simply got hooked.

Since that time I've just loved racing, I actually don't care that much for training, in my opinion it's the most evil of necessary evils but there's no way round it if you want to win.

I've actually struggled to maintain an interest in training over the past season or two because there's not been a goal in mind that's excited me. I've wanted to want to, but that's not enough - you can't fake hunger.

RR: What's your favo(u)rite memory of racing?

IW: So many... Every time I think of one I remember another.

The realisation of self-belief is probably one of the greatest events that can happen to anyone in any walk of life, and I've been lucky enough to have won a few races that really mattered to me.

My father was diagnosed terminally ill in 2006 and during this period we talked about a lot of things and in hospital. He once asked me what my dreams were. Rather depressingly I answered "to win Henley." I say depressingly because I suspect there is probably more to life than rowing - like being happy, healthy, having a wonderful family... but no, for me at that time all I wanted to do was win Henley and it was something I'd wanted to do since I first stepped in a boat (I had an argument with the club president at Loughborough Uni because he wouldn't let us try to qualify our novice 4+ for the Brit. B@stard...).

So to have my father on the riverbank, fresh from the operating theatre to watch me win the Thames Cup in 2006 was pretty amazing, it's the only time he ever saw me row.

That said, the best racing I did that season was the seat racing to earn a spot in the boat in the first place - from a squad with real depth with many, many guys who could easily have been in the boat and it still won, it was savage & brutal and amongst the crew we still talk about it from time to time.

RR: How were you inspired to take up the camera? Were you always interested in photographing rowing?

IW: From an early age I owned a camera, I got my first new camera aged six. It was a blue Kodak disc compact and from then on I was where cameras went to die–any relative who upgraded their camera gave me their old one to bash and bruise taking photos of whatever museum or classic car fair I was going to that weekend.

So from an early age I think I learned a considered approach to photography. Film wasn't cheap and getting it processed wasn't cheap either, and so you had to think about what you wanted to take a photo of and ration your shots.

That said, throughout my teenage years and university it wasn't something I paid a lot of attention to. I was too busy doing other things, it was only when my father took ill that we'd spend time together taking photos, during which he actually suggested that I give photography a look as I clearly enjoyed it - a suggestion I dismissed at the time but after he passed away it was something I decided I wanted to investigate.

Too exhausted from the combination of my fathers illness and being an unwilling passenger in the early stages of credit crunch (I was a junior accountant working on trying to value complicated portfolios of sub-prime credit including Bear Stearns and some Icelandic banks - dark times) to be rowing myself I picked up my dad's digital kit and started photographing my friends rowing and things just grew from there. It was the first time I'd actually combined the interests and let's just say I'm glad I did!

RR: Having had success as an entrepreneur and an artist, you've already carved out a niche for yourself in the rowing world. What was it that gave you the idea for Rowing Journal?

IW: The Rowing Journal was born out of several things really.

The first thing was just a personal desire to start writing a bit more about rowing, my personal opinion is that rowing has been taking itself too seriously for too long and I wanted to make the rowing community examine itself a bit more closely, and enjoy a bit of a belly laugh at its own expense.

The "Don't be 'that guy'" article and the ongoing "Stereotype in profile" (click here for an example) series really helped kick things off but the subsequent "Gym Rowers" and "I just need to move my footplate, hang on" from fresh contributors really highlighted that the rowing world was not only ready to take an honest look in the mirror but that it was bursting with creative talent.

Since then we've had contributions of all types, including inspiring first steps back in a sculling boat following a brave battle with lung cancer, profiles of national team athletes as well as perspectives on the sport from not just rowers but from parents & supporters. It's early days with the site but it's really exciting that so many people have got involved.

RR: How should people go about getting involved?

It's dead easy, just visit rowingjournal.com and click on the Facebook logo and your account will be created in seconds.

I had strong views that I didn't want Rowing Journal to become a free for all forum complete with anonymous trolls, so the FB link is a way of making sure that people can be held to account in the unlikely event that anyone posts anything offensive/illegal.

