The traditional big crowds were missing at the Windermere Cup, but the “magic” was back at the Montlake Cut.

On a day when just getting to race was a reason to celebrate, the Huskies made it even more special for themselves, defeating rival California on Saturday morning in the top two men’s and women’s rowing races.

The Windermere Cup was canceled last year when the crew season was wiped out because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the annual duals with Cal were combined with an abbreviated Windermere Cup, with fans asked not to attend.

A few hundred came anyway, and they saw a lot of happy rowers.

“It has been two years since a racing season, and to get out there and have California here means a lot to everyone,” UW men’s coach Michael Callahan said.

Said UW women’s coach Yaz Farooq: “Even though we didn’t have the crowds and the log boom and the yachts like we usually do, you could definitely feel the magic out there.”

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It was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in the men’s Windermere Cup, with Cal leading after 500 meters in the competition of the teams’ top 8+ boats. The top-ranked Huskies overtook Cal before the halfway mark at 1,000 meters and went on to win by more than 4 1/2 seconds (5:42.397 to 5:47.045).

The UW men also won the Cascade Cup, a battle of the second varsity boats, by more than four seconds in 5:45.817.

“We have a lot of experience, a lot of savvy, and I think it showed,” Callahan said. “Those top two boats were very patient and they knew when to take over the race. It has been really fun to coach such an experienced group of student athletes.”

The No. 1 Husky women dominated in the women’s Windermere Cup, winning by more than 11 seconds (6:28.304 to 6:39.360) over No. 5 Cal.

The Huskies won by more than 12 1/2 seconds in the women’s Cascade Cup with a time of 6:32.009.

“They had traction from the first stroke,” Farooq said.

Farooq said there were some emotional moments before those races, with five fifth-year seniors among those competing at home for the last time.

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And when the races started?

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Farooq said. “I felt (the magic) at the start, I felt it when we went by Fox Point and then when we entered the (Montlake) Cut, the spirit of this place was alive and well.

“To people on this team, they say (the Windermere Cup) is the biggest race of the year. To have it with Cal, made it exponentially more so — especially this year.”

UW fifth-year senior Tabea Schendekehl, who rowed in the No. 7 seat in the Huskies’ top boat, said her team was “really confident in the training they put in.”

“We just really wanted to showcase it and say thank you to each other, and just be in each stroke together,” Schendekehl said.

The Washington women also won the third eight and collegiate four races. The Seattle Pacific women won the collegiate open eight.

The California men won the third varsity eight race. The UW men won the collegiate four and the collegiate opening eight.

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The Huskies are back in action May 16 in the Pac-12 championships in Gold River, California. A couple of weeks later are the national championships.

“As we were reminding the guys last night, this is one step in a three-step process,” Callahan said.

But the future could wait Saturday. The rowers basked in the moment.

“Oh my gosh, it’s great to be racing again,” UW team captain Steve Rosts said.