Henley Royal Regatta Journal ’08
July 5th, 2008
By: Lisa Malloure, Coxswain
Year and Major: Senior, Biomedical Sciences
Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI
High School: Marian High
HS Activities: Figure skating 4 years
Four years ago, I walked into Grand Valley wondering what I was going to do with my new found freedom away from home. I figured that I would have enough on my plate with school, but I wanted to find something else to be involved in. Skating seemed to be a suitable extracurricular activity since that is what I had spent all my free time doing in high school.
While walking into Kliener one afternoon for lunch, I was approached by a rower. She said, “Are you interesting in rowing?” I responded with “No, rowing is not my thing. I have no upper body strength!” That statement shows how little I knew about rowing at the time. I reluctantly took the slip of paper she handed me and continued on. The next day, on my way to class, I was approached…again. This time the rower asked me if I would be interested in coxing. What? Coxing? Is that English? She then explained to me that I was the perfect size to sit in the stern of the boat and steer. She also said, “You get to tell big, strong men what to do…and they have to listen.” Now I was convinced that this was definitely not my thing.
I reluctantly attended the information meeting the following week just to see what this was all about. Along with information about the sport itself and practice times, we watched video of the varsity’s race from their previous trips to Croatia and England. From that point on, I was interested. I figured it would be neat to participate in a sport that took place outside of an ice arena.
On my first day at the boathouse, we did 500m erg relays. What a first day! I had no idea what all the numbers on the erg screen meant. My screen displayed a “2:11” while the erg next to mine said “2:04.” The funny part is that I thought I was going faster because my number was higher than the girl’s next to me.
Over the next two weeks, we were taken out on the water and I rowed bow seat every single time. I sat there, going backwards doing nothing more than getting my blade wet. I thought that maybe this rowing thing would work out, for I discovered that it was mostly leg strength that moved the boat. Leg strength. Now that I had from spending my life skating.
As soon as I thought I was getting the hang of rowing, Keith pulled me aside to ask me what I thought about coxing. I told him that I wouldn’t be good at it, but he convinced me to give it a try. I had no idea what I was doing. My first time coxing I managed to steer the boat into fallen trees alongside the riverbank. I did not have a clue as to what to say to these girls. Keith ended up coxing from the launch while I sat there quietly. Towards the end of practice, I even beached the boat on the sandbar…I was so close to making it back to the dock!
I coxed for the following dozen or so practices until one day I was put back in bow seat because someone didn’t show up for practice. That day we were going to row to the electric lines without stopping. Those 3000 meters seemed like forever. I must have caught about 10 crabs within 1500 meters of the dock. It was then I realized Keith was right. Being 4’11” was not suitable for rowing, but it is perfect for coxing.
Freshman year was fun. We enjoyed ourselves although our boat was not that fast. We were eliminated in the Women’s Novice Eight heats in Philadelphia at our first Dad Vail Regatta. We used to tell people that we got 4th at our national championship regatta. We failed to mention that the 4th place was in the heats.
That year I thought that coxing for Keith was difficult…that is until I met coach Bancheri. Sophomore was a long, hard year. It was one of transition for the team as well as myself. In the fall, I often stroked the launch and only on occasion was I put in the JV women’s eight…for half of a practice. Coach had little patience for all the mistakes I made. Every mistake was a ticket for a ride in the launch. I stayed persistent although I thought that I would not be placed in a boat come spring.
Through out the year, many changes were made around the boathouse. We learned a new style of rowing. Practices seemed longer and harder, but this year everyone was on a mission. Bancheri led us to set a goal of a Dad Vail Gold (DVG) for the entire season. Having the trailer packed on Friday night was no longer an option. The previous year, making the grand final at the Dad Vail seemed impossible, however, our goal this year was a DVG. We were challenged to rise to the next level. Average and mediocre were not accepted. Coach set the bar very high. Often times the set standard seemed to be too high.
That spring, I ended up coxing for the men’s team. How ironic considering I was the quiet girl from an all girls Catholic high school. Although the men’s eight was not fast enough to be taken to Dad Vails, I coxed the varsity men’s four. Results that year showed that the program was on the right path under coach’s leadership. Out of the seven Grand Valley boats, five made it into the finals in Philadelphia. However, there was still much room to improve in the coming year.
Junior year began right where sophomore year left off. The standard was set even higher. The goal was to have a competitive men’s eight come spring season. We spent most of the year rowing pairs and fours. This paid off when we were able to assemble a men’s eight that reached speeds I had never been a part of. We were able to execute our ‘perfect’ race in the Vails semi-final, however, it was not enough. Jacksonville just barely edged us out of the final. Ending the year with a race like that left everyone hungry for more speed in the coming year.
