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Men’s Journal: Henley Royal Regatta

July 5, 2010
By: Breck Davis, 5 seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Nursing
Hometown: Portage, MI
High School: Portage Central High School

This blog incorporates both the day of the finals and the trip to Stonehenge and Bath.

I woke up at 7:00 am because the sun shines directly into my room and rises way too early. I was really wishing that there was a switch that I could flip that would turn the sun off. Then I realized that it was the 4th of July, but no one in England seems to care about that fact. I got up, showered, and went downstairs to eat breakfast, and get ready to go to the course and watch some great racing. I was debating on whether it would be worth it to go into the Stewards Enclosure or to just go into the Regatta enclosure and not bother getting dressed up. It was easier to not get dressed up, so we just went into the Regatta enclosure. The Finals did not start until 11:30 am, and only went until 4:00 pm. There was some great racing, some pairs, some fours, some eights. The U.S. National team won their strait four. What a great win for America. The night consisted of some guys hanging out at the house and trying to clean up so it won’t be such a burden later.

After a short nights sleep, we wake up at 7:30 am because we all needed to be ready by 9:00 am to get picked up by Tony, our driver. Tony picked us up a little past 9:30 and after a little deliberation about what to do with the oars, we were on our way. It took around 45 minutes to get to Stonehenge, but I thought that it was well worth it. The age of the structure and and awe on the size is an amazement. One didn’t need to be there long in order to absorb it all. We were there for roughly 45 minutes and then headed off to Bath. From Stonehenge it was around 45 more minutes until we arrived at Bath. Once we got there our driver, Tony, informed us that we had until 2:30 until we needed to be back on the bus. We all walked around the town for a little bit taking pictures and watching the street performers. Kyle, Mike and I found a sign that lead us to the oldest pub in Bath. Such a small pub, it was probably no bigger than 500 square feet. It had great food, but took a little bit in order to get it. We were slightly late to the bus, but who cares, the food was delicious. Once we got back, a few of us went for a walk to the locks and then to the store to get food for dinner. I leave you now.

July 3, 2010
By: Tyler Sellmer, Photographer, Logistics Coordinator
Year & Major: Sophomore, Accounting & Finance
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
High School: McIntosh High School

My blog will start out with a little story, like all my stories I will emphasize details no one cares about and probably lose most of my readers during it.

The Tuesday before the men of the Laker Navy were going to hop across the pond, I was sitting on the couch up in peaceful Eastport, when the cell phone I was holding began to ring, thinking nothing of the unrecognized number, and not noticing the elongated digits denoting an international call, I answered normally; but what came next was anything but normal:

On the other end of the phone was Coach Bancheri, calling because Bob Stoll, parent and administrator, was unable to make the trip, and I was next on their list of replacements to ask. Of course, being my typical conservative self, my first thought was to buy decision making time and to come to a quick decision, so I agreed to give an answer by the end of the day. After concluding the call I quickly went and found my mother, and called my father to ask their input.

Needless to say, a new digital camera and a few hasty but measured decisions later, I was officially headed to England to document GVSU’s 2010 HRR adventure. However, official job descriptions have always meant very little to me.

Upon arriving in England after the short hop across the pond I was, as everyone else was, met by an international airport like every other, and a drive like any other (abet on the wrong side of the road) to a house that besides the narrow stairs seemed like any other.

When I woke up in daylight I found a world that was unlike any that I have ever stayed in. As a southerner, it’s literally impossible to find a structure in my home state that is more than 150 years old, thanks to our good comrade, General Sherman. Here; every structure and most of the furniture is at least that old. It’s like walking into a museum town, except the people in this particular museum act like none of these buildings are special; to them it’s just a house, or a store front, which somehow makes the entire situation seem even more incredible.

When we got to the racecourse, passing a church and crossing a bridge that dwarfed the rest of the town in age, I was met by another shock and awe. I guess it was mostly the fact that I never ever expected to make the trip this summer that allowed me to discount Henley as “just another regatta” certainly I never thought it would match up to a substantial regatta like The Dad Vail, but when I first saw the grandstands and boat enclosure that had been temporarily constructed just for this event it hit me how enormous of a deal this was. The boat enclosure for instance: is a steel reinforced twelve bay tent, specifically set up to house shells, complete with racks for oars. Each bay has roughly the capacity of the Grand Valley boathouse. And did I mention? They keep all this hoopla up for a mere month.

Now is the point where I tie one of my activities into how serious they take the regatta here, when walking up and down the course photographing and videoing our boats during practice, I watched the construction of the course and its infrastructure progress through the week. The course is over a mile long, and by the day of the first race, the entire stretch was lined with bars, restaurants, clubs, and shops. I am told that during its peak, which by all accounts will be Saturday, the regatta will play host to some 300,000 visitors, that more than many college football games!

At the finish point of the racecourse, is the grandstands, but the Henley royal regatta has a grandstand unlike any other, their grandstand is fenced and guarded. Unless you purchase a pass into the “Stewards Enclosure” as they call it, you will be stuck on the outside looking in. Thanks to Coach Bancheri; me and many other team members have gotten a chance to go into the stewards enclosure, and if I had to pick an analogy with which to describe it, the first class scenes from the movie “Titanic” comes to mind. A strict dress code is enforced: without a coat and tie, you will not be let in. Elaborate Bars and Restaurants dot the enclosure, reserved seats are occupied by those most important of people. Women wear elaborate hats and dresses. Many carry fans to keep themselves cool as they wonder to themselves why they are dressed up like a peacock. Most of the occupants of the enclosure had picnics next to their Rolls Royce’s and Bentleys, though the lower class of them still enjoyed Champagne and cheese by their BMW or Mercedes, before wandering into the enclosure.