That said, the site does allow people to contribute posts under a pseudonym so you can conceal your identity like the mysterious 'Insanity Melchett' or 'RowingMum' - although despite RowingMum's best efforts to conceal her identity her daughter was on the phone within minutes of the post being published!

If you want to post a comment and get involved in the debate however, it's linked to your Facebook account.

RR: What has been the highlight of your venture into the rowing blogosphere to date? I have to say I am fond of the caption contest on the RowingPhotography Facebook page.

IW: Ha, I love the caption competition too, it gave me the first glimpse of the creative talent that was bubbling under the surface of the rowing community.

I'd say the highlight for me is getting to meet the real people behind the usernames, blogs and Twitter accounts. Since I started rowing I've been fairly active within the online rowing community - if any of you remember "theangryferret" from the University Rowing League - that was me. I actually bumped into two guys yesterday at Notts City Regatta who I was introduced to via the U.R.L. (HP and Stelph) back in the day which was good fun... They've all moved on but I'm still posting stuff online about rowing... I like to think it's a bit more credible these days though!

RR: What regattas are on the schedule for you, and where should people look for rowing images?

I'm hoping to be at the National Schools Regatta in a few weeks and there is a possibility that I may try to get out to the Munich World Cup in mid June although I'll probably prioritise HWR and HRR. I don't currently have accreditation for the Olympic Rowing, which is really disappointing, but being a relatively new kid on the block this isn't really surprising, I was delighted to have a commission for the Boat Race this year and to get a photo printed in The Sunday Times - even if it was of that prat Trenton.

My images all go onto http://rowingphotography.co.uk, and I post links to them via the RowingPhotography Facebook page. I sometimes throw the odd photo on there to test the water and see what people think.

RR: What's the next idea you have brewing?

IW: I imagine my brain to be like a room with loads of closed doors and behind each of those doors is a guy working away on something.

The way it's meant to work is that only one guy is allowed out of his room at a time but from time to time it gets out of control and some of the guys get so excited about what they're working on that they rush out and compete for attention and the result is that nobody gets anything done... The plus side of this is that when one of those guys produces something good, he convinces the others and they accept defeat and go back to their room and things like the Rowing Journal get created with reckless abandon.

The Rowing Journal is still less than a month old and with over 40 contributors currently writing and more signing up each day I think it's going to be keeping me busy, so for the time being the other guys are locked in their rooms - who knows what they're up to?

Thanks very much to Iain Weir for taking the time! To get involved with Rowing Journal, simply follow the links and instructions above.

-RR

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First Day of Finals Golden for Team USA at Final Olympic Qualification Regatta

Not only did the U.S. national team go three-for-three on Tuesday with respect to qualifying for the Games in London, the squad did so in style, winning the W2x, LM4- and M8+ in convincing fashion. Women's double combination Sarah Trowbridge (Michigan) and Margot Shumway (The Ohio State University) led from wire to wire, edging out to what became a 1.5 second advantage as they crossed the line in a time of 7:03.96. Not do be outdone, the new-look U.S. lightweight men's four, made up of Robin Prendes (Princeton), Will Newell (Harvard), Nick LaCava (Columbia), and Anthony Fahden (Dartmouth)–'The Ivy Four,' as Susan Francia dubbed the crew via Twitter–made the most of the second 1000m and won the final following an outstanding sprint, coming from third to win by just over one tenth of a second ahead of The Netherlands (6:01.85 to 6:01.99 for the Dutch). While these athletes are experienced, with LaCava and Newell having raced in the LM8+, and Prendes and Fahden in the LM4- in Bled last year, this was a very impressive performance given the fact that this lineup was untested prior to racing in Lucerne.