My senior year finally arrived! This was going to be THE year. For the fourth year in a row, 6am practices began along with classes. For the third year, I was the leader of the men’s eight. The fall season began in a big way. We raced at the Head of the Charles and placed fourth in the Collegiate Varsity Eight. This was followed by Grand Valley domination at Head of the Hooch. These victories set us up for a great spring season.
I was very excited. The coming season was going to be a very busy one with SIRAs, Vails, ACRAs and Henley on our schedule. I was determined to improve my abilities to make the men’s eight row to its potential. I think I learned more about coxing and rowing this semester than I had the past three years. Things started to come together for myself as well as the boat.
The boat gained speed through out the entire season. We consistently made the grand final at all events. SIRAs and Vails came and went. Although our final races at these regattas were disappointing, they were learning experiences for us all. We learned that we had to capitalize on what we do well as opposed to trying to match other crews at what they do best.
This lesson came at the perfect time. I was so focused on executing our perfect race at ACRAs. I concentrated all my time and efforts into preparing myself and my crew for this race. All our efforts paid off in Oklahoma City. We had our best race. We finally rowed to our potential when it counted the most…we finished 3rd in the club national varsity eight. This was the culmination of all the hard work of the past four years.
Riding this wave of momentum, practices began for the Henley Royal Regatta. I couldn’t believe that we were actually going to England to race in the world’s oldest regatta. Freshman year when the seniors talked about their trip to England, I wished that I would have that same opportunity. I never thought it would become a reality though.
Now as I sit here reflecting on this trip and my past four years I realize that this trip has been four years in the making. Everything I learned about rowing and coxing in the past four years has contributed to my success this spring season. This trip has surpassed every single one of my expectations. It is the perfect ending to my rowing career at Grand Valley. We had three great races. We definitely represented our university and our country well. As was pointed out to me, no one can ever take away from us the fact that my crew and I will be leaving Henley with a winning record for Grand Valley.
With all eight rowers returning for next year, this boat is bound to be dangerous. Although I won’t be a part of the boat next year, I will be watching. I will be cheering them on, this time from the shore.
July 4th, 2008
By: Adam Cecil, Bow Seat
Year, Major: Junior, Sociology
Ht. and Wt.: 6’0” 168lbs.
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
High School: Grosse Ile High School
HS Activities: Rowing 4 years
The preparation, the rows at 4am, the fundraising through shirts and rent rowers, the organizing for months and the traveling had all accumulated into what would be our biggest battle. On the 4th of July, an appropriate day for battle to say the least. In case you have not read the update on the front page, we would go on to lose this particular battle by 2/3 of a length to Trinity. It was a great race to watch and be a part of, with both crews drawing the best out of each other.
The day and the night before was a typical pre race night. We all slept well, went to the course and had a great warm up. After our final practice start, probably our best start we had done, Lisa put our mood into perspective by saying, “We’re ready”. It was clear that neither of our crews would be intimidated, unready or un-composed.
Our initial start strokes were dead even with Trinity with them eventually pulling away on the high 20. We would continue to hold on to them through out the course of the race. The largest lead they ever had was a length and a quarter. It was clear that this was going to come down to a close finish. Approaching the roar of the grand stands, we increased our “rate of striking” to a 38 with pure power and started taking back seats; decreasing their lead to a half a length.
You could feel it in the boat; the sprint was an accumulation of all that we had done, all who have been supporting us, all that we had trained for and all that was going to come. We knew that Trinity was ECAC champions, beating Michigan by a length, and we had just recently lost to Michigan by a length. According to back door seat racing, we should loose to them by 2 lengths. So it’s clear to us that we have increased speed through out this month, and this trip has helped that tremendously.
It’s always hard to feel good about losing, were disappointed, but its clear that this is not the end but a stepping stone to greater speed. Close races like this can fuel the drive to work and train harder than ever before and with our entire 8 coming back next year, our drive is doubled. It would be in everyone’s best interested to stay tuned to our events next year.
When we came off the water, which is always a mixture of emotions after a well rowed but lost race, a very tall man guided our boat into the tents. I recognized him as Mathew Pinsett, a 4 time Olympic gold medalist rower form Great Britain, perhaps the greatest of all time. I’m not one to rely on signs but this was, at the very least, a good and motivating event to happen at the end of a hard fought year.
July 3, 2008
By: Tom Beebe, 2 Seat
Year, Major: Sophomore, Nursing
Height, Weight: 6’0”, 155 lbs
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
High School: Grand Haven High School
HS Activities: Swimming 3 years; Sailing 4 years; Water Ski team
Sleep came well for us last night even though there was much excitement to be had after our first round victory. Each day of racing concludes with an online posting for the next day’s lane assignments and time of start. Having discovered our 5:30pm start time, we opted for an early morning row to work on improving technique we had noticed in the video taken from the umpire launch. Once on the water, we had a chance to loosen up after the night and buckle down on improving the things that could save us valuable seconds in the race later on. The conditions were extremely nice on river as opposed to the jostle of race time, helping our crew focus on the particulars discussed at crew meeting.