Needless to say, this is not your average regatta. A fact that made a whooshing sound as it escaped my attention this year.

Now I have put y’all to sleep getting you to visualize the racecourse. To date, until you suffered your way to this point my blog, you have heard from the trip’s rowers and coxswains. They are the reason we are here, and when you hear a rower describe their races, their performance, you get the truth, but it is their truth, whether they are high in victory or low in defeat, they have the unique tone of the competitor. The perspective I bring is no more truthful than theirs, but I believe it is equally important that it be heard.

During (and immediately before) races, I have been fulfilling two tasks: I have been helping the facilities coordinator Kyle Lemoine, and Coach Bancheri make sure every boat and every oar, as well as every rower are as rested and ready as we can make them before they head out on the water. This job is not that exciting to write about, most involving pitch meters and tightening 10mm bolts.

My other job was to videotape and photograph each race, for which I was given the privilege of riding is a spectators’ launch behind each race, where I not only got to record videos and pictures, but I got to see every race, see the faces, hear the sounds, and watch it all unfold together.

The race the four had on Wednesday was one of the most incredible showings of fortitude I have ever seen. From bow to stern our four remained calm and content as they pulled their hearts away down the long racecourse on the Thames. As a rower, I have an understanding for what they were going through, and I must say, I was more proud of the four this week than when they won the gold at Dad Vail. One of my favorite quotes speaks of people ability, “anyone can handle a normal situation, it’s during a crises that you see what people are really made of” and no matter how far ahead the other boat was, the fortitude of the four was obvious.

The eight had two races, the second of which is the one that I will remember for the rest of my life. The boat they were up against won the men’s Varsity Eight category in the Dad Vail Regatta, a regatta in which our Varsity Eight of the time made a showing in the petite final. This plainly and clearly was going to be a challenging race, the rowers knew it, Coaches Bancheri and Lemoine knew it, I knew it after someone explained it to me slowly, they knew who and what was going to be sitting in the other set of starting blocks. To spite all that, they were calm, they knew it would be a challenge, but they also knew the massive strides they had taken, and they were ready by the time the lined up for that race.

When the flag went down, both boats screamed off the line, high rates, water splashing, clean bladework, and utter chaos, by the fifteenth stroke, it was clear who had the stronger start: Grand Valley was down, nearly a boat length. But then something happened Brock University’s Eight wasn’t counting on; they stopped gaining water. Our boat was pushing and pushing and pushing, to the point where they started gaining. It was clear from the launch that everyone from Scott Feil in bow, to Geoff Sadek in stroke, and Hallie Dorsey steering the straightest course I have ever seen in one of her boats, were doing everything thing they could to fight their way to the lead. Mechanically my novice eye was astounded by how well both crews were rowing through the chop, but by the time the two boats started their sprint, it was clear that the ground gained by Brock in the first few strokes of the race would not be retaken by GVSU.

Going into that race, the nine members of the GVSU’s Eight were the underdog, but our guys fought as hard as I have seen any team fight, making Brock work harder than anyone expected for their win, and that is what I will remember about that eight’s final race.

There is a theory on how to rate a job called the three circle theory. In this theory, you draw three circles: In one circle you write all the jobs that you can get fulfillment out of, in another: all the jobs you are very good at, and in a third: all the jobs you enjoy doing. If you can find a job that fits in all three circles, then by definition of the theory; you will be very happy with your job.

In my mind, I have all three of these circles covered. Anyone who knows me can attest that I like staying busy, and on excursions like this one, I have plenty of things to keep me busy and therefore happy. My abilities are a judgment best left to others, but I hope I am doing an acceptable job.

The most important circle to mention is the fulfillment circle. Besides the opportunity to come on this trip, take pictures, ride in launches, explore the steward’s enclosure, and add England to the list of places I have visited, the most fulfilling part of this trip is the group of champions that I accompanied over here. “Don’t try to be a great man, just be a man, and let history make the judgment.” When history judges you guys, they will understand how great you are.

July 2, 2010
By: Scott Feil, Bow Seat Men’s Varsity 8+
Year: Senior, Management
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
High School: Lincoln Park High School
Weight: 11 stones 3 pounds

We started our morning out here at 11 Norman Avenue much like every other morning since our arrival, one by one slowing rolling through the kitchen grabbing breakfast. This morning however was much different, two major things were missing, with the most immediate being the absence of what has become the much beloved croissants topped with Nutella, replaced with chocolate croissants (just not the same). The second and much more saddening thing missing was that we were not going to be heading down to the course to race but instead watch from the sidelines, cheering on our friends and housemates still competing from Norway.

My good friend and pair partner Mike stoll and I watched races for some 7 hours today. It was quite an experience unlike any other I have had at a regatta in the past 9 years I have been involved in the sport. The banks of the course were lined with enclosures, bars, shops and thousands of people all formally dressed. Between watching the races and taking in the experience that is The Henley Royal Regatta we also managed to strike up a few conversations with other spectators; such as with a couple from Scotland who has been attending the regatta every year since 1969. All in all it was a great experience although we both found ourselves wishing we were still competing in this great regatta extending our collegiate rowing careers just a little longer.

Despite not advancing further as we all wanted to and had trained so hard for; the trip as a whole has been a great experience that I am very thankful to have been able to take part in. It has been great to see and experience the history here in England, not to mention be able to compete in such an esteemed regatta. I also have really enjoyed the various people we have been able to meet both American and otherwise. It seems as though from day one we were meeting great people from all over. From doing pieces with Galway rowing club from Ireland and having the U.S. national team over for dinner to our housemates from Norway or the rowers we met from Japan.