Another untested but very competitive lineup was that of the U.S. men's eight. The crew of Giuseppe Lanzone (Washington), Will Miller (Northeastern), Ross James (Wisconsin), Brett Newlin (Washington), Jake Cornelius (Stanford), Steve Kasprzyk (Drexel), David Banks (Stanford), and Grant James (Wisconsin), and coxed by Zach Vlahos (California), won a walk-away victory in the race for lanes on Sunday, moving out to an eight-second margin over the field. The final today saw the U.S. move out to a significant lead early, though the crew from New Zealand fought very well to hang on, chasing the U.S. throughout and this time finishing roughly a length off the U.S. crew. USA crossed the line in 5:36.11, with New Zealand across in 5:40.02, and France trailing in 5:46.35. With the victory, the men's eight (pictured here via Twitter thanks to Laura Fell of FISA) has punched its ticket for London, and will likely already be shifting its focus for the upcoming Games.

Tomorrow, three more U.S. crews will look to qualify. The lightweight men's double of Andrew Campbell (Harvard) and Will Daly (Boston University) has been impressive from the start, and took second in their semi behind former world champions Hungary to advance to the final. Gevvie Stone  (Princeton) has looked very strong throughout the regatta in the W1x, and the combination of Warren Anderson (Loyola Marymount University) and Sam Stitt (Rutgers) looks to be extremely competitive as well, tying a crew from Azerbaijan for first place in their semi this morning–the Azerbaijani entry includes World Cup I A Finalist Aleksandar Aleksandrov, who took fifth in the M1x in Belgrade.

More to come as it becomes available.

-RR

Monday, May 21, 2012

Video of the Week: Australian World Champions Train in Tasmania



This week's video comes to us from Mike Nicholson, who visited training sessions on April 23 and 24, 2012 with the 2011 world champion men's quad and lightweight men's four of Australia. In addition to a bit of banter from stroke seat of the M4x, Dan Noonan, the video features a great deal very high quality rowing and sculling (as you might expect). The Final Olympic Qualification Regatta is ongoing on the Rotsee, but the second World Cup is just around the corner, and set to begin Friday in Lucerne. These two crews will be in action, though Noonan is out of the lineup in the M4x with an injury (the part of 'Noonan' will be played by Jared Bidwell for World Cup II). The match-up between the Germans, Croatians, and the new Australian combination in the M4x will be an interesting one to watch. Germany took a hard luck silver last year behind Australia last year (crabbing in the final five strokes and allowing AUS to slip by), and again took silver behind Croatia (finished third in Bled with the same lineup) at the first World Cup in Belgrade. The Australian lineup is untested and will be looking to find its stride as a crew in the midst of a strong field.

The Australian LM4- looked untouchable last year, winning the event by a margin of nearly half a length (in lightweight racing, victories are rarely so comfortable at the elite level). However, Eskild Ebbesen and the Danes, who re-emerged on the scene last year, are looking to be in top form following an excellent performance at the first World Cup in Belgrade. In a tight field, Ebbesen, Jacob Barsoe, Morten Joergensen, and Kasper Winther blasted through the final 1000m, going from third to first and earning themselves a one second margin over the field in the process. The combination of travel and training cycle for both the Australians and Kiwis may make it difficult to assess the outcomes this weekend, with a view toward the Games this summer.

-RR

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Race Video: Harvard and Brown Battle to the Line in Worcester



We're heavy on videos this week, but this one is too good to miss–the men's varsity heavyweight eight final at Sprints this year was an absolute barn burner, with Harvard and Brown pushing each other all the way across the finish in a race that was determined by less than a canvas. The crew from Brown knew as soon as they crossed the line that they had ended Harvard's bid for an undefeated season. The margin? 0.3 seconds. The result? Things just got very interesting in the men's varsity eight field for the upcoming IRA National Championship.

So far, our RR readers' polls show Virginia as the favorite to win the NCAA team title this year in West Windsor, while the Washington men are heavy favorites to take the men's varsity eight title at IRAs on the Cooper River. Get involved and cast your vote!