We arrived at the B&B in time for breakfast and many of us decided to take a quick nap before lunch was prepared. The Wimbledon tennis championship is on continuously and many of us have taken favorites to root for in the down times between racing and eating. Coach Bancheri has also illustrated his dominance in Scrabble, setting many of us straight in the first few rounds of the game. He’s bound to fall some time, we hope. Clearly I am not the one to beat him. Lunch continues to be extravagant as we often have leftovers from our delicious dinners the night before. After eating, I enjoyed a fine nap until it was time to prepare to row. We try to be awake at least 3 hours before a race to get our bodies awake and ready to perform.
The walk to the boat tents was full of excitement, knowing that today would be a little harder than yesterday. We each knew what we had to work on to make the race better than the last one. Arriving early at the tent, we were able to get ample time to stretch and erg before launching. The trip to the start line was increasingly bumpy as there are easily twice as many spectators compared to the day before.
Once in the start gate, we were able to see our competition, the Shrewsbury School, a smaller boat, but not one to be taken easily. Off the start, our crew maintained clean powerful strokes to pull out an early lead on our opponent. Maintaining a steady and strong pace, Grand Valley continued to lengthen to over Shrewsbury until a comfortable lead had been established. Our cheering section is growing each day as well. Each landmark we passed also provided a chant or cheer helping us on our way to victory.
Once the race was finished, both crews exchanged a ‘hip hip hooray!’ before putting up the boats. Another great meal awaited us at the bed and breakfast and we have just been informed of our race time for tomorrow. Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut will face off with Grand Valley at 10:00am Friday morning. We are all anxious to race our hardest.
Each day here is more amazing than the previous. The people are great and the competition better. A special thanks to everyone who helped our crew get this far. Hopefully you are enjoying our experience as well as we are.
July 2, 2008
By: Breck Davis, 3 Seat
Year, Major: Sophomore, Nursing
Height, Weight: 6’6”, 190 lbs
Hometown: Portage, MI
High School: Portage Central High School
HS Activities: Cycling 2 years; Poker Club 4 years
We woke up this morning with a little surprise, Coach decided to wake us without singing. Its the Second of July, the first day of Henley Royal Regatta, the day that we get to show these international crews just a taste of what was to come. We all came down stairs between 7 and 8 to have a light breakfast and to start preparing for our race at 11:05 am. The breakfast included chocolate filled croissants, cereal, orange juice and milk. After eating, Lisa, Coach Mark and Coach John went down to the race course to do a final tweak of the boat while Lisa had to weigh in. The rowers, on the other hand, had to stay at the house until an hour and a half until our race, and left around 9:25am. The walk down was just like every other time, it didn’t feel special, it just felt like a normal practice day. This was until we walked over the bridge and looked upon the river and saw everyone that was dressed up in their fancy attire. It was then that I truly realized how special this really was.
As we walked down to the launch/docking area, we had to show our competitor badges, this could have been difficult for our six seat, Eddie, for he lost his badge earlier that day or the day before. He got in without a hitch, by staying in the middle of a crowd of people and avoiding eye-contact with those checking for badges. Once we entered, we walked straight over to Bay N, where our boat was being kept, and started stretching. Not shortly thereafter, Coach and Lisa told us to head over to the erging area, for ten minutes of CAT VI to help us warm up, because there was a small warm-up area on the water. After erging, we went over to the stern of the boat for a small team meeting before we got hands on and were ready to launch. We launched around 10:30 am, roughly 35 minutes before our race, and did our pre-race warm-up (as told by Eddie Eisenhauer) heading downstream towards the start. After heading pass the start by roughly 500 meters, we finally turned around and did a few starts upstream and were ready for our race.
We rowed a few strokes past the starting blocks and Lisa had Geoff and Blake back us in. We were on the Bucks side, while the University of Warwick was on the Berks side. Sitting up at the catch, all of us felt fully prepared, we had the training, we had the power and we had the mental preparation, the only thing left was to blast off once that flag dropped. Attention………..GO, knees and bows, knees and bows, knees and bows, SWING. We started our high 20 with our rate around 43 strokes per minute, and we were slightly ahead. SHIFT HARD. We dropped our rate down to 36-37 strokes per minute, slowly increasing our lead, and as we would increase our lead our rate would slightly decrease, until we eventually settled at 31 strokes per minute. Throughout the race I was able to hear many people chant for Warwick, then once we hit the Grand Stands is where I heard chants for Grand Valley coming from the Sadek’s and the Leeds Crew. We finished 3 3/4 lengths ahead of the University of Warwick with a time of 7:02 over the 2112 meter course. After we finished, we did a small cool down lap down past the bridge, turned around and then docked. Upon docking…Coach John, Coach Mark and Justin Ott was there to congratulate us. We took the boat into the bay and right away the Warwick crew came over to congratulate us and to tell us “good race”.
