By Elliott Oakley ’13
Henley Royal Regatta begins today, in all of its prestige and glory. The Queen’s barge is moored (in all its royal glory) near the launch area, flying an array of UK related flags. The grass is perfectly manicured, though the same can’t always be said of the water. And, of course, the spectator areas are neatly partitioned into the Stewards’ Enclosure nearest the finish line, with a strict code of coat and tie or knee length dress, Regatta Enclosure, from about 500-200 meters to go where anything goes but the people still look sharp, and the general seating along the bank where the crowd ranges from avid fan to picnicking party-goer.
The team festivities began Tuesday night with a pig roast at a local pub, the Three Horseshoes, where the UVa rowers, friends, and parents gathered to eat and take in the thrilling task ahead. The Virginia Rowing family has grown quite large here with numerous parents, three boats of rowers, several spectating teammates (myself included), and recent alums (Alan Kush ’11 racing for the California Rowing Club 4x and Sarah Cowburn ’13 of the UVA women’s team racing in the Great Britain women’s 8+). Racing begins tomorrow with a schedule that can only be comparable to the first weekend of March Madness basketball–races come down the Thames every 5 minutes with crews from high school to elite national teams.
The first Virginia boat to race is the Prince Albert Cup men’s 4+ A entry at 11:20 AM local time against Trinity College, Dublin. The A 4+ pieced Tuesday against Union Boat Club and is very much ready to begin racing. The boat features the experience of 4 4th year athletes and has shown its poise thus far practicing up and down the course.
In primetime (just before the 4:30 PM tea break), the Varsity 8+ entry in the Temple Challenge Cup faces the University of Warwick at 4:05 PM. Ben Hammond ’13, the 7-seat of the 2011 Henley crew and bowman this year, said the boat is exciting and anticipating hard racing. He said after piecing the last two days, the crew is confident in their speed and needs to deliver the mental composure they are capable of in this grueling winner-take-all format. Ty Saitta ’14 emphasized the value of practicing with other strong crews, saying it prepared them well for the racing to come–thanks and good luck to the University of Washington and Northeastern University! As a note, they will not be competing in this event.
The Virginia evening race is the Prince Albert Cup 4+ B entry against Imperial College London B at 6:50 PM. Ian Feeney ’14 said the boat had emphasized rhythm since leaving Charlottesville and were beginning to find speed by matching up together. With each row, the find more stability and speed and hope to carry that effectively into racing.
The small town of Henley has sprung to life as the regatta is upon us. Each boat knows its task, from when to bike down to the river to which badge (an American might say ticket) to present at which gate. Stay tuned for race results on Twitter @VirginiaRowing.