Washington wanted a good race, and it got one. Two of them, in fact.
After Washington was routinely winning by 10 seconds or more in recent Windermere Cup feature races, UW director of rowing Bob Ernst invited Great Britain’s national team over for the Opening Day crew regatta this year. He got what he expected — high-intensity racing.
Competing against a program that collected more Olympic medals (nine) than any other country at the 2012 Games in London, Washington’s varsity boats earned a split Saturday in the 28th annual Windermere Cup on Montlake Cut.
The men, ranked No. 1 in college rowing, lost to Great Britain’s heavyweight eight by six seats, unable to keep pace with Great Britain’s vigorous pace over the final 500 meters. Great Britain hit the finish line in 5 minutes, 54 seconds, two ticks quicker than UW (5:56.0).
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Meanwhile, UW’s sixth-ranked women used a steady pace all 2,000 meters to outlast the Great Britain eight and win in 6:27.9, one length ahead of Britain (6:32.3).
“I knew Great Britain was going to bring really great athletes here,” said Ernst, who coaches UW’s women and has witnessed all 28 Windermere Cups in his 40 years with the program. “These were some of the most competitive races that I’ve seen.”
Both the UW men and women last lost Windermere Cups in 2006 when both fell to rowers from the Russian national team.
This year, the Huskies’ men’s crew was facing a mature, experienced crew. Great Britain men’s coach, Rob Dauncey, said his crew included rowers ranked seventh to 15th on his 30-man roster with an age range of 23 to 29. Though Washington held an early lead, the Huskies could not equal Great Britain’s finishing kick.
“We knew the Washington guys were going to throw everything at us in the first part of the race,” he said. “That’s quite often their race strategy. The second half of the race is where the training that we do really makes a difference. We were within a half-length halfway through the race, so we thought we’d be able to get them.”
Washington men’s coach Michael Callahan had no complaints about his crew’s performance.
“I think we had an exceptional first 1,500,” he said. “Once we got into the Montlake Cut they were pressing on us pretty hard.”
Senior Sam Dommer, who rows in the seventh seat, said it was “good to experience that now against such a high-caliber team. When we race against other collegiate teams, we’ll have an answer.”
In the women’s feature race, senior coxswain Maddy Johnston, a Ballard High grad, said a consistent pace carried UW to the victory.
“We were trading seats with GB all the way down,” she said. “We just stuck with our race pace, and we started moving ahead with around 750 (meters) to go. After that, we just kept taking seats.”
Ernst said the experience should benefit UW as the postseason nears.
“I wanted our kids to have a chance to have a really good race before the Pac-12 (championship on May 18),” he said. “They were really disappointed with their race against California last week (a 3.1-second defeat).
“That’s what you have your whole season for, to get ready for the end, and we hope to be at our best at the end of the season.”
• Washington boats won both Erickson Cup (second varsity) races. A trio of UW crews took the top three places in the men’s race (5:53.6 being the top time), and UW women (6:45.4) beat Western Washington by nearly eight seconds.
• Ernst estimated 40,000 spectators on land and along the log boom watched the races, conducted under shifting overcast skies that had some sunbreaks and only a few brief spurts of light rain.