Once we left the regatta, the Sadek family was nice enough to take us all out to lunch at the Catherine Wheel. We were all very thankful, because this meant that we didn’t have to make ourselves lunch. We were at the restaurant from 12:00 pm until 1:30 pm, where some of us walked back up the hill to the house, and then others went back to the race course waiting to see who will win between Eton and Shrewsbury (winner will be our next race). Being up at the house wasn’t too exciting but from the stories I heard the race course had some interesting people (Adam saw a blonde girl with NO FACE), but i guess thats not really not too important. Coach John was given a ticket to enter the Stewards Enclosure by Coach Simon Johnson (also a Stampfli rep), to where he happily strolled off to and upon being there struck up a conversation with a gentleman named John of the Thames Rowing Club (his crew raced our women last week) who first started rowing at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1962 and has been a member of the Stewards Enclosure ever since. While speaking with him, he insisted that Coach visits over the next two days and presented him two valuable passes and told him to share them with his rowers so that they can experience what the enclosure has to offer. After a few hours of socializing, John finally returned to read his e-mail. Coach and the rest of us were pleased to hear from the alumni, President T. Haas, and former rowing coach Chad Jeddlic, all congratulating us on being the first crew to get past the first round and wishing us luck on our next race. After reading us the e-mails, we all watched video, that was recorded by Assistant Coordinator of Sports (also the Mens Hockey Coach), to see how we could improve for our next race. After we were done watching video, some of us went to the store to buy bread, while others chopped up vegetables for dinner. Dinner consists of pasta, marinated vegetables and bread.
July 1, 2008
By: Justin Ott, Spare (port and starboard)
Year, Major: Junior, Health Professions
Height, Weight: 6’2”, 175 lbs
Hometown: Goshen, IN
High School: Goshen High School
HS Activities: Music 4 years; Track and Field 4 years; Cross Country 2 years; Football 1 year; Basketball 1 year
The first of July came to us just like every other day. But today, which is the day before the Temple Challenge Cup begins, was a test for the spare rowers, Mark McIlduff (Graduate Assistant Men’s Coach), and myself. The test was the Jesus College Spare Pair race held at the Henley Royal Regatta.
We arrived at the race course on our planned schedule and to our surprise we made it just in time at the race officials meeting to receive our number and bracket for racing. Seeing the bracket, we noticed that the first race of the day was us. On top of that, races occurred every 30 minutes for each race we had won. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” This quote served as the central attitude for Mark and I as we endured the racing today.
At 10:00 am, the first race of the day happened for us as we went up against Salisbury School located here in England. In the pair, Mark was the bow seat and controlled the steering of the boat and I was the stroke seat. Both nervous, we approached the start line and knew exactly how to row this race despite the minimal practice time we have had as well as racing experience together as a pair. The first race was underway and we were tied off of the line with Salisbury. For the first half of the race, we took inches every stroke and then by the second half of the race, Coach Bancheri on his bicycle yelled out to bring it down and we were lengthened our stroke rate and walk away from Salisbury as they got tired and fell behind. Race #1: Victory by open water.
As Mark and I rowed up to the dock and stop for a few minutes to catch our breathes, we decided to use a boat that was lighter and would be easier to race for the next race. We set off in our new boat and rowed up to the start. It was more difficult to row this boat because no coach on our staff had done “surgery” on the boat to make it suitable for Mark and myself. We pulled into the start for the second race which was against St. Joseph Preparatory School of the United States. To our surprise, the athletes were assistant coaches, which were allowed since any pair could enter this race as long as they have a boat in any of the other scheduled races. The second race began and immediately we had trouble controlling this new boat. Steering was much more difficult for Mark and the oar was setup much too tall for me. The difficulties led to disaster as our boat got sucked into the barrier of the race course and our boat got stuck. We stopped for a costly six seconds as the St. Joseph pair pulled way out in front leaving us boat lengths behind. The opportunity was still there for us as we continued the row despite the unfortunate accident that slowed us down. With 250 meters left, Coach Bancheri installed confidence in us telling us that we were just a boat length behind. As we brought the rate up, the other boat crashed into the barrier at the end of the race and our chances at winning the event were still alive as we pulled ahead. Race #2: Victory by a pair length
Surprised and happy, Mark and I rowed it off and decided to switch boats for the last time, back to our old boat. It was easier to row and it fit us much better despite it being a slightly slower boat. Our final race was against University of Witwatersrand of South Africa. Very exhausted from our come from behind victory in the second race, we pulled into the start of the third race and off we went. The start of the race was much straighter and better with technique. However, we got beat off of the line. 500 meters into the race, we were down by a pair length. Still determined and tired, we carried on. Half way through the race, Witwatersrand had open water on us. The last 500 meters, we brought up the rate and the speed naturally came. We were moving and catching the other boat one stroke at a time. The rate keeps on rising, a few beats every 100 meters. Finally in the last 100 meters, we pull even with the boat from South Africa and it wasn’t until the last few strokes when we had won the race. Race #3: Victory by a deck.
