Men’s crew earn automatic bid at Head of the Charles

| Senior Sports Editor

The Varsity 8 squad of the Washington University crew team took 17th place at the 2009 Head of the Charles Regatta and earned an automatic bid for next year’s regatta for the first time in program history.

The regatta, which is considered the capstone of the fall season, features more than 2,000 boats in dozens of races with more than a quarter of a million spectators in Boston.
The Bears battled cold wind and rain while racing in a field of 38 boats from various states and divisions. Wash. U. finished with a time of 16:37.290, edging out Rochester Institute of Technology by .152 seconds and Lehigh University by .292 seconds. The Red and Green defeated 21 crew teams overall, including squads from Duke, Boston College and UAA rivals University of Rochester and Emory University.

“Our guys might be smaller…but the amount of spirit and tenacity that they brought is really the whole point of our sport,” senior captain Jewell Thomas said.

With a staggered start and penalties, the team had little clue as to their final standing throughout the race.

“It takes a lot of self-motivation and a lot of work from the whole team and the coxswain to really get there,” junior Andrew Warshauer said.

As they navigated the approximately three-mile-long course, Wash. U. overtook two boats. A big part of the Bears’ success was attributed to junior coxswain David Ingber.

“I don’t think anybody this weekend steered a shorter course than Dave,” Thomas said. “Other boats would go real wide around these turns, but our oars would be draping over the buoys as we came around.”

Entering the regatta, there were some concerns. Six members of this year’s crew had never competed at the Head of the Charles. But the team did not seemed fazed.

“From the first stroke, it was just power,” Thomas said. “You could feel we were going to go, you could feel that this was just going to be a really, really beautiful race just from that first stroke.”

“It’s defintely the fitness that brought us to the level we’re at,” junior Ryan Bowers said.

The crew team practices six days a week with at least three hours on the water. This practice is augmented by running, rock climbing, weightlifting or other forms of exercise.
The team bond was another key factor in their high performance.

“If you’re not [in sync], the boat instantly falls apart,” Bowers said. “You get wet, the boat will tip from side to side…It’s actually a kind of scary feeling.”

“Ninety percent of a crew race is staying relaxed and trusting that there’s going to be power from the guys around you,” Thomas said. “The more relaxed you are, the faster the boat is going to go.”

Other members of the team that competed included juniors Connor Graham, Todd Anderson and Stephen Washburn, and seniors Derek Turnbull and senior Kirk Altman. The future is bright, as the the majority of the relatively young crew will return for the 2010 Head of the Charles.

The Red and Green have two more regattas to round out the semester, with a home competition in Creve Coeur during Parent’s Weekend and the Frostbite Classic in Wichita, Kan., in November.

  • http://crew.wustl.edu Connor Graham

    Just to clarify, “With a staggered start and penalties, the team had little clue as to their final standing throughout the race” doesn’t mean that we got any penalties–it’s just difficult to tell what the standings are because your finishing order doesn’t necessarily represent the final standings.