Thanks to Princeton Crew for uploading another great race video to their YouTube Channel!

-RR

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

World Cup II Entries Announced, Eric Murray's Waikato Times Interview



The above (very nicely produced) video interview comes to us from the Waikato Times, and covers how Eric Murray got into the pair with Hamish Bond, his hopes for the New Zealand men's pair in the final stages of preparation for London, as well as the sometimes 'mind-numbing' nature of the long hours of training required to go fast at the elite level.

The entries for the second World Cup, this one in Lucerne, have been announced, and the field will include the three-time defending world champion Kiwi pair. The duo will take on last year's and bronze medalists, Italy's Noccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini, and fourth place finishers in 2011, the Gkountoulas brothers of Greece. Beijing silver medalists Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen of Canada will be back in action on the international stage, following a fifth place finish last year, and defending Olympic champion Duncan Free (having recently come back from another injury, this time to the ribs) will test his speed as AUS2 with new partner Thomas Larkins. Former Cal Bears and 2010 IRA champions in the men's varsity eight, Spencer Crowley and Will Dean, will be racing as CAN2, and Great Britain will also be bringing two entries: Will Satch and recently appointed CUBC president George Nash, racing as GBR1 following their second place finish in Belgrade, and Cameron Nichol and Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell (the bow pair of last year's GB men's eight). Add to this World Cup I winners Felix Drahotta (sixth place with Maximilian Munski in Bled last year) and Anton Braun of Germany, and it should make for a very interesting final in the men's pair.

Suffice it to say, it's a deep field in Lucerne this year. For a complete list of entries, please visit the official website of World Rowing.

-RR

Monday, May 14, 2012

Video of the Week: Men's and Women's Varsity Eights at the Pac-12 Championships



On a huge weekend in intercollegiate racing, the Cal women proved that they are, once again, the team to beat out West, though there were new challengers emerging from the Pac-12 field. The Bears swept the racing to claim their fifth straight conference title, with Washington taking second in the team points, followed by UCLA just one point back overall. The Bruins had an excellent regatta and continue to step up their game this year–after a solid Crew Classic, UCLA made three trips to the podium in four races at Lake Natoma on Sunday, taking silver in the frosh eight, bronze in the varsity four, and bronze in the second varsity eight, finishing roughly one length from first in the closely packed varsity eight final for fourth place in that event.



The men's racing at Lake Natoma featured what was nothing short of a dominant Washington Husky program going to work against rivals California. The Bears showed that they have made some improvements since the Cal-UW dual, but the Huskies were able to win every race in convincing fashion. Hours later, Harvard fell to Brown in the men's varsity eight by 0.3 seconds at EARC Sprints Sunday afternoon in Worcester. The Husky men raced Brown early in the season, sweeping those Bears as well, though Brown look to have dramatically increased their top-end speed at just the right time. Both Harvard and Brown finished roughly ten seconds ahead of Wisconsin, as the Badgers took bronze in the varsity eight and won the second varsity eight event.

For a rundown of the weekend's racing, with links to full results, check out the new feature article on RowingNews.com. Thanks to the Pac-12 Conference YouTube Channel for posting the videos!

-RR

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weekend Race Coverage and RR Interview: Frank Biller of UVa on the 2012 Windermere Cup

The UVa varsity eight training in Seattle (Photo: © F. Biller)
The UVa men’s team has, once again, made a statement in the early season, and looks to be one of the favorites this weekend in Philadelphia at the 2012 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, as well as at the ACRA Championship Regatta later this month in Gainesville, GA. Having won the title in the men’s varsity eight at ACRAs last year, defeating perennial front runner Michigan along the way, UVa has shown thus far that it has not lost speed, despite having graduated some of the top talent from last year’s varsity crew. This was in evidence at SIRAs, where the Cavaliers battled a strong George Washington crew all the way to the line, eventually taking second place, less than a second behind the Colonials, with roughly a six second margin on the rest of the field.

