Much of my spare time is taken up either rowing or training for rowing. The sport of rowing is quite
strange. Most sprint races last less (hopefully) than 8 minutes. A decent rower will train over 500 hours
all year for one race they are trying to peak for at the end of the season. I'd like to share some of my photos
to provide a couple stories and the passion that goes into my sport. At first glance this appear as vanity, but I
mostly want to record my own memories for myself not necessarily others. My memory is good, but fading.
From the stern: Patty Wolford (cox), myself, Alan Valenti, Tom Attenweiler, Chris Bowley, Ian Henderson, Brian Chorney, Mike Krofcheck, and Nate Uber - 2009
In 2004, a group of alumni from Case Crew formed the
Spartan Alumni Rowing Association. SARA has grown over the years through
alumni involvement and donations. In 2009, a group of us formed an alumni 8+ and raced in the
Head of the Charles -- the first time ever the event was offered.
We placed 28th out of 34 crews from a field of mostly east coast Ivy League schools.
The race was a blast.
From the stroke: Mike Kelly, Danny Wasserman, myself, Jeff Hreben, Jody Wu (cox) - 2003
Of all the years I've been around the sport, the one event I never attempted was the Head of the Charles.
Not that I didn't want to row in the event, it's just that we never went when I was in undergrad and they don't have
a pair event, which I rowed almost exclusively after graduating. I joined the University of Chicago's team after enrolling
in the Graduate School of Business the fall of 2003. Previous to the race I had been training off and on for almost eleven months
for the 2003 Chicago Marathon, which was the weekend before the Charles and my
first-ever marathon. Anyway, after training with these guys for a few weeks the boat started going really well,
and I decided to give up the marathon so I could be 100% for the race. It paid off.
There are so many boats in each event that they often give out up to five medals per event, which
is a good thing since we took fifth! Not only did we finish within 5% if the winning time, which gives
the team automatic qualification for next year, but we also got some hardware! It's the best result the club has
ever achieved. We also had the delight of picking up a brand new Vespoli Millenium Four and racing
it for the first time. Hate the customer service, but their boats are like butta'.
As for the race itself, we had the second fastest first mile in our event. We were stormin' and passed
three crews just in that first mile. We then got into a dog fight with Belmont School the fourth boat we passed.
Belmont School were tough and wouldn't let us shake them all the way to the finish line, which helped us
keep up the intensity. Thank you Belmont School!
From the coxswain: Nicole Canty, Will Gilbert, Jack Mellor, Tim Janisch, Tim Goodenough, Myself, Angus Blair, Phil Harfield, Simon Burcham - 2002
The Henley Royal Regatta is the penultimate event for most rowers.
The top events are world cup level events that draw national teams from around the world. There are only
a couple events available for pre-elite level teams. The standard of the event is quite high
so the regatta stewards hold qualifying races the Friday before the race, which is a 5-day single elimination format.
My club, City of Bristol Rowing Club,
had never qualified an 8 out of the qualifying races for the Thames Challenge Cup in its entire 50-year history.
There is only one event for the men's pair without coxswain, and the defending olympic champions regarded this event
as their home domain. My partner and I had been training just to qualify for over a year, but for personal reasons
he had to pull out a month or two before the race. I through my lot in with the club's mens squad, which had some
amazingly talented oarsmen. We trained our butts off and everything came together for our qualifier and we made it!!!
Many of the chaps in the crew had attempted qualification for years before this and were unsuccessful. I don't know what
happened on this particular occasion, but things just clicked.
From stroke: Will Gilbert, Jack Mellor, Tim Goodenough, Myself - 2002
Not content with qualifying one crew for the 2002 event, four of us decided to double up and try for the Wyfold Challenge Cup too. We only had to beat
seven other crews in the Thames in order to qualify, but for the Wyfold we'd have to better 17 other crews just to race on the first day with
31 other crews. The qualification for the Wyfold actually took place earlier in the day than the Thames, but the 4- was not initially our focus.
One of the highlights for me was the fact that my parents were able to fly over and watch me race at Henley.
I had described the magnitude of the event to my mom, but nothing could prepare her for the shear spectacle.
Think the Kentucky Derby but for a rowing regatta. The were thousands of people lining the shore, and we had people
cheering for us the entire length of the course. Our first race on the Wednesday was in the 8 against Thames Tradesmen a pretty
decent London crew. They weren't anywhere near the best London crew, but even a decent London crew would beat most crews from
the US. We'd have to row the race of our lives just to stay with them. In the end, we had a great row. Probaby the best we'd
ever had, but Tradesmen were comfortably 1.25 lengths ahead.
Our second race on Wednesday was in the coxless four against Lea BC in the Wyfold. This was probably the coolest and most
disappointing experience of my life. My dad was able to ride in the umpire launch that followed the race. I could hear my mom
and wife chear for us as we passed the enclosures. We were less than a length down the entire race. We ultimately lost by only 0.75
lengths. That was the cool part.
The not so cool part was our preparation. Traffic in England, especially Henley during regatta week can be a nightmare.
We had like five hours between races so we thought it'd be a good idea to get away from the regatta chaos and crash
at Tim's place, which was only a few miles away. We left plenty of time to get back to the race course, but still had to ditch
the truck and jog down to the race course because we were stuck in traffic a mile away. Not the best race day prep. As I mentioned
before, our team was focused on getting the 8 qualified so we had practiced the 4 maybe less than five times. We were able to comfortably
qualify because we could row our own race against the clock. Unfortunately when we were neck and neck with another crew we lost our
composure. In the 8 we rowed a good race and lost, and we could live with that. In the 4, we rowed a crap race and should
have won, which has been tough to live with. The stewards group races from the same event together in the daily race schedule. On this day
they were grouping four races together at roughly the same time of day. Our heat was 10 seconds faster than the other three races during
our slot!!! The river conditions can change dramatically throughout the day so meaningful comparisons outside the time slot aren't meaningful.