I don’t think I could ask for a much better way to end my career here at Grand Valley then to have had the privilege of training and competing with my great teammates halfway across the world at such a regatta. It is an experience that I will always remember.

July 1, 2010
By: Jeffrey Kent Slater
Year: Senior, Business
Hometown: Cedarville, Upper Peninsula
High School: Cedarville High School

It’s over. The culmination of my rowing career at Grand Valley State has come to a close with a loss at the Henley Royal Regatta. Before the race, I felt as though we could take on any crew in our event and beat them. I have no idea what happened. Off the start we gained ground over the team next to us, but 20 strokes later they walked through us and we could not make up that ground throughout the race. The feeling of losing is just the worst thing: all the time training accompanied with major sacrifices, gone. All we can do after the fact is breath and take it all in. I hate it, but I’ll live. No regrets. This year has been great even though my boat fell short in our championship regattas, and I want to thank everyone who supported us and made this trip to Henley possible.

Now the entire team has time to sight-see and hang out. Come Monday, we are traveling to Bath and checking out the Roman ruins that are there. Coach is pumped, as is the team. Tonight the men’s crew is going to see some of the night life the town has to offer. From what I’ve noticed it seems like a lot fun and it would be good to get my mind off the despair recently endured (I tend to freak out about losses). Some Euchre will get my mind off the race, hopefully, because I am the self-proclaimed champ in Euchre.

In closing, I would like to thank all the parents, athletes, and coaches who made this trip possible. I’m sorry I don’t have much to write, Coach. Thanks for allowing me to return to the team and lead them this far. I will definitely miss crew.

June 30, 2010
By: Dayna Campbell, Coxswain, Men’s Varsity 4+
Year: Sophomore, Film & Video
Hometown: Beverly Hills, MI
High School: Birmingham Groves High

Yes. It’s me. I’m still here- not that I am complaining by any means! Who would have thought that at the beginning of this year I would be spending a month living and rowing in England? Certainly not me. I came into the fall season knowing that the year would end with a trip of a lifetime to England, but for some reason, I just couldn’t imagine getting selected. Maybe it was because I was returning as a coxswain who only had that past spring season of experience under my belt. Maybe it was because in my mind the two varsity boats that would be traveling across the pond were already selected. Or maybe it was because I just didn’t have the confidence in myself to make it that far. The season progressed through fall, into winter, and it was off to spring. Spring break finally gave me some light to hold onto at the end of the tunnel. It felt like I was finally getting the hang of it. There were certainly things I had to work on, but the progress was a good feeling.

The Lubber’s Cup Regatta kicked off my spring races. One of the boats I had the pleasure of coxing was the Men’s 3V 4+. We ended up winning by a long shot, leaving Michigan and Michigan State behind. As we received our medals, my bow seat Aaron Gesquiere said, “DAD VAIL GOLD IN THE ANDERSON (the name of our boat).” We all laughed and I’m sure no one really thought anything of it. Just a few short months later that very same line up was warming up for the grand final race in the Dad Vail Regatta. The conditions were more than terrible and the competition was fierce. I knew we had the drive and power to make it there; the rest was up to us. Crossing the finish line, it seemed like the clouds parted, the wind stopped, and the crowd seemed muted behind my yelling into the microphone. All this because we crossed first. What Aaron said jokingly that March had come true. We were all in disbelief and over come with emotion. That day was the day we found out we would be going to England.

So, here we are, just hours after the race and it’s not the same feeling as Dad Vail. There was not a cloud in the sky, the wind was minimal, and crowd grew in volume. We didn’t cross first. Not even sort of close. This race was a perfect example of a fast crew getting beaten by a faster crew. It seems like déjà vu. For my race in the Women’s Henley, we drew the crew that would win our entire event for our first race. Perhaps I am just bad luck, but we had the pleasure of racing Goldie Boat Club, Cambridge rowers, and saw what rowing in England really looked like.

Off the start we flew out of the stake boats at 44 strokes per minute but Goldie was quickly passing us as a 45. I could have sworn they had a propeller under their boat. Every stroke they took, took seats from us. Soon they were 4 boat lengths up and the race was just about over. Needless to say we didn’t catch them. The guys never stopped pulling and I never stopped believing in them. I could feel the determination and drive behind each stroke they took together. This made my job that much easier. There was a point where I knew the race was clearly going to go to Goldie Boat Club, but I didn’t want it to end.

Having the opportunity to be in that race, in England, and with those boys, made this trip more than I could have hoped for. No, it did not end how we would have liked and it was not the Cinderella story I thought about in my head. It was however, the race of a lifetime and a memory I will never let go of. Thank you to everyone who made this possible: Coach, Coach Mark (now rower Mark), Kyle, Tyler, everyone on the team, my parents, and the boys in my boat. Thank you for making this year what it was for me. Spectacular.

June 29, 2010
By: Mike Stoll, 2 seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Political Science
Hometown: Jenison, MI
High School: Jenison High School
Weight: 11 stone 9 pounds

The day began at 8:30 this morning as everyone woke up to go watch Marty and Dan race in the Jesus College Spare Pairs race. We went down early to see them off and picked out a spot along the footpath to watch. With only four entries, the Grand Valley pair was in the first heat and as they came down it appeared to be a very close race. However, upon hearing the various cheers from their teammates, the pair surged ahead in the last 30 strokes of the race, with the other pair nearly crashing into them. They were victorious and turned around and paddled back up the course to await the winner of the next heat, Cambridge.

