Monday, October 23, 2006

HOCR Results - Eights

In sharp contrast to a blustery Saturday, Sunday at the Head of the Charles dawned clear and calm. The day warmed up and by lightweight race time most spectators were trying to shed a layer or two they needed earlier in the day. Such excellent conditions promised excellent racing and we weren't disappointed.

As the London Training Center blew away the field, among the colleges Princeton and Wisconsin battled it out all along the course. Starting just behind Wisconsin, Princeton had the stage presence of mind to save their pass of the Badgers for the final turn after Eliot Bridge, as if to make sure the move achieved the fullest possible dramatic effect. The body language in these two boats made it clear that the collegiate race was being decided at that moment. As often happens in fall races, a deadening fatigue offset by coursing adrenaline resulted in the exaggeration of eccentricities of the stroke. In the Tigers' case, a wrenched finish became even more pronounced, while in the Wisconsin boat, in at least a few seats, suspension from the oar crossed the line and became a shooting slide. No style points were awarded in this race, however, and Princeton took it by 14 seconds over Wisconsin (Riverside fell in between in third place overall).

Another 14 seconds back from Wisconsin came a quick Radcliffe crew which was never threatened by Georgetown, starting just behind. Although faster than Quinte, starting just ahead, the Black and White didn't catch them and rowed the course alone. As the Hoyas receded into the distance, this no doubt hurt Radcliffe's time a bit as they had no one nearby to push them on. Radcliffe was followed in the final standings by Quinte and a penalized Rudergesellshaft Munchen 1972 crew, but the next college crew was MIT, who finished only 7 seconds behind hometown rival Radcliffe but almost 7 seconds ahead of Georgetown. This MIT crew, seventh in the nation last spring, was one of the big surprises of the regatta as they finished ahead of last spring's number two Hoyas. As MIT rounded the turn after Eliot, clearly gaining on Georgetown, fans on the shore seemed as surprised as anyone but after yelling themselves out of breath acted as if they knew it would happen all along. When MIT finished 7th at IRAs I said that was a surprise too. I think it's time to no longer be surprised by the Engineers. As for the Hoyas, somehow the HOCR just didn't seem to fall at the right time in the training schedule and they'll have more to show, possibly as early as next week.

Following Georgetown was Picnic Point and Atlanta Rowing Club, with Marist, Cal, and Holy Cross rounding out the field. Cal's second to last finish gives a false impression of that crew's speed as they tangled with Holy Cross just before Weeks Footbridge. The Bears were rowing through the Crusaders, but Holy Cross failed to yield, an error which cost them a minute penalty. The crews interlocked oars, untangled, started rowing, and promptly locked up again. This dead-in-the-water period must've seemed interminable to the rowers, but the Cal coxswain later estimated it to be about 30 seconds. That 30 seconds stretches out to at least a few more when you work in time needed to get back to speed and on course. A disappointment for Cal (and, of course, Holy Cross), but it was awfully nice to see the Bears make the trip east.

This week is the most exciting week in fall rowing as the HOCR is followed this Sunday by the Princeton Chase. Many of these crews will battle again this weekend and we'll get to re-check relative speeds. Princeton and Wisconsin are trying to show that they'll be the boats to beat this spring. In the fall crews are tuned with hammers while in the spring they're tuned with piano keys. All of these crews will be much faster come May. As coaches pull out their piano keys and work their magic, switching rowers in and out and creating crews that work together, we can look forward to the birth of some really fast boats. Those crews finishing behind Princeton this year will take solace in the fact that only two of the last eight IRA champions also won the HOCR collegiate competition the previous fall. It's not much of a predictor, but I'd still rather win it than not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was in that tangled Lightweight Cal boat - years later, I still remember that "interminable" feeling! We had such high hopes going into that race. Pity that we didn't get to show what we were really made of. Although, it's a great story and HOCR was a great experience.