Dear Virginia Rowing Family,
Last year we introduced sweeping changes to how we handle novice rowing at VRA – from how we introduce novices to rowing and our culture, to how we integrate them into the team. Having a large squad is critical to our ongoing success, both on the water and financially, and our squad size this year proves that the new approach is working. We have a squad of 75 this year, which includes 30 novices, 22 returning second-year rowers, and 23 rowers who are third or fourth-years. We are well on our way to the goal of having 16-20 rowers per class year and a consistent squad size of 75-90.
We graduated 16 rowers last spring and fully expected losing this talent would have an impact on our boat speed. That expectation was borne out in our poor results at the Head of the Charles, and by the fact that the second-years swept all the races on Class Day. On the other hand, with so many young rowers this year, we can expect big gains in speed over shorter training horizons, because the guys are learning that they can do things today that they didn’t know they could do just two weeks ago. We saw this in the fall racing. On October 21, Michigan beat us by 1:11 at the Head of the Charles in the V8; on November 3, we shrunk the deficit from Michigan to 13 seconds at the Bald Eagle Invitational. That’s a lot of ground to cover in two weeks!
I am inspired by this large group of young guys pushing hard, and by the older guys providing the support and leadership to the team. There are at least 20 guys who could make the varsity eight by the time we get to the starting line at the ACRA Regatta. This will make winter training and spring racing very exciting for the rowers, and stressful for their coach. I love coaching fast boats and winning is fun, but what keeps me coming back to the boathouse every day while it’s still dark outside is knowing how our work shapes lives. Learning to embrace the moment and your teammates, to invest everything you have into the effort with no guaranteed return, to move forward when you win and when you lose – these are the indelible lessons we teach at VRA.
On the alumni front, our numbers are growing every year and we can sense another uptick in alumni excitement. Three alumni eights raced at the Head of the Charles, and I continue to hear from alumni young and old that rowing was the most important part of their experience at Virginia.
To keep that experience going, we need your financial support. Last year, our general giving from alumni and friends was an incredibly generous $142,000. We need to do the same or better this year. To give you context, our general alumni giving represents 33% of our total budgeted revenue. The balance is raised through student dues, student fundraising, parent contributions, and various rowing-related revenue-generating endeavors that the coaches and I organize and run. It amounts to a couple full-time jobs, but I love it.
Thank you for your support. I look forward to seeing you cheer on Virginia at one of our races in 2019!
As always, WAHOOWA!
Frank G. Biller
Director of Rowing, Head Coach
Class of 2003 Donates The People’s Eight
Virginia Rowing had the pleasure of taking ownership and christening a new (to us) Hudson 8.31 at the Head of the Charles this year. Many thanks to the Class of 2003 for
their diligence in not only creating a fund to purchase a boat, but for their persistence in donating to it over the years. Their dedicated support has come to fruition and
helps immensely with allowing us to get the team’s many athletes on the water.
We were fortunate to celebrate with alumni and team members in Boston with an impromptu christening with Nick Jablonski ’02, ’04 and Rob Janiczek ’03, ’06, ’09 representing their class. The iconic orange and blue paint job will be forthcoming soon!
Again, many heartfelt thanks to Anne Ditmeyer, Brian Gross, Wright Harrison, Jack Higgins, Brad Humphreys, Nick Jablonski, Rob Janiczek, Coleman Mehta, Colin
Smith, and Audrey Wagner!
Class Day Races and Alumni Weekend, a Great Success!
Crisp fall weather and almost 100 members of the VRA family descended upon Charlottesville to help the team wrap up the fall season and celebrate Virginia Rowing on
November 17, 2018. The festivities began with the classes battling it out in the morning for the coveted King’s Cup. After races in each boat class the young, but mighty second-year class won the honors, upsetting the longstanding tradition of the fourth-years dominating the field.
Following the racing, all enjoyed a lovely BBQ lunch at the Boathouse that was organized by the parents of the current team members. Battle stories were swapped between the
generations of Virginia rowers and all enjoyed the opportunity to mingle with a diverse mix of the Virginia Rowing Family; current team members, alumni, parents, and
longtime supporters of the program were all on hand to help us celebrate.
A brave group partook in the 2nd Annual King’s Cup Brewery Tour in the afternoon and anyone who was still left standing met up a lively group at local VRA hotspot El
Puerto for a hearty meal of mexican food before the party hit full swing. Thanks to everyone who joined us and made the weekend a success!
Fall 2018 Racing Summary
This fall, the squad had the privilege of racing at four regattas including the Occoquan Challenge, Head of the Charles, Head of the Schulykill, and the Bald Eagle Invitational. Full results and recaps can be found on the Virginia Rowing Association’s Events & News page. Below are brief overviews of each race along with photos.
Occoquan Challenge – October 7, 2018
Almost immediately after wrapping up the Introduction and Selection Phase (ISP) in the beginning of the semester, the whole team headed up to Occoquan, VA, to kick off the fall racing season. For the rookies it was an introduction to the fun and chaos of regattas and for the top half of the varsity it served as a tune-up before the Charles. Three eights of fresh faced rookies got a taste of what racing feels like and got to experience the chaos of a 180- degree turn! Three V8s, two V4s and a V1X also raced.
Head of the Charles – October 20-21, 2018
A small contingent of the team, a V8 and two 4s, headed up to race the Charles this year. Thanks to some HOCR lottery magic, for the first time ever, VRA had more alumni racing than current undergrads. With a young team, the Chuck served as a tough reminder we have a lot of work to complete before spring. Virginia Rowing fielded six boats in total; three alumni eights, Collegiate 8, Collegiate 4, and a Club 4 composed entirely of first
and second-years. Despite brisk winds throughout the weekend, the VRA contingent enjoyed a buzzing atmosphere. Largely because of the best alumni turnout in recent memory. The enthusiasm they brought to Boston was palpable and infections, especially during the christening of the new eight; we hope to keep the fervor going!
Head of the Schuylkill – October 27, 2018
The whole team made the trip up to Philadelphia for a rather rainy day. We were fortunate to get any racing in with the rough conditions. Virginia Rowing fielded seven eights, including four varsity eights, two novice eights, and an alumni eight, and one single.
On the varsity side line-ups were a total shake up out of “the Charles line-ups.” For a majority of the rookies, HOSR was a step into the big leagues after their first racing experience on the Occoquan. The alumni lucked out with the best conditions of the day and all survived to tell the sale.
Bald Eagle Invitation – November 3, 2018
For the last trip of the season, the team headed out to Indianapolis, Indiana for the Bald Eagle Invitational. A fairly new regatta, it continues to prove to be worth the trek west — well run and a nice balance between a smaller friendly feel, but with a good array of competition to race against.
It was the first close hand-to-hand combat with the Michigan of the year for the entire team; previously we’d only seen their top boats in Boston. It was great fun to go at it with them, especially since we’d picked up considerable speed in the V8 since we met them at the Charles. Many guys got to race in more than one boat class, in total we fielded six eights, four fours, and four pairs. When all was said and done, 48 medals made their way back to Charlottesville.
7th Annual State of the Virginia Rowing Association
We hope to see you at the 7th Annual State of the VRA this winter at the historic Potomac Boat Club. The date is TBA, so stay tuned!