This race would be the final race of Dan Schoolcraft’s rowing career, spanning seven years all the way back to his days at Marietta High School. While successful in their first race, the pair fell short in the final. Emotions ran high for Dan following the race, not because of the loss, but for the realization that he was now done with rowing.

Since the beginning of this trip I have constantly revisited how I am going to feel when I cross the finish line for the last time. It is something that I did not think would come so quickly and something that I am not quite sure that I am ready for. It really wasn’t until today that I began to realize that this was actually going to happen, that soon there would be no tomorrow, no need to go to bed at a decent time, no hydration paranoia resulting in excessive trips to the loo eight times in one hour, and no need to hold off on that beer at your cousin’s wedding two days before leaving for Henley.

No, none of things will matter anymore and it makes me wonder how long it will take me to adjust to the non-rowing lifestyle. Questions arise such as “What will I do at 5:00am?” or “Will I still need the 21 plus meal plan next year?” Somehow I still see myself at the boathouse every once in a while before the sun is up and before the frost has melted away, watching the next group of rowers endure the challenges that I once put myself through.

The Henley Royal Regatta. I first knew this name when I was only eight years old, back in 1996, when I traveled with my family and the team to watch Grand Valley compete. To make a long story short, my Dad, Bob Stoll, was and still is the Director of Student Life and he was invited to accompany the team on the trip to Henley. Now, 14 years later, I find myself back where rowing was first introduced to me and where I will end my collegiate rowing career. It is definitely a privilege and an honor to be a part of this event.

I wanted to write on this day because tomorrow is the last guaranteed time that the nine of us will get into a boat together. It is up to us if we want a chance to keep rowing, to keep building speed, and a chance to advance to the final race. After a line-up change last Saturday, I find myself in 2-seat, the seat I rowed my freshman year in the Novice 8 where I sat directly behind my cousin Andrew. I have quickly adjusted to my new spot in the boat and we are feeling faster than ever.

The last practice for the seniors is in the books and it wouldn’t have been complete without a boat-stopping crab as we came down the course, a great reminder of how far each of us have come since our novice days. We are all eager and excited to test our abilities against crews from around the world. After 10 months of training, we are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get to the finish line first for 5 more races. Each day is another opportunity, another chance to row in the fastest boat I have ever been in. I can’t think of a better way to conclude my four years of rowing at Grand Valley. Thank you to everyone who has made this trip possible not only for me but for our entire program. And to my Dad, even though you’re not here on this trip, I am reminded of you every time we go to put the boat in the water as the “Big Bob” Stoll decal we had printed is just within arms reach of my seat.

June 28, 2010
By: Jimmy Wilkie, 3 Seat Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Health Communications
Hometown: Detroit, MI
High School: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School
Weight: 11 stone 4 pounds

Well, shucks. We are in England for the biggest regatta in the world and we are two days away from our first race. There is an odd mixture between Olympians, college athletes, over the hill athletes and high school rowers walking the streets of Henley-on-Thames. Every day the tension grows as you see possible competitors practicing on the same turf as your team and you just can’t help but feel some competitive hatred towards them.

Today started off normal as usual for the Grand Valley Crew except the glorious reason that today is our last hard day, and then we begin our taper. Every time one of our boats touch that water it is another opportunity to gain speed and we are taking complete and total advantage of it. Today we had three pieces on different parts of the course to get a better understanding of where we are at in terms of races that were done before us. Our first piece was only to the end of the island near the starting blocks. We did a typical start and our initial 25 strokes and we clocked out at 41 seconds or so. Eh not bad, pretty fast but we need some improvement. We rowed it off and then came to the starting blocks again. This time we are doing a 750 meter piece and coach wanted us to be in the 1:50 range. Well that is no easy request to fulfill. For this piece another team wanted to do a practice piece against us and we accepted. We backed into the starting blocks and eyed up our new competition. They didn’t know what they got themselves into. We heard “GO!” and we cranked those oars and our boat took off. We were taking seats like it was going out of style. We were crushing. We put out our start and had a boat length in 40 seconds. Luckily for them, that was when their piece ended and ours was just beginning, and we were cookin’. All 8 of us were clicking and we were making some sweet love making music in that boat. Bow chicka bow wow. Finally that is the feeling we were looking for. We finished off strong and we were timed at 1:48. Nice.

After practice we were able to recover and enjoy our final taper of the season. We basically sat around and ate all day until we had to be ready for a rowing get together at a sports museum which happens to have a very large portion dedicated to rowing. We all dressed up in our sports coats and khakis and headed to the event. The museum was actually pretty cool because it had the general history of rowing and had the collectibles to show for it. There were old racing shells’ hanging from the walls and ceilings, gold medals everywhere and too many pictures to count. It was a shrine to the rowers before us and it was great to finally see our sport shown the respect it deserves. There were plenty of other rowers and officials there which made it a prime event. This is a good ending to a great day. Our speed is here and we are gnawing at the bit to use it. Grand Valley Crew is going to do some damage at this Henley.

June 27, 2010
By: Chad Condon, 4 Seat Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Freshman, Business
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: East Grand Rapids

Sunday June 27, 2010, our first day off since our arrival. I woke up at 8 am. I went downstairs to get the unisuits out of the backyard where I had put them to dry after washing. Because not everyone was up I wanted to keep quiet so, I went upstairs and responded to some emails. While I was laying in bed a bird right outside the window of our room started making the funniest noise I have ever heard a bird make. Right away I thought about who would be the first one in my room to wake up to this weird noise. After ten minutes of the birds calls Jeff Slater woke up instantly started asking what it was and where it’s coming from. We both started laughing so hard that it woke up everyone in the room. The rest of the day we have all been imitating the bird and laughing so hard whenever someone does it.

