June 24th: Racing in Switzerland and on to Henley

By Ed Crocker ’13

The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity and experiences for the men and women of VMR.

On Friday after practice and a wonderful lunch served lakeside in Uster, Frank took us on an evening tour of Zurich. We visited a millennium-old nunnery, the largest clock face in Europe, Zurich’s financial and retail nucleus, a monument to Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli, and the lively pub district. A good time was had by all.

Saturday we began our foray into international racing. We travelled across the mighty Swiss Alps1 to the town of Maur to race on Greifensee at the aptly-named Greifensee Regatta. Navigating our boats (rented from Frank’s old haunt Ruderclub Erlenbach and Grasshopper Club Zurich) around cow droppings was a new experience, as was racing small boats in the morning and afternoon. The regatta, which serves as a last-minute tune-up for elites before next week’s national championship, was fast-paced and exciting. The Swiss humbled us in small boats (singles, doubles, pairs, and quads), but we put up a valiant fight given our lack of race-pace practice in those boat classes. By evening we were ready to flex our muscle in the boats meant for us red-blooded Americans. Our straight four came in second to Seeclub Zurich, who are favored to win Swiss nationals this year. Then our Varsity Eight brought the pain by walloping Seeclub Zurich and all other competition en route to our first win of the regatta. The Second Varsity definitely did not race in this event2.

We returned to the race course Sunday to attempt to improve on our small boat performance and secure our reputation in the big boats. The former was not to be. In new lineups and with a harsh cross-headwind and strong chop one pair swamped and another nearly did before racing was temporarily called off for the day. The singles were scratched and the rest of the races were shortened to 1000m because of the foul weather. The quad performed as expected and the four came in a close second in a race where some faulty steering came into play. The eights’ race was the highlight of the day, however, as our first boat crossed the line well ahead of the second place crew with our second boat well in contention. With these good results we packed up our boats and headed to Rudderclub Erlenbach for a BBQ provided by Frank’s generous parents. Amid the steaks, sausages, and swimming in Lake Zurich we learned about Frank’s start at Erlenbach and went to bed with dreams of Henley-on-Thames in our heads.

Good Old Song at Ruderclub Erlenbach

Monday morning we packed up our gear and headed to Zurich International to complete our journey. Despite a wayward trip by the Thom Hammond van, we all made our flight and landed in Heathrow on time. We explored our luxurious new accommodations and went on a bike trip into town for dinner, meeting up with Virginia faithful Kyle Davis, Roger Payne, and Sarah Cowburn. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and are looking forward to rowing on the calm waters of the Thames tomorrow morning.

Team meeting on our temporary front lawn just outside Henley-on-Thames

The bike path between our host house and the race course


2In reality, the author caught a crab off the start and we broke our steering, causing us to bring up the rear in our race.