Last weekend, UVa was invited to participate in the 2012 Windermere Cup, and had another strong showing, defeating Oregon State by roughly a length, and finishing just one tenth of a second behind a crew made up of national team athletes from Argentina. This weekend will be the first meeting of the year between the Cavs and Michigan. Grand Valley State, who defeated Michigan at the Lubber’s Cup, will also be in action in Philadelphia. Michigan responded recently by defeating GVSU at the Mid-American Collegiate Rowing Association (MACRA) Championships, and taking titles in the second varsity eight, frosh eight and frosh four to boot. Given this, as well as FIT, OCU, Jacksonville, Delaware and hometown favorites Temple and Drexel in the mix, the men’s varsity eight will be a stern test at Dad Vails.

You can watch the finals of the 2012 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta live via espn.com beginning at 1pm EDT (10am Pacific) on Saturday. ECACs (Friday) and EARC Sprints (Sunday) will also be broadcast live via the internet beginning at 745am EDT tomorrow morning.

In anticipation of the weekend in Philly, we caught up with UVa head coach Frank Biller about the Virginia experience of Opening Day and the Windermere Cup, with a view toward championship racing season.

UVa Races at the 2012 Windermere Cup:

RR: When did you arrive and what was first on the schedule for you and the team?

Frank Biller: The team got there on Thursday, around noon. Thursday evening there was a dinner sponsored by Windermere Real Estate, the title sponsor of the event, and it was quite fancy–everyone was wearing blazers and ties. It was at the Conibear Shellhouse (where the UW athletes usually have their training table), which was decorated specially for the event. All the athletes and coaches were there, and we were placed at different tables, so there was a lot of exchange and talk–one of the great things they do was to have everyone introduce him or herself, name, what you study, where you’re from, etc. It was a serious event, yet very lighthearted.

The UVa squad at the Conibear Shellhouse (Photo: © F. Biller)
Friday we practiced on the course, and rowed a couple of pieces. Afterward there was some time to study [several of the athletes were taking final exams on the trip], rest, and a regular team dinner, and Saturday, of course, was race day. You could already see things developing even on Thursday, with the yachts starting to dock and the booms going in–you can definitely get a sense that this is a historic regatta. And then on Saturday, it’s even bigger than you think it’s going to be.

RR: What was your experience of race day?

FB: First of all, they have all these races ahead of the Windermere Cup–there are something like 100 boats out there on the water, and it seems like they all boat out of the UW boathouse. It’s just one boat after another–it feels almost like the start at the Head Of The Charles. Then, all of a sudden, it’s our turn to launch [for the last race of the day] and everything is empty. It went from a bustling place to just us and the Argentines in the entire boathouse, and we were looking at each other thinking, “Did we miss our start time?”

I was able to follow the race along with Mike Callahan and Steve Todd from OSU, which was fun. It’s a serious race, but we were enjoying it as much as the guys [racing]. I mean, it’s an incredible experience–all the yachts lined up along the course, it was really loud. My guys were looking out of the boat more than ever [laughs]. The water looked flat, but you could just see the way the boats were going–I think there were some currents or turbulence that contributed to the times being slower, but you just have to deal with it. It made for some interesting steering, especially from the Argentine crew.

RR: What was the scene on the lake following the racing? 

FB: You head down through the Cut, and it then your end up in Portage Bay on the other side. After the racing, everyone turns around rows back out–I’m proud to say that we led the parade! There were just rowing shells everywhere–like the Vogalonga in Venice. Great atmosphere–everyone is just happy. It was very, very cool.

The medal ceremony took place at the boathouse after the racing, and it was again a kind of formal event, with Bob Ernst as M.C. Continuously through the event, there was a great deal of positive exchange with the U.W. rowers–they were very friendly and accommodating of our rowers, very down to earth.

RR: With Dad Vails on the horizon, how did you adapt your training schedule? What was your overall impression of the trip?

