Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

I was feeling bad after being taken to task by a few readers for writing so much about the lane problems at the IRA final (I should have written it in a separate post) and I decided it would only be fair to see if I could get more information.

After some online research I determined that the dam in question was the Cooper River Parkway Dam at Kaighn Avenue. I then made a few phone calls and sent a few emails before I determined that Camden County Parks controls the dam. Finally, I sent an email to Caren Fishman, the Director of Parks for Camden County and asked for the Cooper River Parkway Dam opening times for June 2nd and June 3rd. This morning I received the following response:

6/2/06 12:45 - 2:45 p.m. dam opened
6/3/06 1:00 - 3:30 p.m. dam opened

The June 2nd opening coincides with the halt in racing on that day - the last race ran at 12:36 and the next race ran at 3:15 - so it provides confidence that this is the correct dam.

If you recall, the row2k June 3rd post-race report said
the water folks did not open the dam during racing - in fact, they were not able to, as there was too much water for them to be able to do so, so they had to let water spill over the top of the dam naturally.

We have a serious discrepancy. The dam was open during the final races of the day Saturday. I'm not sure who "the water folks" are, but they didn't seem to know when the dam was open and when it was closed.

There was a 2 hour dam opening Friday, racing was halted, and when it resumed the lane seedings were switched. Saturday there was a 2.5 hour dam opening, racing continued during the opening and lane seedings were not switched. A mistake was made on one of these days and judging by the Saturday results, it was that day. The current effect first showed up on Saturday in the men's heavyweight V8 final, which was raced at about 2:15 (it was delayed). Races just prior to that, ending at 1:45, did not show the effect. The river current had to go from near zero to fast enough to affect racing and, although I don't know how long that would take, 45 minutes seems within reason.

So here we are. The rumors seem to be true and it looks like we had a serious problem with the fairness of the National Championship races. This is not a function of rowing being an outdoor sport. This condition was controlled for on Friday and it should have been controlled for on Saturday. Competing championship regattas (e.g. ECAC) have been organized as a result of perceived unfair conditions such as this. Serious questions need to be asked of the IRA Regatta committee. We are now left to wonder how much of a disadvantage lane one, and probably lane two, had in the men's heavy V8 grand, the women's light V8 petite and grand, and the men's light V8 petite and grand.

The worst part of all of this? It gives the Pac 10 ammunition on their quest for a men's heavyweight NCAA championship.

[Update: The ECAC is checking into this; see comments.]


Anonymous said...

have you contacted the IRA committee with the new information that you found out from the park and recreation. since there is so much controversy about this course, why don't they just change the location? The same goes for San Diego Crew Classic

JW Burk said...

Yes, I have contacted the ECAC Director of Championships. He is doing some research into the affair. Apparently it was the on-site rep from the Parks Dept. who said the gate was closed. They are continuing to check with the Parks Director (whom I contacted) and the person who opens and closes the dam. Seems like the guy who runs the dam should be the last word, although right about now he's probably putting on his helmet and flack jacket and thinking about sand bagging his office.

It all does make you think about the course, but good straight courses are hard to come by and I don't think the course is really that controversial in the absence of extreme weather and flood control problems. Without heavy rains to worry about, the Knecht Cup and Sprints went off with no course problems this year, as they and the IRA do most years. The issue here, I think, is that if any problems existed, they could have been controlled, so the problem was man-made, not natural.