After that we went down to the river to get our boat off of the trailer from the regatta yesterday. Our 8+ is a sectional, which means that it can split in half for trailering. On this trip is the first time I have ever rowed or even seen a sectional. Because I am 4 seat the seem happens to be right in the middle of my seat, so when we reassembled it I went be with Geoff and made sure that it was extra tight to reassure me that the boat would not separate underneath me.

Next we came back to our house where Coach B made us a huge lunch of many different things. We had corn, beans, chicken wings, drumsticks, sausage and peppers, fruit salad, spinach salad, and bread. After everyone had stuffed themselves, we turned on the England vs. Germany soccer game, and have been resting and recovering from a hard week of practice the rest of the day.

June 26, 2010
By: Geoff Sadek, Stroke Seat Men’s Varsity 8
Year & Major: MBA in Business Administration
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: Forest Hills Northern

It’s interesting, how you evolve through rowing. You start out just trying to put the blade in the water, then to do it with pressure, then to do it with teammates. You get coached, you make a correction, and what was familiar becomes unfamiliar, you push the comfort zone to get better. In that manner, rowing seems cyclical, both in the nature of the motion and how you change through the journey.

It seems as though another cycle has started here on this trip, back in a boat after coaching. Returning to team training after training for so long on my own. And, after rowing 6 seat for the past few weeks, I have been returned to stroke seat, back in a position so familiar and yet newly unfamiliar.

Racing at the Reading Town regatta, it was the unspoken goal to come back with the top prize of an etched beer stein. Entered in two events, the Intermediate and Senior Men’ Eights, it was clear that our boat was confident in it’s chances. However, an upset early in the day in the Intermediate race threw a monkey wrench into our plans. It was unclear what were the direct variables that let us suffer across the line in 3rd behind Kent School and Melbourne, with only the first boat moving on. We decided to make a change in lineup for the next race.

Mike Stoll, our stroke for the past year moved back to two seat in an effort to provide more grace and balance to the set of the boat. The rest of port side rotated through the lineup, moving Chad Condon to four seat and Jeff Slater to six.

Our next race, the heat for the Senior Men’s Eight, was executed much more aggressively. Although the three boats (ourselves, New Zeeland, and Shiplake), were in what felt like a tight pack, we held strong and pushed our bow ahead through the middle or the 800m race. A strong shift and sprint helped us finish with an open water lead across the line.

The final of the Senior Eight was a rematch between us and Kent School, the US Scholastic National Champions. The first 400m both boats were trading bowballs. However, after a strong shift we lost some precious ratio in an effort to close the door on Kent. That turned out to be a crucial point, as we tried to pick up the rate for the sprint, there was nowhere to go, we crossed the line in a disappointing second. There are no beer steins for us this year.

Rowing is cyclical. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you get beat. Those times that things don’t turn out fuel you to the point where the table turns again.

Next week the tables turn.

June 26, 2010
By: Marco Benedetti, Men’s Varsity 4+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Statistics
Hometown: Upper Arlington, OH
High School: Upper Arlington High School

Today was one of the most eventful days so far. We qualified yesterday for the elimination rounds at Henley, and were given yet another opportunity to to test our speed today at the Reading Regatta. Although the races were only 800 meters, the competition ensured that they were very difficult.

Our heat was a must win to move on to the final. We had Kent, who we had raced in practice and we knew was fast, and Yale, who is Yale. We found ourselves even with Kent off the line, with Yale a few seats up. Once we shifted, we found an excellent rhythm and managed to walk through Yale, beating them by 3/4 of a length. We are very excited by the result, as we know that Yale is one of the tougher teams in in Prince Albert Cup.

Before our final, we had a nice chat with an official who enjoyed making fun of Zak (our three seat) for being so big. He knew right away that he was either three seat in a 4+ or five seat in an 8+. He then told us about a time when he was in Houston TX and got in an argument with an American which he turned into a fight by saying “You know what your problem is? You haven’t had a decent education since you declared independence!” That turned into an all out brawl at the bar, which was split up by the police. He said it was one of the best times he’d ever had.

When we finally got to launch for our final, we had a slightly different rig which I think ended up hurting us. It felt like the boat stopped working for us on the recovery, which it did in the heats. We felt very little resistance on our oars which hurt our speed. We ended up losing to Georgetown by two lengths, but at least we know that the original set up was the better one. We can safely assume that both Yale and Georgetown will be very dangerous crews if we line up with them.

We were then asked to row a double down about 100 meters to it’s boathouse. When Aaron (bow seat) and I got there, we were surprised to see that the gate to the boathouse was locked. With the help of some very friendly locals, we managed to hop the fence (it wasn’t very tall) and pass the boat over and return it to its spot in the boathouse. We stayed a little longer and chatted with our new friend by the river, before returning to the rest of the team.

Now that this day is almost over, we are hoping to get out to a pub to watch the second half of the USA Ghana game (if coach lets us, of course). We can’t wait to race, especially after finding out that we got a good draw for the elimination rounds.

June 25, 2010
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By: Hallie Dorsey, Coxswain, Men’s Varsity 8+

This is our fifth day in England and the trip had been rather scheduled thus far. Are days are worked around practice at 9 am and then a second at 5 pm. Practices are short and consist mostly of section pieces (i.e. start and thirty strokes, last 600 meters of a race, etc.) for the past couple days we have been practicing with other crews which is great practice for me in terms of steering on the somewhat narrow course.

