Dad Vail 2016

Hoos’ Performances Run the Gamut in Philly


As always the Dad Vail regatta was unpredictable. Late Saturday afternoon the race organizers completely rescheduled the Sunday race schedule due to a forecast for heavy thunderstorms.

On Sunday morning, however, the team opened their hotel shades to clear skies that never darkened. On the course, the racing was as intense as ever, and the regatta finished up about three hours earlier than usual.

VRA entered two singles in a field of 31 boats. The men’s single is a relatively new event, but it’s extremely competitive. VRA’s Matt Whitesell and Andrew Anderson rowed their best, but neither found his way to the grand final. Matt was knocked out in the heats, while Andrew finished 6th in his semifinal. As Andrew astutely noted, “Rowing a single is more difficult mentally than any sweep boat I’ve been in. There’s so much to manage on the water, and there’s no one but you to do it.”


Due to exams and other issues, both the novice 8 and 4 had two much-less-than-ideal training weeks leading up to the Vail. It showed. Neither had the fitness and therefore speed to qualify for the grand finals. It was the first time in 7 years that a VRA novice 8 has not made the final. Ironically, the semifinal row was their best and cleanest of the week. Despite the disappointing performance, the novices are eager to put in two weeks of solid training in preparation for ACRAs.

For the first time, the Dad Vail committee held a 3rd varsity 8 event, and 8 crews entered. The Hoos pulled the fastest time in their heat, which put them in lane 4—one of the two best lanes—for the grand final. In the final, they managed the windy conditions well and pulled away from the field for a 5 second win over 2nd place Drexel. As a result they earned their Dad Vail medals-dock experience: pictures, medals, trophy, the works. It was great fun for all.

The JV8 had solid rows in both the heat and semifinals. They qualified for the grand final with one of the top three times in the field of 19 crews. In the grand final, however, the wheels fell off. They came through the bridge in lane 5, the wind pounded them, and it was game over. The crew was understandably frustrated because their pre-regatta training was solid, and they thought they had the speed to win a medal. Game day execution is tough!


The varsity lightweight 4 followed up their SIRA victory with another great performance in Philly. The four sophomore rowers (Dan Weihs, Chris Hastings, Zach Heese, Calvin Heimberg, and 3rd year cox Ellie Coles) get better every day—great training ethic, great maturity and focus, solid athleticism. They used their superior boat-moving ability in the grand final to separate themselves from the field by 5 seconds over 2nd place Delaware and 3rd place Fordham. More cameras, more medals, another trophy, and more fun on the awards dock!

The varsity 8 had a great two weeks of training leading up to the Vail, and it paid off with three solid rows in the regatta. The crew was in lane 6 in the grand final, duking it out primarily with Michigan. FIT, Drexel, and Temple were in a group out front. The Hoos were unable to pass Michigan for 4th, but they did finish just two seconds behind the Wolverines, which is the closest UVa has been to Michigan at the Dad Vail in recent memory. The strong performance bodes well for the upcoming ACRA training.


The day finished off with a blast from 25 years past! The Dad Vail, gold-medal-winning women’s V8 from 1991 returned to Philly for a reunion row! 8 of the 9 women (and coach) flew  in from around the United States, and had a great time catching up all weekend. The crew included, bow to stern, Sarah Smith, Julie (Simprini) King, Margaret Pauls, Sydney (Lesesne) Heasley, Roanne Daniels, Kit Gruver, Cathy Sanford, and coach Brett Wilson stepping in for Jen Brandsberg. Cox was Vera (Chu) Conley.


As always, thanks to the parents for their support. Amazing food spread at the tent this year. You guys are the best!

Go Hoos!