FB: We rowed a second workout after the race, as we would be traveling the next day to get home and get ready for Dad Vails. It’s not the easiest schedule, but it was well worth the trip–it’s a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity for these kids. I really want to point out the generosity of Windermere and the hospitality and inclusiveness of Bob Ernst, Mike Callahan and the UW program. It was really a nice gesture–as a rower you never expect that kind of attention, but when you get it you really just soak it in–it was great.

There were a lot of impressions from our time visiting the UW program–it was good to see for the guys that, in many ways, there are similarities. They don’t really do anything different, they just do everything a little bit better–a little more refinement, a little more intensity, etc. In some ways it’s dismaying because they are not bigger, but they just have a few more years of rowing at a high level under their belts, and they’re great athletes.

It was definitely not just an Argentine tourist group that showed up–they brought a very good mix of young talent. We had a lead on them early, and the way they were able to wind it up in the end, well, they were no joke.

Thanks very much to Coach Biller for taking the time! Images courtesy of and copyright to Frank Biller. 

-RR

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Southwest Junior District Championships Showcase Top Talent on West Coast–Nationals Next

The USRowing Southwest Junior District Championships (say that four times, fast) took place on Lake Natoma (just outside Sacramento, CA) over the weekend, and there were several crews who made quite an impression on us as they punched their tickets to the USRowing Youth National Championships next month. Among those crews were some familiar names, as Marin Rowing Association continues to field a high volume of very fast crews on both the men's and women's sides, but there were also some relative newcomers to the stage. Also, early season favorites Oakland Strokes saw their undefeated season end in the women's varsity eight by the narrowest of margins, with last year's national champion Marin taking the top spot on the podium, and setting up a great rivalry race in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Graham Willoughby's Marin men's varsity eight was, once again, dominant, taking the event by open water over the field, and continuing their unbeaten streak that began at the 2010 Head Of The Charles, when they won the men's junior eight event in record time despite having to start from 69th place. MRA crossed the line in a time of 6:07, roughly 11 seconds ahead of Long Beach Junior Crew (who have begun to emerge as another West Coast rowing force under former NAC and three-time USRowing youth national champion coach, Nick D'Antoni–more on that below) in silver medal position, followed by Los Gatos. As defending national champions, clearly, Marin will enter the fray in Tennessee as the favorites to win the men's varsity eight.

The women's varsity eight saw two contenders for the national championship going stroke for stroke all the way to the line, with the experience of Marin's crew paying off in the final stages to secure the victory over previously undefeated Oakland. In the end, MRA edged Oakland by less than 0.5 seconds, defending their Southwest Regional title and turning some heads following an early season that saw Oakland in dominant form, with a seven second victory over Connecticut Boat Club and MRA at Crew Classic in April. Oakland is the younger crew, so it will be interesting if the Strokes can bounce back from this race and use it to fuel their efforts in Oak Ridge, or whether Marin is, once again, finding the right kind of speed at exactly the right time under veteran head coach Sandy Armstrong.

The men's lightweight eight was another event that caught our attention, as last year's regional and national champions (you guessed it–Marin) were overtaken in the final 250 meters by a new-look lineup from Long Beach Juniors. The LBJC men were down nearly a length throughout the first 1000m, but battled back and fought their way into contention in the third 500m, eventually walking through Marin to take a 2.6 second victory over their Northern California rivals. The Long Beach Junior men accomplished this despite having had four of the lightweight eight double-up into the heavyweight eight the day before, and will look to be firing on all cylinders come time to race in Tennessee. The women's lightweight eight went to another talented crew from Oakland by a significant margin (the Strokes crossed in 7:08, roughly eight seconds up on second place Capital)–look for Oakland to challenge for a national title in that event as well, having taken second place last season.

For complete results, please visit the official website of USRowing.