However, today was a little different. We rowed to Reading, which I must say was quite and experience. Reading is about an 8-mile trip up river from Henley. The row consisted of 3 locks and many turns and islands to work around. We estimated the row would take about two hours, as we would be rowing against the current.

For this trip I had nothing beside my eight rowers, my coxbox and a backpack full of granola bars and accelerade, which the boys planned on consuming after the row. Let it be known that this was my fourth day out on the Thames and my second time upstream. I did not know where I was going and have never seen a lock before; I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking for.

Soon after we started the adventure we came to a dam and the first of the three locks. We had to wait awhile because there were a few boats in front of us. The wait was probably the worst part of the trip, as I had no idea what to expect, and sitting just makes me more anxious. Finally, when the time came to enter the lock we found that we were going to be sitting in between two large motorboats (Not what I would consider to be ideal.). The lock closed filled with water and we were on our way.

The rest of the trip was rather easy to navigate and the locks were not too complicated after the first, especially because we had Kyle to help communicate with the “lock master”. We made it to the Reading Boat Club in about three hours a little more time than we had anticipated, but hey, we made it! We had the remainder of the day to rest and we are ready to race it up tomorrow.

June 25, 2010
By: Zak Armstrong, Three Seat, Men’s Varsity 4+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Marketing
Hometown: Lawton, MI
High School: Lawton High School

Henley so far has been quite eventful, however today has proved to be the most eventful, for me at least. The boat I’m in, the men’s varsity 4+, had a time trail to look forward to in the afternoon so we were able to skip morning practice. I was pumped to finally be able to sleep in. Unfortunately my body clock would not let me sleep past 9am. I was awake early enough to see the men’s varsity 8 off as they rowed down the Thames to Reading for our Reading Town Regatta tomorrow. As the 8 was rowing, the 4 found themselves watching a couple hours of TV, grazing on food and just sitting around getting fast. I found myself growing tired again so I went back to bed to squeeze out an hour nap before the big race.

Our time trial today was to qualify for the Henley Royal Regatta in the Prince Albert Cup. Some teams such as Princeton and Georgetown have already qualified. 33 out of the 41 boats in our event had to qualify along with us, teams such as Oxford and Yale. We were all nervous as only the top 8 teams qualify and there were a lot of good teams. The race felt good and I felt like we left everything out on the water. Henley does not let you know the times of each team, only if they qualified or not. The announcer read off the qualifying teams in alphabetical order and we all hugged each other as the Grand Valley State University Rowing Team rolled off the announcers tongue with a qualifying time.

Thank God.

After the race we went to Waitrose (the local grocery store) in order to pick up food to prepare for a LARGE dinner for a pretty large group. We were lucky enough to host the U.S. men’s National team in our house. We cooked chicken, sausage, pasta, garlic bread, salad and more good food. When the U.S. team arrived I was awestruck at how big they were. Massive. It was really nice having them here at our house and being able to see what world class rowers do. They are really cool guys. It’s kind of surreal having the best rowers in the nation eating dinner right next to you laughing, or pretending to laugh, at your jokes. Apparently we set up a 20 stroke race against them for later on in the week. That will be really cool. It doesn’t matter how bad we lose (if we lose) it will just be nice to be able to say that we raced an Olympic team.

After the Reading Regatta tomorrow, it’s a straight course to the H.R.R. (We hope…Dayna…) It will be extremely competitive but it’s nothing the Lord of the Kings can’t handle.

June 24, 2010
By: Aaron Gesquiere, Mens Varsity 4+, Bow
Year & Major: Sophomore, Biomedical Science
Hometown: Rochester, MI
High School: Rochester Adams High School

The fourth day in England, and it is again a BEAUTIFUL day. Woke up at around 8:30 am local time, walked 10-15 min to the course and got my boat ready for the morning row. Our workout today in the Mens Hvwt 4+ was to pick “fights” which means to challenge any like boat to a short race consisting of a start and 30 strokes after.

Only one boat accepted our challenge because all of the other boats that came by us were doing their own workout.

So far everyday has consisted of, getting up, rowing, resting and eating, rowing, and eating then sleeping, repeat. We haven’t been able to site see that much because we are here to row and when we are done rowing we can have our fun. Tomorrow is the time trial for our four. The last time we had a time trial was at ACRA and we had the fastest time there, although we are racing faster crews, we hope that the speed we have gained will keep us in the hunt to win it.

After the time trial, we head to Reading to compete in an 800 meter sprint race. That is very exciting because personally I feel that we are a more powerful crew and this short race should be no problem for us.

June 23, 2010
By: Daniel Schoolcraft, Bow, Men’s Spare Pair
Year & Major: Senior, Writing
Hometown: Marietta, OH
High School: Marietta High School

To utilize a Terry Pratchett book title, we’re living in quite “interesting times” here in Henley-on-Thames, as I write this a little past midway on my second full day in England. Though we arrived here well past midnight local time Monday night or Tuesday morning, I haven’t felt an ounce of jetlag, which has been helpful since we’ve picked up our training right where we left off in Allendale. The weather has even decided that it wishes to behave like the American Midwest as well, based off the unexpectedly hot days we’ve been having. Aside from the rowing and the weather, though, there’s something oddly novel about England so far that I just love. Again, it may be just in the sense of being similar but different; it’s not quite the culture shock of visiting South Korea, but more like a crazier version of Canada, where everything’s just slightly ever so different, but in a new and interesting way.

