Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#HoosGoingToHenley, Part Two: Virginia Takes on the Swiss Club National Champions

#HoosGoingToHenley, Part Two: Dude, where are our oars?

While Henley is still a week away, it's time for the second installment of the #HoosGoingToHenley series, with Forrest Brown.

Last time we checked in with Forrest, he and the Cavs were training in the U.S. in preparation for a European tour—now, the Hoos are in England after a whirlwind trip to Switzerland, where they took on some of the country's top clubs on the Greifensee.

From Forrest:

Hello again, this time from Nettlebed, England! We have had an exhausting, sometimes terrifying, but always interesting first week abroad, that hopefully will be indicative of the success of the rest of our trip.

Hoos on the Greifensee

Last Monday the 15th, we had our last practice in the U.S. (two 1k time trials) and then dispersed to our homes to rest for a few days before our flight. On Wednesday afternoon we met in the Dulles Airport, decked out in our UVa polos and jackets, to fly to Zurich. After a several hour delay, we were off and on our way to the hometown of our coach Frank Biller. The next day we landed a little before noon local time, and after collecting our bags as well as our riggers, shoes, and oars from back home (we’re very attached to our equipment), we loaded up into our rental vans and began our hectic first day.



"We picked up another eight, loaded both boats onto a trailer, drove over the mountain bordering Lake Zurich—Frank insists it’s only a foothill—and re-rigged both boats to row on the nearby Greifensee."The first challenge was to make it to Ruderclub Thalwil to pick up a rental eight. Spread out in three vans (driven by our coaches Frank and Ben and our Marine-Tank-Driver-Veteran rower Xavier Quinn), driving through a city most of us had never been to and where only one of us speaks the native language, let's just say that it took some time, and a few four-letter words. Then, just in time for the arrival of the rain, our two Prince Albert fours got to row our newly acquired shell across Lake Zurich to Ruderclub Erlenbach, Frank’s old club, to meet the rest of the team who had gone ahead in the vans. We picked up another eight, loaded both boats onto a trailer, drove over the mountain bordering Lake Zurich—Frank insists it’s only a foothill—and re-rigged both boats to row on the nearby Greifensee.

By the time all of this was done, we only had time for a ten-minute row before heading back to the city to crash at our hostel. After sleeping in a little the next morning, we immediately returned to Greifensee to train. It is a beautiful body of water, surrounded by cow pastures and quaint Swiss villages and with a breathtaking view of the distant Alps in clear weather. Sadly for most of our first day it was cloudy, drizzling, and very windy. But the small moments of sunshine made both of our training sessions (separated by a picnic lunch) enjoyable despite our continued exhaustion and jet-lag.

"We knew the next day would be even tougher, however, as we would be challenged by the defending Swiss champions, Seeclub Zurich."We then got to be tourists for a while. That evening Frank took us into the city for an impromptu walk along the shores of the lake and through part of the Old City, and we ended with a stop in a busy square with a live band. And then after another good night’s sleep, we were treated to a walking tour of the city with a professional guide (with the added bonus of Frank’s more humorous take on each landmark or event). That ended with a delicious traditional Swiss lunch in the city, after which we dispersed to do some exploring on our own. This was when my personal highlight of the week occurred, as I was enlisted by a bachelorette party to buy a frozen yogurt for a Swiss soon-to-be-bride (I’m choosing to believe this is a tradition and not a successful attempt to swindle me). Zurich is an amazing city and it was great to get a small taste of what it has to offer.

About town with the Cavaliers

But that afternoon it was back to business. The Greifensee Regatta had begun in the morning, and we were racing in the last event of the day (our two fours were joining together to form a second eight). We arrived a little early to watch some other events, and then at around 7:30pm we were at the line for our race. After a week of rest and travel, the rigors of an all-out 2k were a bit of a shock to all of our bodies. But we fought through the pain and finished first and third overall against some excellent competition.

"In the mid-afternoon, as the sun emerged after days hiding behind the clouds, and the bright, snowy peaks of the Alps were finally visible above the far shore, we locked onto the stake boats."We knew the next day would be even tougher, however, as we would be challenged by the defending Swiss champions, Seeclub Zurich. To work out some of our physical stress and tension, we got up early the next morning to train from 6:30 to 7:30, and then rested for the rest of the morning. In the mid-afternoon, as the sun emerged after days hiding behind the clouds, and the bright, snowy peaks of the Alps were finally visible above the far shore, we locked onto the stake boats. We were ready for a dog-fight.

The start was hectic, unexpectedly called in German with no warning, but both eights were blazing off the start and established an early advantage on the field. While the second eight was unable to hold off Zurich for the full 2k, they achieved another solid third place, and the first eight cruised to a seven-second victory. Frank thinks our time of 5:34 might be a UVa record, and as we crossed the line we certainly felt ready to head to the big dance at Henley. We celebrated a great week with a mountain-top dinner with Frank’s father and a breathtaking view.

Reigning supreme in Die Schweiz 

But Monday morning we were back at the airport, and after vans getting separated, several pieces of luggage being misplaced, desperate attempts to hold up the plane and some unplanned sprints through the Zurich airport, we made it to the plane and eventually to London. Sadly, our oars failed to make the trip as smoothly and are now missing, but thanks to the help of some friends we are hopefully going to have a more auspicious start to training in England tomorrow. I’ll write in again next week as we make our last tune-ups before the regatta, but at the moment we are all just excited to get onto the Henley course in the morning. Wahoowa! -FB

All photos © Forrest Brown.

Dude, where are our oars? Thanks very much to Forrest for the write-up, and we look forward to more as Virginia prepares for Henley Royal Regatta, set to begin next week in Henley-on-Thames, England. In the meantime, catch up on Matt Miller and John Forrest's Henley journeys on our Travelogues page.

-RR

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