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Pair Racing: Senior Trials and Royal Canadian Henley

23.Aug.2015 by Parker Washburn

On the last day of July, Andrew Reed and I (along with the rest of the GRP heavyweight men) traveled to Princeton, NJ to compete at the Senior Trials for a chance to represent the US at World Championships in the pair (not a sculling boat!!).  We had rowed together for two and a half weeks leading up to the Trials and were very excited to finally test ourselves against some of the best pairs in the country.  Our event had five entries, which meant that it would have a full progression of racing (time trial, heat, repechage, and final) to determine a winner.  The trials began with a 1900 meter time trial on Sunday night, and we place 4th, but not far behind the other boats.  The next morning we raced in a heat in which the winner would qualify directly for the final and the other crews would be relegated to the repechage (second chance race for qualification).  We did not have our best row in the heat and ended up finishing 3rd; we knew that racing together would be a learning experience and we took several lessons from the heat and were determined to improve in our next race.  In a second opportunity to make the final, we raced in the repechage on Tuesday morning.  We tweaked our race strategy from the day before, knowing that we had to beat only one crew to advance to the final.  We finished second in the repechage (beating out the US lightweight pair), and earned a spot in the four-boat final on Wednesday.  In the final, we had a much more aggressive race plan prepared and we held with the leaders for much race.  In the end, we finished 3rd in a time of 6:34, behind the two crews from the USTC, the winning time was 6:29.5 and 2nd place was 6:32.  Our immediate reaction was disappointment in not having won the final and a spot on the national team, but we were also encouraged by the result.  In only 2.5 weeks we found the speed to compete with some of the best pairs in the country.

A few hours after our last race in Princeton, we loaded up the car and headed west to St. Catharine’s in Ontario, Canada to race in the Championship Pair event at the Royal Canadian Henley.  Members of the GRP and SBTC were already in St. Catharine’s and had a delicious meal of French toast and sausage ready for us when we arrived at 7pm on Wednesday night.  On Thursday, our first full day in Canada, we rigged up our boat and took a paddle to work off the car ride from the day before.  Canadian Henley is one of the most popular regattas of the summer and the racecourse is a packed with boat trailers and rowers.  Luckily, we stayed at Brock University (about a 20’ drive from the racecourse) and were able to escape a lot of the hustle and bustle between practice sessions and races.  Our event started with a heat on Saturday morning and final on Sunday.  On Saturday we lined up against crews from the Canadian National Team training center and pairs containing college rowers doing the summer racing circuit.  Weather conditions on Saturday morning were great; there was a slight cross-headwind but the water was flat and we were primed to race hard.  We had a good start and took a lead quickly.  By 750m into the race we felt very much in control and could relax and conserve some energy.  We won our heat and posted the fastest time of the event, which gave us some confidence going into the final on Sunday.  The good racing conditions of the day before didn’t last and Sunday was a real battle against the wind and water conditions.  A stiff headwind created a lot of choppy water, especially in the first 1000m of the racecourse.  We put together a solid race and were not deterred too much by the conditions.  We won the final by 7.5 seconds!  It was a great way to end a long week of racing.  After collecting our medals and loading our boat onto the trailer, we packed into the car for 10 hour drive back to Craftsbury.  Time to starting thinking about next year…

Here are some pictures from the final in Canada:

RCH Final

Leading in the final 250m of the race.

RCH Awards

On the award dock with the trophy and a new decoration for the dining hall.