Eton, England--The Ephs took to Dorney Lake in the historic English town of Eton Saturday for their first regatta in the leadup to the Henley Royal Regatta. Eton is home to historic Eton College, founded in 1440 and alma mater of many British elites. Dorney Lake is a man made lake constructed as the course for the 2012 London Olympics. The Olympic Rings are still present on the officiating buildings around the course. Today Dorney Lake serves as the training grounds for Eton College's young rowers.
The Varsity Eight was entered into the Tier Two event while the Varsity Four was entered in the College/University event. In both events the crews raced a time trial in the morning which was used to seed them into the afternoon finals.
The Varsity Eight raced first in the morning, vying against a highly talented field of 38 international crews. The Varsity Eight suffered from a late trailer arrival, which caused them to be the last crew out onto the water. They went through an abbreviated warm up before rushing into their time trial. The crew struggled to find their rhythm and pull together during the first half of their piece. According to Captain Graham Buchan, "during the second half of the piece we began to feel find our rhythm and used that to power to a strong finish." The boat had the top time in the D final, just narrowly missing the C final by fractions of a second.
In the afternoon's final the boat had plenty of time to warm up and prepare for their race. They were slotted in a final against NESCAC rivals Tufts, who are also attending Henley Royal Regatta this summer. Every boat sprung off the start, with all boats almost even coming through the 500 meter mark. At this point the Ephs made their move and slowly began inching out over the field. Coming through the halfway point in the race the Ephs held several seats on the field, and were continuing to pull away. From there on it was the Ephs race, winning by over a length at the finish. The Ephs finished over 9 seconds ahead of Tufts and finished with the 9th fastest time of the day in a field of 38 crews.
The Varsity Four was next up on the day. The crew fit in a solid warmup but were left baking under the scorching sun in line for their time trial for an extended period. The Ephs had an average stretch of rowing through the first half of the piece, but really found their rhythm through the middle. They were able to hold off a very strong Durham crew who started immediately after them one lane over through much of the middle of the piece. The Ephs finished with the 7th fastest time of the event, just sneaking into the afternoon's Grand Final.
In the afternoon's Grand Final the Ephs lined up next to perennial English power Oxford Brookes and several lanes over from NESCAC rival Bowdoin. The Ephs had a strong start and held nearly even with their extremely competitive field. Battling with Oxford Brookes down the course, the Ephs traded several moves with the English crew, and coming into the final forty strokes the Ephs trailed Oxford Brookes by four seats. At this point coxswain Jamie Sullivan gave the call to "throw the tea overboard boys!" and the boys launched into a furious sprint. With every stroke the Ephs took back inches on Oxford Brookes but they came up just short, finishing a fraction of a seat behind Oxford Brookes. The Ephs finished 7th in an international field of 14 crews. According to Jamie Sullivan, "that was by far the best piece we've had in this boat so far, and one of the best races I've ever been in."
Coach Edward Slater had this to say about the day's racing: "It was a terrific day of handling chaos and guys responded by racing hard. The Eight showed their speed in the final with their time putting them 9th overall in the event, and the Four attacking the time trial and earning a place in the A final. The whole day was a great step forward in preparing for the Henley Royal Regatta."
The Ephs will continue to train in Henley on Thames for the regatta. For more information check out the team's blog.