So far, a lot of it’s involved food. This morning, for example, I discovered that I’m particularly fond of crumpets, which are especially good when prepared with “loads of butter” as our landlady Maggie put it. Over the past day, I’ve also discovered the Irn Bru, though it may be Bru’d in Scotland from girders, is tremendously overrated and tastes somewhat like cough syrup, and that 79p Jelly Babies are a godsend to someone who previously had to import them for a cringe-worthy cost. Before this trip is over, I also intend to indulge at least once in kebabs and fish-and-chips, and perhaps more kebabs. I love how commonplace Indian food is here, even if I still haven’t been able to enjoy any yet. Probably better to lay off the curry until after I’ve raced, though.

It has been quite sunny lately, and today, in addition to some other miscellaneous shopping, I did finally obtain some £12 sunglasses today that look quite boss; I believe my previous sunglasses remain in Bob Stoll’s minivan, either that or in the backseat pouch of an American Airlines Boeing 767. Hopefully the former; though these new sunglasses are quite nice, I doubt they’re polarized. I’ve sent out four postcards today as well, and purchased five more to disperse. Everybody in town seems so helpful now while rowers are in town, which is quite pleasing as well. Hopefully I’ll still have that opinion when or if England is eliminated from the World Cup while we’re here.

Regarding racing, Marty and I have received a pair from a British firm whose name continually escapes me but which starts with a J, and I am currently astounded at how much easier a properly calibrated toe-steering rig makes a bowman’s life. As of this writing we have had three practices on the Henley course, one lap early yesterday and six laps total yesterday afternoon and this morning. The booms are still scary, but not nearly as inevitable and terrifying as I had expected. Granted, I still haven’t experienced the booms under the heat and stress of an actual race, but so far, it’s not as bad as I expected. Yesterday’s work for us was mostly just getting a feel for the new equipment and the new environs, and shaking out the bugs from the seven-eight-or-nine or something hour flight. Today we applied some power, doing a series of ten-strokes-on, ten-strokes-off coming down the racecourse, with drill work going upstream. I can easily see how the women’s team came close to obliterating a flock of Canadian Geese earlier in their trip; the racecourse and the riverbanks are practically swarming with waterfowl, from the aforementioned geese to swans, mallard ducks, coots, and what I believe to be some variation on mergansers. It’s a sight.

Yesterday during the shakedown cruises my rigging gave me some problems, and I didn’t help things by mishearing Coach B’s instructions from shore and rigging myself up instead of lowering my oarlock as he intended. Though making that mistake was frustrating, it was easily amendable, and this morning the pair performed much better with the oarlock properly lowered. The boat did give us some aggravation this morning, though; when we received the boat, the bolt holding in the shoes to the foot-stretchers on the right was missing a cap nut, or for the matter anything to hold the shoes down to the frame. Yesterday I applied a temporary solution of some sort of pin that held fine during steady state, but failed repeatedly during our power strokes today. Having the right shoe lift off the frame and fall back at the release is quite a problematic dilemma, particularly when that’s the shoe controlling the steering. A quick walk over to the hardware store, as well as Marty’s first experience with a flower lady, and we have a set of nuts that should relieve the problem, and hopefully be the last issue we have with the pair.

Marty and I are racing this Saturday at the Reading Town Regatta down the river in Reading, and then in the spare pairs race this following Tuesday. We have no idea how the competition for either even will be, so far. The only other pairs we’ve seen have been those entering the, I hesitate to say ‘legit’, but the actual pair race; I digress. I can’t believe I have seven give-or-take days of actual rowing left, like, ever. It’s still not something I’ve been able to comprehend very well, even though I’ve known it was coming since I began this year anyway. I know there’s people out there that have been doing rowing for longer, but to be done with rowing at least on a competitive level after seven-odd years is still something absurdly incomprehensible to me. I’m sure it’ll be more comprehensible after it happens, though. My high school rowing career ended with my eight finishing DFL in the semifinals of the high school national championship in Saratoga, New York, but I’m hoping my collegiate career can end a little more spectacularly. Hopefully it ends with a bang, and not the bang of us hitting the boom.

June 22, 2010
By: Tucker Anderson, Stroke, Men’s Varsity Stroke 4+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Accounting
Hometown: Rockford, MI
High School: Rockford High School

After the day of traveling, it was back to work this morning. The day was unusually warm for England, and the twenty minute walk was most enjoyable as it took us through the small streets of Henley. Then suddenly we were on the historic course. The walk took us through Leander boathouse, where many rowing greats have trained including Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, and then to a giant tent filled with boat racks which will be filling with boats as the Henley Royal Regatta nears. The 4+ we used was the same boat as the women’s 4+ and we made the needed adjustments to the oars and the rig. While adjusting the rigging we met the Yale coxswain whose boat is also in the Prince Albert Cup event and will also need to qualify in the time trail. We chatted for a bit and then got down to business. The morning practice was just a swing row to get used to the new boat and get the sightseeing out of the way. The boat was a little shaky at first but once we got into a nice rhythm it was moving well. We still have to do some work at the higher rates in order to prepare for the races at Henley.

Following practice we made a stop at the local grocery store where we got some British lunch food, and then proceeded to walk from the grocery store to our house. We had lunch and then we were free to do what we wanted until evening practice. Some of us went out and exchanged our money and then went out to explore the town. When we returned the World Cup was on TV and tomorrow is a big day here with England playing for a spot in the final 16.