Mark and I were met by celebration from teammates, Coach Bancheri, and Denny. We had won the Jesus College Spare Pair race and were congratulated by officials of the race. A trophy was presented to us as well as shields, which are like plaques that have our names inscribed on them, which will be delivered to us when they are made. To celebrate, Coach Bancheri invited us to come along on a bus tour that Denny had lined-up to see some sights of England and it was fabulous. The sites of the English country side were spectacular and memorable from the first. It was truly a great way to celebrate a tough victory. The races today proved the point that you should never give up no matter what happens, and I hope it served as an indication of things to come for our program this week!
June 30, 2008
By: Jeffrey Slater, Seat 4
Year, Major: Junior, Business Admin.
Height, Weight: 6’6”, 178 lbs
Hometown: Cedarville, MI
High School: Cedarville High School
HS Activities: Basketball 4 years; Eagle Scout
We woke this morning, yet again, to coach’s voice singing some tune that no one truly cares about when they are just waking up (except maybe him). I personally woke up to Coach Mark looking at me and we had an awkward moment staring at each other briefly. The team then ate breakfast and headed down to the Thames to prepare for another scrimmage against the Canadian High School Rowing Champions. The warm up we did is described thoroughly by Eddie’s blog. The racing went well for the most part, we won some and lost some, but both crews did gain speed since the last time we met.
After the racing coach had a picnic ready for us as soon as we shelved our boat. The picnic included cold cuts for subs and fruit for just munching on. Once the lunch was over we had another short row just to flush out some of the lactic acid from the races we did in the morning.
After we got off the water for the second time we walked back up to the house and chilled out before going to the Henley Regatta Reception. Getting cleaned up was a pain in the butt because we only had one shower between the 11 of us and only a few hours to get all the bathing in. Following that fiasco, which ended up being not too bad, we all got snazzed up in our blazers and khakis, definitely a good looking crew.
The reception was a great experience. I have never been in a room with so many people who were dressed to the max and ready to compete against each other in just two days being completely friendly with each other. The food was pretty good too, a little interesting to look at but it tasted good enough. Some of the guys chilled with the Trinity ladies for a decent amount of time before we had to depart back to the house.
Back at the house Denny made an excellent dinner for us, which most of us are currently eating and enjoying. For me it’s a real treat to eat some good food because I was ill for the past couple of days not being able to keep anything of substance down, so that was a great time for me to actually eat a good amount of food.
Every one is excited to race and the anticipation to dominate is definitely growing. Justin and Coach Mark are racing tomorrow in the Jesus College Spare Pairs race in the morning and the eight is racing Wednesday.
It really is great to be here and we are here because of everyone who was on the team. They all pushed us to train and get us as fast as we could get and hopefully we can bring back some hardware for all the hard work they forced us to do. Thank you to all the athletes and supporters who could make this trip possible for us!
Quote of the day: “Blanco niño!”
June 29, 2008
By: Ryan League, 5 seat
Year, Major: Sophomore, Biology
Ht. and Wt.: 6’6” 200 lbs.
Hometown: Grosse Pointe, MI
High School: University Liggett School
HS Activities: Soccer 4 years; Ice Hockey 4 years; Tennis 4 years
Yesterday evening, we were granted the pleasure of a fine home cooked Italian meal (compliments of Giovanni) amongst warm company with several lads from Leeds University. After unfortunately being eliminated in the qualifying races, they were eager to appease their burdens of defeat with a hearty feast and an exchange of stories and kit (what they refer to as rowing clothing). Much to our surprise, Coach presented the team with a rare yet generous gift: the opportunity to take to the town and experience genuine Henley nightlife, but only upon the promise of some Category VI dancing. Undoubtedly, we accepted this gracious reward and waddled out of the house, absolutely gorged from the preceding feast. It was both liberating and relaxing to simply be in the company of good friends while we immersed ourselves in prime English culture. We found ourselves at a place called the Catherine’s Wheel where the dance floor patiently awaited our feet. Much to our surprise, our coxie Lisa was first and only to draw attention, as a young English lad requested a dance or perhaps something else as he was visibly inebriated. We left the Wheel rather early, content with ourselves yet ready for something much greater.
