Monday, October 27, 2014

Video Of The Week: A Look Back at the Aussie Boat Race, Plus a Roundup of U.S. Racing, Coast to Coast



This week's video comes to us from Down Under, and features highlights from the 2012 Australian Boat Race—an event that eerily resembled the proceedings in 2014, with Sydney taking top honors on the men's side, while the MUWBC women prevailed for the fifth time in five tries. The race featured a number of Australian national team athletes, and while the Melbourne men managed to wrench the trophy from their Sydney counterparts in 2013, this year Fergus Pragnell and company reclaimed the cup on home water. You can read a summary of the racing, which saw SUBC top MUBC by 12 seconds, and MUWBC defeat SUWBC by a very convincing 33 seconds, on the official site of the Australian Boat Race.

But that's only one small part of the racing action that was taking place over the weekend—one of the busiest of the fall in the U.S. The Head of the Schuylkill and the associated Gold Cup—a recently revived, venerable tradition—made the weekend in Philadelphia one not to be missed, while many of the nation's top intercollegiate programs faced off for a second time in as many weekends at the Princeton Chase on Carnegie Lake, and the Pac-12 got its first taste of intra-conference racing at the Head of the American in Sacramento. Here's a quick look at a few of the highlights.


The Gold Cup in Philadelphia—a classic race with a cash prize ($10,000, no less!) that attracted some of the world's best scullers in 2014—did not disappoint this year, with two very close races on both the men's and women's sides that featured Olympians and world champions. The race began in 1920, but the cup disappeared (mysteriously) in the 1960s, and the event was only revived in 2011 after the cup was miraculously discovered (there was a great piece on this in ROWING Magazine over the summer, and here's some background on the event from USRowing). The course is 750 meters on the historic Schuylkill River, and this year, the men's race saw 2013 world champion in the double, Kjetil Borch of Norway, edge world silver and gold medalists in the single, Mahé Drysdale and Ondrej Synek, by roughly one second, with Yohann Rigogne (who represented the U.S. at worlds this year in the M1x) coming in fourth.


The women's event was arguably even more stacked, with 2012 Olympian Mirka Knapkova, 2013 world champion Kim Crow, 10-time Head Of The Charles champion and U.S. Olympan Gevvie Stone, and Dutch Olympian Chantal Achterberg. This time, it was Crow who prevailed and claimed the $10,000 purse—after collecting her medal from none other than five-time Olympic champ Sir Steve Redgrave.


But the above athletes weren't done! They all got together (with Steve Kasprzyk—Seth Weil is listed, but photographic evidence indicates otherwise—in the mix) and raced a mixed eight in the Men's Championship Eight event—placing third overall.

Meanwhile, in Princeton, some of the top collegiate varsity programs were busy facing off against one another at the Chase. We'll have more takeaways from this later this week, but for now a quick look at the top performers:  

Princeton's men's varsity eight nailed it on their home course, with Yale (a definite program to watch this season) taking second; Boston University also backed up a strong result at the Charles with a close third-place, while California faded back into the field a little behind impressive performances from Cornell, Navy, and Penn. On the lightweight side of things, Cornell got back on top of the field after falling to Princeton and Harvard on the Charles. Yale also bounced back strong after Boston, taking second—the top of the lightweight field may be closer than last season, though with lightweights, there's always a certain amount of parity.

The women's race saw a very impressive Brown crew top Charles champ Virginia by roughly one second—reversing the result from Boston, and erasing a 20-second differential in the process. You never know with Virginia, however, as the Cavaliers characteristically had three eights in the top seven at the Chase. The only listed lightweight crews were those of Boston University and Princeton, with BU getting much the better of the Tigers.

Out West in Sacramento, several of the Pac-12's powerhouse programs faced off at the Head of the American, as did several of the West Coast's strong junior programs. At the junior level, it's clear the Newport AC is back, with the return of longtime men's head coach Nick D'Antoni after stints in Long Beach and Princeton—NAC took second and third back of a typically strong Marin crew in the men's junior eight (though it's listed as Marin's B entry, with their A entry scratched). The women's field saw Marina Aquatic Center build on a great result in Boston (where they finished sixth overall) with a win, followed Pocock and hometown crew Capital—albeit in a field that saw all of the Marin women's entries scratched.


At the collegiate level, the Stanford men crushed the field in two mixed eights (finishing within one second of one another). The club-level entries were topped by USC, who sent an early-season message winning by a significant margin over SDSU and UC Davis, though the Aggies are on the quarter system, so fall rowing results should be taken with a grain of salt. The women's varsity eight featured the deepest field at the regatta, and saw the Bruins of UCLA take top honors ahead of 2014 Pac-12 champion Stanford, followed by Washington, and then Cal. Again, the Bruins will take it, I'm sure, but all of the above had multiple eights competing as the first hints of lineups are being determined—Cal finished with no less than three eights in the top 10, while UCLA had three in the top 11. (Also of note: USC brought crews to the event, but elected not to race the Collegiate Eight event, opting instead to race fours. Complete results here.)


More reaction and analysis to come this week as we take a look at who's ahead entering the 'long, slow teatime' of winter training.

-RR

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