Williamstown, MA-- In men's crew the fall season is considered training for many teams, with races taking place in a time-trial format, race against the clock, over distances ranging from 4-6km, rather than the head-to-head racing over 2km that characterizes the spring. At Williams, the crew sets its sights on winning the Head of the Charles in Boston, MA—the world's largest and premier regatta.
Men's crew fall racing season is comprised of three regattas throughout October. The Ephs first test comes at the Head of the Housatonic against Div. I competition in host Yale University. "Last year we lost out to Yale's 2nd Varsity boat by less than a second," notes co-captain John Gorman '13. "This year we hope to again measure ourselves against top competition at the Housatonic." The Ephs' performances at the Housatonic allow coaches an opportunity to evaluate boats in a racing environment in their attempt to put out the fastest boats possible for the Charles.
The premier regatta every fall is the Head of the Charles. The Ephs compete in the collegiate division, which includes the likes of Virginia, Michigan, Georgia Tech, and Notre Dame in addition to NESCAC and other Division III schools. Recently the Ephs have fashioned a stellar track record at the Charles, winning the event in 2008, 2009, and 2011, and placing second in 2010. The Charles River is one of the most difficult courses for coxswains to steer effectively because of the large number of tight bridges and large turns. "When you add hundreds of boats into the mix, the race becomes even more dependent on steering and game-time decisions," comments coxswain Maggie Hughes '15. "Our job as coxswains is to put the boat on the best line possible for the guys in the boat to pull it to the finish line."
Williams is the only team to have qualified two boats for the collegiate race thanks to a solid automatic qualifying performance by the 2nd varsity boat a year ago. "The first boat has their eyes set on gold this year, and our second boat is pushing to finish in the top 10, which would put them ahead of 30 other first varsity boats," states co-captain Zach Tarlow '13.
To achieve these goals, the Ephs will have to depend on young talent after graduating seven seniors out of their undefeated varsity boat last year. This loss of experience is replaced with a mass of energy from a sophomore class that retained almost every rower from a successful freshman year. With the addition of four experienced freshmen, over 70 percent of the team has not rowed at a collegiate varsity level. The Ephs plan to field three varsity eights this fall, something that the program has not done in a long time. "It is awesome to see the drive and energy throughout all three boats," says Peter Ellis '14.
The Ephs head coach Peter Wells points to experience and technique as two areas of development for the team. "The Head of the Housatonic is a critical time for our young guys to get experience racing at the varsity level before they race at the Charles." Coach Wells points out that he is happy with the progress so far and believes that if the team continues its trajectory it has the speed to be successful this fall racing season.
The crew is led by seniors John Gorman, Zach Tarlow, and Nate Barker, as well as juniors Erick Quay, Parker Finch, Peter Ellis, and Julian Fernandez. "I think this is the greatest depth of fitness our team has had since I have been here," says Quay. "We are hoping our off-season training and time spent in the gym translates to boat speed."
The fall racing season ends in Saratoga Springs, NY, at the Head of the Fish, which has traditionally been the only fall regatta for the first year rowers. Williams swept the event last year in all varsity and freshman boats, eights and fours, entered and hopes to repeat that performance. After the fall racing season concludes, the training continues on dry land in preparation for the all-important spring racing season.