A morning of sleeping in found everyone well rested and miraculously famished as we soon devoured another delectable spread of assorted breakfast foods. With the morning off of practice, the boys were given the opportunity to explore the region and its numerous attractions. Coincidentally however, the majority of the group found itself at the Henley River & Rowing Museum, receiving free admission because of our association to the regatta. We found tremendous history and pride in both the sport of rowing and the Henley region, as we left feeling both educated as well as motivated. From there we made our way to the racecourse to say ‘goodbye’ to the Commander Jackson and ‘hello’ to the Norman Guiver as we graciously accepted the one piece Resolute midweight 8+ from a crew eliminated in the qualifying races. The inaugural row in the new boat this evening went quite well, leaving the crew with more confidence and perhaps a bit more speed. The walk home from the course, across the narrow bridge, through the quaint streets, past the town hall, and up the lazily winding hill was rewardingly relaxing. There seemed a certain swagger in our steps as we ascended the hill to our charming Henley home. I can certainly feel the anticipation building in the boys as we approach our first race; with each practice, the boat glides more smoothly, and each stroke more efficient. I surely cannot wait until we can relish in what the first race of the Henley Royal regatta has to offer. Now I join the boys in the family room to witness a true English pastime: the final of the Euro Cup 2008 between Germany and Spain (football as it was intended to be).
June 28, 2008
By: Eddie Eisenhauer, 6 seat
Year, Major: Sophomore, Nursing
Ht. and Wt.: 6’6” 190lbs.
Hometown: New Lothrop, MI
High School: New Lothrop High School
HS Activities: Football 4 years; Basketball 4 years; Track and Field 4 years
This morning we were able to sleep in a little bit after our eight hour London excursion yesterday, which everyone was grateful for. It was a little harder for some of us to get out of bed as a few guys decided to walk around London and forgo the subway, which is another story in itself. For breakfast we had our usual croissants, cereal, and fruit; always a good way to start the day before rowing.
For our morning practice of the day we started going up stream with our pre-race warm-up that includes stern six progressive stroke drills, which is top six inches, legs only, legs and back, and finally legs back and arms. The bow six repeats the same process. After that we pick it up by all eight and throw some quarter slides in gradually increasing speed each set of quarter slides. On our way back down the course we practiced our starts, which undoubtedly is the most important part of the race. We followed the starts up by doing a light swing row back upstream. Downstream we did start again, to help get the kinks out and work on timing.
We came back to the house for lunch where Denny had a truly American lunch awaiting us of grilled cheese, hot dogs and beans. We then sat around the house, some of the guys watched Wimbledon, while the rest of us napped.
Next we went to town hall for what we’ve been waiting for all week, the draw. The town hall was packed full of people standing and sitting in anticipation to see who they will be racing in the up coming week. The draw pit us against Warwick, we pretty much don’t know anything about them except that everyone we asked told us that it would be a good starting race.
For our afternoon we practice we did a few laps around the race course at a low intensity and we threw in a couple of low level starts. Once we finished with practice we left back to the house to help coach with dinner, because we are entertaining a few lads from Leeds, which is an English University that’s pretty close to Henley.
June 27, 2008
By: Blake Donovan, 7 seat
Year, Major: Junior, Social Studies
Ht. and Wt.: 6’3” 190lbs.
Hometown: Brighton, MI
High School: Brighton High School
HS Activities: In season hunting 4 years
We set ourselves up last night for a monumental Friday. Coach Bancheri made a delicious stir fry that was a stroke of culinary genius. However, Coach never had a chance to realize his genius as we emptied the pan before he even grabbed a plate. For better or worse, Coach has sworn off cooking for the remainder of the trip.
This morning, sure as the sun in the east, my nine teammates and I rose from our slumber. Warm, flakey, buttery croissants waited at the breakfast table to abate our hunger; a striking contrast to our steely resolve as we thought ahead to today’s practice. Canadian Schoolboy Champions, Shawnigan Lake from British Colombia, Canada agreed to race four 500 meter pieces against us. The four pieces also served as seat racing for selection of our final boat lineup.