For those of you out there that think you'd like to give Henley a go, I'd like to prepare you a bit.
We all pulled 2k pieces to be selected for the 4-. Will pulled a 6:25, both Jack and myself pulled 6:30
(although he was much more confortable than myself), and
Tim pulled 6:36. All of us had been rowing for at least 10 years. Will rowed with Trinity College Dublin
and scratched the surface of the Irish national team. Jack rowed for Goldie (Cambridge's 2nd boat) and had won
Henley in 1997 beating U. Washington and Princeton along the way (the two top US college crews that year).
These two guys weren't as in good of shape as their glory days, but Tim and I were at our peak, but we were
all very experienced. We still lost in the first round!
I mentioned above that I was originally training to qualify for Henley in the pair event.
My training partner for almost two years was Ashley Spreadborough whose training capacity was
legendary. I had been rowing with Case Crew and WRRA at the Head of the Ohio
for many years and was never able to medal. My bright idea was to bring Ash over to the States and for the two of us
to compete in the 2001 event and make a little vacation out of it. He was a huge American football fan so we
went to a Cleveland Browns game, and in trade he pulled hard at the race. We ended up placing 2nd
behind Princeton (my first and only Head of the Ohio medal) and ahead of Lasalle University who won
Dad Vails that year.
One of the other race highlights for Ash and I was the 2001 London Docklands Regatta. Docklands is one of the
spring sprint race fixtures during the run up to Henley so tons of London clubs show up. We won the Senior II coxless
pair against a small, but fast, group of crews. Our time in the race actually bested the Senior I time, and I
can honestly say my lungs never hurt more than that day... before that day or since. As you can tell from our grins
above we were well pleased. Below is the action photo from the race with a pair from Rob Roy Boat Club just behind.
From stroke: Angus Blair, Daren Rhodes, Jack Mellor, Myself - 2002
England is interesting because the big head of the river races occur on the Thames through London.
The Thames on that stretch is tidal, which makes having an American style head race impossible. Therefore,
the British line up a few hundred crews along the side of the river and start people in order once the tide
turns. The fastest crews start nearer the beginning, and the starting position is determined by club
reputation and previous results. There are four head of the river races: for singles, doubles/pairs,
fours, and eights. The progression of the races kinda follows the training progression for the year. Small
boats in the fall/winter and the Eights Head in the Spring. The Eights Head is usually the last head race of the
year at the end of March and marks the beginning of sprint race (i.e. Henley) training.
After my Henley experience, I wanted another go at it. Therefore, to get people motivated and training
I decided to throw my hat in as captain. Our first big test of the year was the
2002 Fours Head of the River. The four of us had the biggest erg scores for
the heayweights so we started training together. In my years in Bristol no other combination ever felt this good.
We weren't amazing and when we were split up we never were as fast as this combination. It just worked. There were 70 men's
coxless fours in the race that year out of over 500 boats traversing the river that day. We finished 4th in our category,
which was a complete surprise because we were passed by one crew, but we passed I think 4 crews over the 4.25 miles. The crew
that passed us was from Crabtree (Jack's old club for Cambridge old boys) and Jack made me yield the good water to them.
From the coxswain: Nicole Canty, Will Gilbert, Dominic Richardson, Tim Janisch, Tim Goodenough, Neil Ward, Angus Blair, Myself, Simon Burcham - 2002
The Head of the River Regatta (aka The Tideway) is the penultimate head race of the British racing season. This event is only for men's eights. There is a
separate women's eights head a couple weeks before. Every year there are over 400 eights that race the 4.25 mile course from Mortlake to Putney. This is the
same course as the Oxford-Cambridge race, but in the opposite direction. Every year there are a few national team crews and almost every club in the country and many other countries
boat crews. In 2002, we finished 86th, which was the best-ever result for our club. I just remember everyone getting off the water and being upset because they
thought we didn't do well, but after the result was announced everyone was ecstatic.
From the coxswain: Nicole Canty, Tristan Shipsides, Myself, Jack Mellor, Dylan Lang, Angus Blair, Daren Rhodes, Rob Jones, Phil Harfield - 2003
My last race in England and for Bristol was at the 2003 HORR. We'd been training hard all year and looking forward to this race.
We started 81st and finished 81st. Still a best-ever for the club, but not what we were looking for. Our strongest competition came
out of our own boathouse with the University of the West of England (UWE)
who ended up finishing 6.5 seconds ahead in 67th place.
The only consolation was that the race was over subscribed by national team crews (a record 12 national team crews entered).
Still, it would've been nice to beat the students.
Generally, I hate erg tests as much as the next guy, but this is my only picture of me competing.
It was taken at the 2002 British Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England. Before you ask, I pulled
a 6:34.3 at 26 spm.
I rowed for a number of years with Angelo in the pair in Cleveland. We trained hard and had a great time. We always went to
races far away searching for some good competition. This particular picture was taken by my mom from the Carter Rd. bridge
during the 1999 Head of the Cuyahoga. We didn't have any competition so we decided to put on a rowing clinic.
This is probably my all-time favorite rowing picture. We're perfectly in sync and the puddles are amazing.
© 2002-2008 Doug Rathburn. All rights reserved.