-RR

Monday, May 7, 2012

Video(s) of the Week: Greek Lightweights Impress at World Cup I in Belgrade



While the story of the regatta was the performance of the British national team, which dominated the points and earned a total of twelve medals (four of them gold), the Greek national team also looked outstanding as we build toward the Games in London. The lightweight women's double of Alexandra Tisavou and Christina Giazitzidou performed as we've come to expect, despite heading to the reps following a great heat with China (another crew to watch). In the final, Tsiavou and Giazitzidou established a lead in the second 500m and held it through the line, fending off strong challenges from the new-look GB LW2x of Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland (who took second place), and China's Dongxiang Xu and Wenyi Huang.



In the lightweight men's double, Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase looked excellent, as expected, despite a slower than usual start (which characterized many of the GB entries, as pointed out by the commentary, and is likely to do with their training cycle for London), but the Greek sprint in Belgrade was reminiscent of Vasileios Polymeros and Nikolaos Skiathitis in Athens. The Greek LM2x of Panagiotis Magdanis and Eleftherios Konsolas, despite being in an outside lane in of one of the deepest fields in all of world rowing (though without the Kiwi duo of Peter Talyor and Storm Uru), managed their race very well, and timed their sprint perfectly, putting pressure on GB as they crossed the finish. Like the rest of the rowing community, we're looking forward to some fantastic racing as we draw ever closer to the Olympics this summer!

-RR

Saturday, May 5, 2012

FISA Video Interviews: Alex Partridge and Alexandra Tsiavou



World Rowing has published two new video interviews as the first World Cup of the 2012 season heads towards the finals, one with Alex Partridge of the GB men's eight, and the other with defending world champion Alexandra Tsiavou of the Greek LW2x, on their approach, selection and racing, as well as what it means to represent their respective countries at the Olympics.



Also, look for updates from World Cup I on our new Regatta Updates/Results page, with filtered Twitter feeds from World Rowing and regattas both within the U.S. and abroad. And to keep and eye on what the athletes are saying, check out the 'Rowing Chat' Twitter widget on the right side of the page.

-RR

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2012 WIRA Championships Recap and Review

The 2012 WIRA Championships are in the books, and it's time to take a look at how our picks and predictions turned out following the racing on Lake Natoma last weekend. The story of the regatta was the team from Gonzaga on both the men's and women's sides, as the Bulldogs medaled in no less than seven events, winning gold in five. Orange Coast College also performed very well, taking first place in three events with a very small squad. Let's take a look, shall we?

Paul Prioleau's OCC Pirates got the better of the field in the men's varsity club eight, as we predicted, in a time of 6:02.6, roughly 1.5 seconds ahead of UCSB (another crew we picked to make a podium appearance). UCLA, our pick for second, faded to fourth behind UCI. In the men's varsity eight, our pick for first place, UCSD, did not show the same speed as earlier in the season at Crew Classic (when they got the better of Gonzaga), and found themselves in third place in a five-boat final, behind the first place Zags (who rowed away from the field to a 7.9 second victory in 5:57.6) and a crew from USD that did not reach the grand final of the men's Cal Cup in San Diego–evidently the Toreros were able to find another gear. With the victory, Gonzaga has qualified for the IRA National Championships, as have the USD Toreros, by finishing in the top two.

The result was even more puzzling given the times from the men's junior varsity event, which saw the Tritons of UCSD win (as we predicted) in a time of 6:04.6–nearly 3.5 seconds faster than the UCSD varsity eight would post less than an hour later. Gonzaga and UCSB (in that order) rounded out the medals in the men's junior varsity eight, also as predicted.

The men's frosh eight event saw another OCC victory (again as predicted), fighting off a strong challenge from Gonzaga in the final 500m to cross the line roughly one length ahead of the Bulldogs, while our prediction for third, UCSD, faded to fourth, and UCLA earned a spot on the podium.

