UW’s varsity eight and second varsity eight boats, both men’s and women’s, all earned open-water wins on a warm, sunny morning that featured only a minimal breeze.
In idyllic conditions in front of a large Opening Day audience, Washington crews zoomed to easy victories in all four trophy races at the 30th annual Windermere Cup Saturday on Montlake Cut.
UW’s varsity eight and second varsity eight boats, both men’s and women’s, all posted open-water wins on a warm, sunny morning where a modest headwind did not arrive until late in the 23-race schedule.
The women’s V8 won its 10th straight Windermere Cup with a nearly nine-second margin over the University of San Diego in 6 minutes, 25.902 seconds. Cambridge, a late fill-in for the Cuban national team that pulled out March 15 due to a busy international schedule during an Olympic year, made its fourth Windermere Cup appearance with what coach Rob Baker described as a mix of first- and second-tier rowers. Cambridge finished third, almost 15 seconds behind UW.
After falling to a pair of tough national teams, New Zealand and Great Britain, the past two years, the Washington men’s varsity eight cruised to a nearly seven-second win over Stanford in 5:41.627.
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Members of the Russian under-23 national team, also a late fill-in for Cuba, placed third, 10 seconds behind Stanford at 5:58.385.
Russian coach Alexander Litvinchev said through an interpreter that due to Olympic preparations, his crew Saturday consisted of third- and fourth-string rowers. That was understandable to UW men’s coach Michael Callahan, who was pleased with a first-place finish.
“We haven’t won for a couple of years, so a win was really important,” Callahan said.
“I told the guys when we came back from California (two weeks ago) that No. 1, winning the Cup was important. It’s your biggest home race. It’s in front of your fans, your family and all your friends, so it means a lot.”
The event is a nice send-off for both UW teams as they head into postseason competition. They compete at the Pac-12 championships next Sunday in Gold River, Calif.
The NCAA championships (women) begin May 27 in Gold River. The men will take aim at a sixth straight national title starting June 2 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships at Mercer Lake, N.J.
Both will cross paths next week with one of their top rivals, California.
The Cal men edged UW at Redwood Shores two weeks ago by a half-second. The women’s V8 fell by four seconds. Cal’s men are ranked No. 2, UW No. 3. In the women’s poll, Cal is No. 2, UW fourth.
Against 15th-ranked Stanford Saturday, the Huskies fell behind briefly in the first 500 meters.
“This race is tough,” said Callahan, who estimated the crowd to be the largest Cup gathering he has witnessed.
“There’s so much adrenaline involved in it that sometimes you feel a little tight. There’s so much amp here, so much energy. But they finally settled into a decent rhythm in the third 500 and stretched out. I liked our aggressive finish.”
Callahan said this youthful lineup, which includes sophomores Rielly Milne of Woodinville at coxswain and Shorewood grad Arne Landboe in the four seat (plus five international rowers and just one senior) is likely to row as a unit next week.
His confidence level is high.
“We’re teaching the guys a lot. A win today is important to build confidence,” said Callahan.
“We have to learn how to win. Against Cal, you’re not just going to have a good race and win. You’ll have to put it away at some point.”
• Women’s coach Conor Bullis has five seniors in his V8 boat, including Kentlake grad Sarah Dougherty. “They know how to perform on the right day,” Bullis said. He also had sophomore Phoebe Marks-Nicholes of Ballard at cox and freshman Katy Gillingham of Holy Names in his lineup. “We have two boats (V8 and 2V8) that are so tight together, whoever goes the fastest will be in the boat.”
• In the Erickson Cascade Cups, the UW men’s second varsity eight (5:53.428) won by a nearly nine-second margin over Stanford. Two UW women’s boats breezed to the top two spots, the UW A boat winning in 6:30.907.