Our second practice was steady state pyramid work with a few bursts at race pace. We were able to get some video of the bursts and later will watch them and see what we need to fine tune for our time trial on Friday evening. We will need to get top 8 in the time trial of 33 in order to be able to race in the Henley Royal Regatta. Though we don’t have our first race until Friday and the Henley Royal Regatta doesn’t start until next week, there is a lot of energy in the air. It feels like every day is race day.

June 22, 2010
By: Martin Reed, Stroke seat in the Spare Pair
Year & Major: Sophomore, History
Hometown: Lincoln Park, MI
High School: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School

Yesterday June 21, I took my first Trans-Atlantic trip to England. I had mixed emotions about the long journey ahead. I was pumped to go to a country that I always wanted to see. I was nervous about how everything was going to be in England. I felt homesick and I missed my girlfriend. At 4:00AM Monday morning, it was go time. I was groggy but ready to go. All the training that happened, all the time spent on technique, and all the time trials were about to pay off.

At 4:45AM my dad dropped me off in one of the Grand Valley Parking lots. The men were beginning to assemble. We filed into open seats in the cars and drive to the airport. From there we were rushed into baggage check in and hurried to the gate. We got on the first plane and flew to Chicago. Three hours later in Chicago, we boarded the London-bound plane. We take off from Chicago and are on our way to Henley.

The Trans-Atlantic flight was long about 8 hours of solid airtime. What was cool to me was seeing Michigan and much of Canada’s cities before flying over the ocean. Once over the ocean, there was nothing really exciting to see out h the window. As we were coming into London’s Heathrow airport, the sun was rapidly setting and it was gorgeous. The red sky seemed to travel for miles. Looking down I could see much of Ireland and Great Britain. It was cool to see the whole outline of Great Britain before we touched down.

When we landed it was official, we were in England. The feeling was unreal. I am in England. Customs was easy to get in to. I filled out a card that explained all my information. In my opinion, going to Britain is easier than going to Canada. We were awake for some of the night. Coach B was the first to greet us after customs. We gathered our luggage and headed for the bus. We crammed the small bus with our oars and the trailer with our luggage.

As we were traveling through the outskirts of London into the city of Henley, it was dark and eerie. Not much light reflected the road we were on. Then we reach Henley around midnight. We pile all of our stuff into the Henley house and begin to settle down for the night. The next morning we got up, made breakfast and went to the Henley course. On the way, we were walking by old buildings that resembled buildings from Greenfield Village.

As we went over our boats, I was surprised to see our boats that we rented were in good shape. My pair partner and I adjusted to the boat real well. Going down the course was an experience of its own. I was passing old boats that moved rather quick but did not wake us out. It was really cool to see really good rowers pass you by rowing tickless. Coming down the race course was a battle. The lanes are only two boats wide and there are two booms that lay in the water that separate the lane where boat go to the starting line and the race course.

After the row, the team went to an English supermarket. It was different because all the foods and items were scattered differently than a supermarket in the US. You would pay more money for lesser portions. It was different seeing drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi in different bottles.

I cannot wait for the next days to come here in England. It is a completely different world than in the States.

June 21, 2010
By: Mark McIlduff, 7 seat, 8+
Year & Major: Masters in Biostatistics
Hometown: Grand Blanc, MI
High School: Flint Powers Catholic High School

We arrived to our house in Henley at 12:30am local time. The flight was painless and most of us slept at least through half of it. Getting on the flight, however, was one of the more stressful things we have had to do this year. We decided last minute to bring our oars from Allendale to Henley. The only problem was that the plane from GRR to O’Hare was not large enough to fit the cargo. So, Scott Feil and I rented a U-Haul and drove to Chicago. This was easy. The Feil’s welcomed us into their household with open arms for the night. Leaving for the airport at 5am was not a problem either. We dropped the U-Haul off and the Zelenka’s offered to take us the rest of the way to the airport. No problem. However, when we arrived to the airport, American Airlines had no record of us bringing the oars on the plane to England. The following conversation with the supervisor was extremely difficult and almost caused Scott and I to miss the flight. In the end, we were able to get the oars on the plane. Mission accomplished.

I woke up early today, very early. I couldn’t sleep. We need to find more speed, and I have been obsessing over it. The women picked up speed over the last couple of weeks, but it wasn’t quite enough, as they fell in the grand final of the Henley Women’s Regatta. Didn’t they prepare enough? Have we?

The last four weeks have been spent in full out training camp mode. Week one, I logged 800 minutes of training; week two, 1000 minutes; week three, 1100 minutes; and week four, 1200 minutes. The first week consisted of pairs, singles, and ergos. Mostly interval work and long sessions of steady state in preparation for an ergo test the following Monday. Week two started off with an ergo test for selection into the pairs matrix. It went well for the most part. The pairs were set, and we did several time trial races over the course of the week. The pieces lasted roughly ten minutes and switches were made between reps. It was an intense welcome to training. Week three consisted of more seat racing in pairs and fours. Over the weekend we finally got into the eight and were able to do pieces on dead water. The times were quick, but we knew that we could go faster. Week four concluded the selection for the eight. We seat raced in fours and got in many more rows in the eight. In all, we did thirty-four pieces for selection lasting anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes in three weeks. We worked our 1500m splits on the dead water down to 4:19. It is a GVSU record, but we need to be about 3 seconds faster over the same distance to compete here. The guys summed up the last month as a spring break training camp that lasted four weeks, only harder. We are getting there, we will be ready. The following eight days will consist of training to find extra speed. Any hidden speed that is out there, we will find. We will work on our start, adjust to the boat, and attack every day with an intensity we haven’t had. At least we have our oars.

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