In the women's varsity eight DI event, the Zags, our predicted winners, again emerged victorious, taking gold ahead of Saint Mary's College and Sac State, with our pick for second place, Stanford Lightweights, fading to fourth in a close field. The results for SMC showed that the program is building, with all entries reaching the grand finals, and two crews earning medals (silver in the varsity eight and bronze in the varsity four). It was Gonzaga's day, however, as the women won every event they entered, taking the pennants in the 1V8, 2V8, F/N8, and V4.

In the women's varsity DII/DIII event, the Vikings of Western Washington were indeed able to reverse the result from a week earlier at the Northwest Conference Rowing Championships, winning the varsity eight by roughly three seconds over the Jacks of Humboldt State. The Vikings also won the DII/DIII second varsity eight, as predicted. The Jacks and Vikings will face off again at the NCAA Championships, where the Vikings will enter the fray as defending champions, having won the DII title seven times in the 10 year history of the event.

-RR

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The U.S. Men's Eight Announced Today by USRowing

Lucerne (Photo: © B. Kitch)
The eight has been named and it's already time to start gearing up for Lucerne, which will determine whether this group gets a shot on the grand stage in London this July. The lineup is a mix of some familiar faces alongside some relative newcomers, and given Mike Teti's track record for success in selection we're very much looking forward to seeing this eight in action. Here's a little background on the oarsmen:

The nine men named to the U.S. men's eight are, from stern to bow, coxswain Zach Vlahos (2010 IRA national champion with Cal Berkeley in the varsity eight, Junior national team 2005-2006, U23 team 2010, throws a mean fastball), Grant James (2008 IRA national champion with Wisconsin in the varsity eight, 2008 U23 world champion in the eight, 2009 and 2011 senior national team member), David Banks (Stanford, Beijing Olympian in the M4-, 2009 and 2010 senior national team member), Steve Kasprzyk (Drexel University, 2007, 2009 senior national team member, 2011 Pan American champion in the men's eight), Jake Cornelius (Stanford, 2006 U23 team, 2007 Xchanging Boat Race champion with Cambridge, 2009-2010 senior national teamer), Brett Newlin (Washington, Henley Winner in the Ladies Plate in 2005, Beijing Olympian in the M4-, senior national team member 2005-2011), Ross James (2008 IRA national champion in the varsity eight with Wisconsin, 2008 U23 world champion in the eight, 2009 and 2011 senior team), Will Miller (Northeastern University, U23 team in 2006, senior team 2009-2011), Giuseppe Lanzone (Washington, IRA national champion in the frosh eight in 2002, Henley Winner in the Ladies Plate in 2003, Beijing Olympian in the M4-, 2006-2011 senior national teamer).

For more, please see the official USRowing press release, now posted to RowingNews.com.

-RR

The 2012 Big Row: Cal v. Stanford in Honor of Jill Costello



The above video covers the intercollegiate events from the 2012 Big Row, pitting the No. 1 Cal women against No. 12 Stanford, and the No. 9 Cardinal men against No. 4 Cal on a beautiful Saturday at Redwood Shores. In honor of Jill Costello (see the Sports Illustrated story on her here), the athletes donned special uniforms (the Stanford men and women with a pink block 'S' on their jerseys, and the Cal men with a pink block 'C' with 'Jill' written below in script, while the Cal women wore jerseys in Jill's favorite color, with 'Team Jill' emblazoned on the front). The order of events follows the schedule on Saturday, with the men's junior varsity event first, followed by the frosh eights, the women's varsity fours, the women's second varsity eights, and finally the women's and men's varsity eights. Following the racing, the Cal and Stanford coaches came together in support of the event as a means to carry forward Jill's legacy as an athlete, teammate, and friend.

For more on Jill's Legacy and the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, please follow the links provided. The next event in a growing tradition among rowers, the 'Jog for Jill' series, is set to take place in Ohio this June.

Still to come on RR: The rumors are flying about the U.S. men's eight, but official word has not yet been released. More to come here as well as on RowingNews.com once the lineup is announced by USRowing. 

-RR