The day was overcast with a strong headwind prevailing down the course. We lined our boat up beside Shawnigan Lake on the narrow Henley course. Showing a lot of speed off the line, Shawnigan Lake won the first 500 meter piece. Shawnigan Lake managed to pull out ahead on the second 500 as well. After a few days of low rate technical rowing, the all out 500 meter races were definitely something we had to get back into the swing of. After swapping the seat racers in three seat of our boat we realigned ourselves for the last two 500 meter pieces of the day. A tie and a half boat length victory was the end result of the final two pieces. It felt good to get the body and the boat moving fast again.
After practice the team headed to London for a lot of CAT VI walking. We arrived in London by way of train. It was neat to see the London country side and various towns pass by outside the train window. Once in London the team broke off into three groups to see the sites. As the rain started to fall my group jumped on the subway and headed immediately for the museums. All the major museums were free and had all the exhibits you could imagine. After the museums we made our way to Big Ben. As I climbed the stairs out from the dank subway tunnel I was immediately overwhelmed by the majesty of Big Ben and the Parliament building. There should be warning signs as you exit the underground! After eight hours in London we made our way to all the major sights: Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, ect. I could easily spend weeks taking in all London has to offer. The eight hours I spent in London will definitely be some of the most memorable in my life.
June 26, 2008
By: Geoff Sadek, Stroke
Year, Major: Junior, Biomedical Sciences
Ht. and Wt.: 6’3” 200lbs.
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: Forest Hills Northern
HS Activities: Rowing 2 years; Cross country 1 year
The first practice was one of introductions. Not only were we meeting the racecourse and the waters for the first time, but we also began our courtship with our new flagship- the aptly named “Commander Jackson.” The boat and her crew may have been wary at first, but once out on the water, there was no more time to be wasted.
Some may believe that the first row after travel is one to ‘get the kinks out.’ For us it seemed as though it were another day on the Grand. After a hesitant first few strokes, it was down to business, sharpening bladework and timing. We rowed downstream, forging an intimate relationship with the vessel and its waters, passing a circus of crews. Among those we passed were fellow US citizens and IRA finalists Columbia. In all it was a smooth row, though we noted the winds and currents for future reference.
We returned to the B&B to the wonderful aroma of spaghetti, and found a delicious spread waiting on the kitchen table. The dinner was prepared by our honorary assistant coach Denny (aka Pebbles). After dinner was cleared away, few remained downstairs at the time of ‘curfew.’ Even coach had passed out on the couch, head resting on his shoulder in front of the TV.
There was little dissension when we were sent to bed- and very little time before we had all passed out. However, Blake found the energy to prance around the rooms singing, “Welcome to the main event…” in various levels of clothing.
Lisa was impressed.
Lisa was also impressed by the large painting of a nude man she found in her bed. She asked around the room to see who put it there so she could thank them profusely.
Quote of the day:
We were awakened (40 minutes early) to the melodious sounds of some forest animal being strangled in the hallway. When we managed to open our eyes, we found no sign of any animal- only coach yodeling.
Breakfast saw a terrible mistake on the part of Justin and myself. We underestimated the amount of cereal we had put in our bowls, and so began a 20 minute suffer-fest. It would come back to haunt us later this afternoon…
This morning’s practice was another long steady state accompanied by some starts. With some minor adjustments to the rigging known here as “adding salt and pepper to the soup” apparently, we were pleased with the feel of the boat.
This afternoon brought little excitement, I passed out upstairs to the faint sounds of at least Eddie happily watching an episode of “Lazy Town.”
Evening practice was a battle against the wind. We spent time honing our catches and the quick reversal as the blade grips the water. We made two laps, one with Ryan and one with Justin, as they prepare for their seat race tomorrow.
After practice we were given a tour of Leander BC by Clive, a man we had met there this afternoon. The facilities were amazing… and pink. It would be amazing to one day row out of that boathouse.
June 25, 2008
By: Lisa Malloure, Coxswain
Year and Major: Senior, Biomedical Sciences
Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI
High School: Marian High
HS Activities: Figure skating 4 years
We finally arrived safely in Henley after traveling for almost 20 hours! We started the morning at the RTC creatively ‘weighing’ bags. Since the scale was broken, we had to be inventive. We improvised and compared each bag to my 46 pound bag. If it seemed to weigh less than the 46 pounder, it was allowed to be packed in the van. With a few close calls, all bags were cleared and we were on our way to Toronto.
It was smooth sailing to Toronto. Most people slept, we had a delicious meal and we breezed through customs at the Canadian border. We arrived at the airport to receive a few bewildered looks walking in with oars in hand. Even one of the airline officials asked, “What do you play with those?” as she pointed to the oars.
After an hour long ordeal of checking bags and oars, we hurried through security…only to have three hours left to spare before our flight. As I sat in the terminal wondering what I was going to do with three hours, the guys came back saying the found free drink samples. Leave it to them to scope out the “cute” girl serving free samples of gin drinks.
