HTBS's Tim Koch writes from London,
Perhaps looking for a new challenge, Coach Callahan has now made a bold move. He has entered two varsity crews for Henley Royal Regatta – but not in the events that most people would expect. Traditional wisdom would be that the Varsity crew would enter the Ladies’ Plate which is the second highest men’s eights event (UW won it in 2003) and that the Second Varsity would enter the Temple Challenge Cup which is the top eights race for male students but which is below the level of the Ladies’ (UW Freshmen won it in 2010 and 2012). However, Callahan has put his second boat in the Ladies’ and his first crew in the Grand.
The Grand Challenge Cup is Henley’s top event and is mostly raced for by national squad crews. To preserve the fiction that Henley is for club boats only, such crews enter under some other name. As an example, when an American squad eight won last year they were called ‘California Rowing Club’. It is rare but not unknown for a college crew to win the Grand. Washington actually did it in 1977 (a nice contemporary account is here) and Harvard were victorious in 1985 as were the University of London in 1992 and Imperial College London in 1996.
The website gohuskies.com asks a good question and provides a pleasing answer from the man in charge:
Why are the Huskies putting themselves up against such tough competition this year? Coach Callahan believes he has two special crews and wants to see them push themselves, even if it means winning is less assured. “We want to know how fast we can go,” says Callahan. “I think racing as the underdog after a high pressure season of being ranked #1 gives us a fresh opportunity and perspective.”
It must be admitted that the Grand is not always of the standard that the Stewards would wish for as the timing of Henley does not fit well into the international rowing calendar. However, a post-Olympic year is likely to produce tougher opposition and Callahan must be congratulated for not taking the ‘easiest’ option. Henley entries closed on 17 June and the draw is on the 29. We will then find out what this remarkable squad has actually taken on. There is a nice video of the Huskies in action on YouTube. (I would have liked more shots of the IRA race and less of sweaty men stripped to the waist – but that is just my preference. Perhaps there is a shortage of shirts in Washington?)
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