Everyone seemed quite happy Saturday with the return of the traditional Windermere Cup on the Montlake Cut, a highlight of the opening day of Puget Sound-area boating season.
The Netherlands men and the Great Britain women were certainly content, defeating Washington’s teams in hard-fought races.
But the Huskies were happy, too, feeling that the tough competition will help get them ready for the upcoming Pac-12 and NCAA championships, but they were most happy to be rowing in front of a large crowd that lined both sides of the cut.
It was a welcome sight after the 2020 race was canceled and the 2021 race was held without fans and without the traditional international foes.
“It was definitely a shot of energy for everybody,” said Washington men’s coach Michael Callahan. “Especially, with everyone’s parents finally here. There are juniors who have never experienced this and there are fifth-year seniors who this will be the last time in the cut, and it was very sentimental to them. … The atmosphere and the scene was welcomed again, for sure.”
Great Britain took a small early lead in the Women’s Windermere Cup, and although they could never put much distance on UW, the Huskies could never catch up as the crews battled side by side.
The final margin was about a half-boat length, with Great Britain finishing with a time of 6 minutes, 15.918 seconds over 2,000 meters. Washington’s top boat finished in 6:17.833. UW’s second boat finished in 6:28.936.
“The fact that we were side by side with an international crew of that caliber, and gutting it out for 2,000 meters, was really a positive signal for the rest of the season,” said Washington women’s coach Yaz Farooq.
McKenna Bryant, who was in the bow for Washington, said, “It was one hell of a race.”
“We couldn’t quite push past them, but it was a good race,” said Bryant, who is from Kent and went to Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien. “Speed is not free, right. You’ve got to always work for it. Today pumped us to train that extra inch and to train to dig in when you don’t think you have any more.”
The Husky men fell behind in the first 500 meters, rallied to lead much of the next 1,000 meters, then could not hold off a late rally from the Netherlands, which won by about a half-boat length.
“I thought it was a really hard-fought race from start to finish,” Callahan said. “Windermere wanted strong competition here and we certainly got it today, and I think it helped our team before Pac-12s next week. We needed to make an improvement from the Cal dual (which UW lost) and I think you saw that.
“What maybe we are looking for now is to improve the two ends of the race.”
Gert-Jan van Doorn, who rowed in the No. 2 seat for Washington, is from the Netherlands, knew most of the members of the Dutch team and has rowed with several of them.
“Obviously, you want to win every race but this one was more personal,” van Doorn said. “I thought we had a good base, but it kind of fell apart at the end. … Definitely an improvement from our last race and we have 3 1/2 weeks left in the season and we are going to keep improving.”
Win or lose, everyone enjoyed the atmosphere.
“This is amazing,” said Peter Wiersma, one of the Netherlands coaches. “To race like this, in this type of setting, and these conditions, is new for everybody. You can tell by our guys’ reactions, how happy they were to have a good row. … All the credit to Washington, that was an unbelievable race.”
There were 23 races Saturday for colleges and clubs. Washington’s third varsity eight won the women’s Cascade Cup, and the Washington third varsity eight won the men’s Cascade Cup.
* The Netherlands and Great Britain also won Friday night’s twilight sprint races.