Sunday, September 03, 2006

Winning the Ones That Matter

Matthew Pinsent had an article in The Times last week in which he talked about the Searle Brothers. According to Pinsent, the Searles "used to race for a full season, which entailed half a dozen regattas each summer in the build-up to the World Championships or, once every four years, the Olympic Games, and yet their sum total of medals and victories from these build-up races is outnumbered by their world and Olympic medals almost two to one." They won when it mattered.

We all want to win every race we enter, but not all races are created equal. Early season races are less important than late season, and as prestigious as it would be to win the Head of the Charles, I'd rather win IRAs. The Searle Brothers understood that and, more recently, so have the notoriously slow starting Wisconsin Badgers. In fact, a quick look at recent history shows that rarely has the eventual national champion been a dominant force throughout the season.

There's been a pretty strong correlation between Sprints winners and IRA winners as in the nine years since 1998 the Sprints champion has won IRAs six times. If we go earlier in the season to the Knecht Cup, however, the relationship isn't as strong. The fast IRA boats have been racing at Knecht since 2001 so if we look at the six years since 2001, the Knecht champion has won IRAs only twice. In those six years only one crew (Princeton) has won all three regattas. In fact, only that one crew has won both Knecht and Sprints. In it's three national championship seasons, Wisconsin has been third at Knecht twice, and second once. Knecht seems to be a particularly bad predictor of the eventual national champion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This seems to be the way it is in almost any sport. The team that is playing the best at the time the tournament or championship almost always comes out on top, and that is normally not the team that was the most dominant throughout the entire season.