The three hours finally passed and we then embarked on our 8 hour flight to Gatwick. Time went by relatively quickly and we arrived in London around 9:30am local time. We flew through customs. As soon as we mentioned we were here to race at the Royal Henley, we were wished good luck and asked a few more rowing questions before being sent on our way. One customs official even asked Breck if he was the coxswain of the boat!
We continued on to claim all our bags and all 10 oars, unscathed. It was quite a feat to arrange ourselves and our belongings into 2 small minivans. After the seemingly impossible puzzle was solved, we made the 2 hour trip to Henley and got settled into our bed and breakfast. We will have our first practice on the Thames later this afternoon. How exciting!
June 24th, 2008
By: Adam Cecil, Bow Seat
Year, Major: Junior, Sociology
Ht. and Wt.: 6’0” 168lbs.
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
High School: Grosse Ile High School
HS Activities: Rowing 4 years
Henley training has been an experience like no other. Normally, when a team plans for a regatta, all the rower wants to know is “what work outs are we doing and when do we leave”? We show up to practice, pull on an oar, and await our departure. This is hard in itself, but training for the Henley Royal Regatta has not been just a rowing experience, but an all encompassing life experience. This regatta, more so than any other regatta, has required an extended amount of dedication and flexibility.
Take the training for example. If I was to tell the average rower what workouts we did they may not be particularly surprised. We revisited the small boats (pairs, singles and fours) in order to work on technique and timing. We kicked each others butts up and down the river doing time trails. We had seat racing and extra rows at night; these are things that I think any rower would expect when training for a prestigious event.
But if you were to ask us what TIME we did all these workouts at than you would receive an answer that would surprise even the more seasoned rowers. Due to multiple circumstances, jobs starting at 7am and ending at 5pm, night classes going from 6-9 pm, the only time we could practice as a team was to practice at 4 a.m., girls and guys. Just to clarify, my alarm needed to be set for 3:40 am, that’s right, 3:40 am. This process would be repeated 5 times in one week, for 3 weeks, often resulting in rowers who looked like zombies.
The training paid off though. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Practicing this hard this early makes one a little more rugged, a little more hungry and a whole lot more eager to race. Were going overseas to race some pretty fast and well funded varsity programs, they may have the advantage but we have the hunger. Did you, Harvard, have to get up at 3:40 in the morning to row? What about you Cornell, did any of your guys have to spray lawn chemicals for 10 hours after they rowed? How was the river on the west coast California, did you have to work to dodge debris? This line of thought will be a powerful motivator at the starting line in England.
Another dimension of Henley training, and another motivator, has been the fundraising aspect. Once again, because were club, we don’t get the trip paid for entirely like other big name schools. At the same time though, our coaches have done a phenomenal job of keeping cost low for the rowers. This could not have been done without the help of the Grand Valley community. Not only did the student senate provide additional funding for the costly trip but the faculty and staff at Grand Valley has hired out rowers through the rent-a-rower system. This provided many with a source of income in a time where our unique training makes it hard to hold a job.
Personally, if it was not for the faculty and staff here, I would not have been able to afford living here for another 3 weeks. Thankfully though, I was able to, and now a handful of rowers know a bundle of the staff here. We now know our professors and staff on a personal basis along with where they want their couch moved; how much dirt they prefer in their potted plants, and what cattails they want removed from their pond. They sincerely cared how fast our team was and knew a surprising amount about our sport. So when I say community, I mean community, we all feel more connected to our school. It’s a motivator to become a permanent part of this community, or at the very least, give back to it.
Our more recognizable fundraiser has been the selling of Henley shirts. Next to getting to know our staff, this fundraiser has provided me with another life experience that isn’t a part of your average regatta. If I were talking straight money here, this fundraiser earned me enough to go and than some. We even had to reorder shirts because the fundraiser was so popular. But more important than just money was the bond I developed with those who bought shirts. I emailed family members who I hadn’t spoken to in years, rekindling relationships that will go way beyond shirts. It’s given my entire family a common cause and something to root for (they are now ritualistic checkers of the Grand Valley rowing website). I learned about ancient family history tracing back to England (Apparently a former Cecil was good friends with the Queen, VIP treatment for me!). This is in addition to the dozens of other shirt buyers that trace back to my child hood, old rowing teams, and local neighbors.
Other aspects of Henley training like housing, finding substitute coxswains, coordinating suits, securing passports and watching the exchange rate all come second to the bonding experience this has had for our boat and coaches. The 10 rowers here now are not only the best rowers I have ever been with, but the best of people as well. If any trouble gets stirred up on the 4th of July while in England, these guys would have my back. It’s easy to see that anticipation is high, we all can’t wait to race, and I’m thankful for such a life experience.