Groton Crew Hops Across the Pond

By: Michael Ma ’15Tex goes hard at Henley (T. Cecil '13)

Tex goes hard at Henley (T. Cecil ’13)

 

Over the first month of the summer, a team of 21 rowers, 4 coxswains and 4 coaches took off to England to participate in the Henley Royal Regatta (HRR), undoubtedly the best known regatta in the world.

“Well, I went last year, so I knew what to expect, but this year we are staying for twice as long,” said Maeve Hoffstot, one of the captains of girls’ crew. This year, their second at Henley, the girls sent a four and a cox-less quad (quadruple scull). The difference, as director of rowing Mr. Anderson puts it, is that in sculling boats, each person has two oars instead of one which normal sweep boats such as the four have. “We had no coxswain,” said Maeve, the bow seat on the quad. “Olivia Bono’13 had to manage the stroke rate, Allie Banwell’12 had to call out instructions, and I had to steer.”

The boys sent an eight and a four after showing great potential both on the ergs and on the boats over the season. Mr. Madden, the boys’ head coach, said that it was the fastest crew that he had seen in recent years as this was their first trip to Henley since 2002.

Just a day after the team arrived, both the girls and the boys raced in the Reading Amateur Regatta. Despite everyone being jetlagged, all the boats did very well. The girls’ quad had Groton’s first success as they won their event.

The girls then raced in the Henley Women’s Regatta. The rain and the winds were the worst they had ever seen. Despite the terrible conditions, both the four and the quad still managed to win the first round of races. On the second day, the weather turned from terrible to “atrocious”, with the Thames in “extremely dangerous conditions.” Both boats lost because of such unbelievable weather. Unfortunately, for the rowers in the four, this marked the end of their trip since there is no women’s junior fours event at HRR. Mr. Anderson said that the results could have been much better if the weather had been better.

Meanwhile, the boys raced at Dorney Lake, Eton, on the course for the London Olympics games. With relatively better conditions, the boys’ four had a really close race on Saturday, falling second to Reading Rowing Club by only 1.3 seconds. On Sunday the boys’ eight won two events, winning their first medals. The four later had a race with Belmont Hill, but unfortunatly lost by only 1.2 seconds. “The losses were disappointing as each race was determined by one solid stroke, but we also greatly improved, and being able to beat crews with British college kids definitely felt rewarding,” said Johnny Bianco, the three-seat in the four.

The girls’ quad and the boys’ four then had to race in qualifying races for the HRR as the events had been “overbooked.” Unfortunately, both crews did not make it, but the boys’ four defeated many colleges as the event they competed for had no age restriction. Therefore, they had much more competition.

Just a day later, at another regatta, the boys eight beat Belmont Hill for the first time. This was a gigantic success because “I think that race proved to us that we were the best American crew there” says Captain Johann Colloredo Mansfeld ‘13.Belmont was the steepest competition as it had swept New England’s in May and placed second in the U.S. Nationals. The four also had one last fight against Belmont; however, Groton came just short again, as during the race, Brunswick School clashed oars with the Groton boat.

The boys’ eight, having pre-qualified for the HRR, raced against Reading Blue Coat School, the school that they had lost to two weeks ago at Reading. The eight beat them in the first round, showing great improvement. On the second day they faced Hampton School, one of the strongest crews in the event. After a close start, Hampton gradually pulled away. The eight rowed hard, trying to catch up. Ultimately, Hampton crossed the line first.

“I think we were all pleased with our results in England.  It’s tough to lose, but we definitely had a number of victories in England,” said Johann as Hampton defeated Belmont Hill on the next day.  As for the girls, “The results were slightly disappointing, but overall the experience was amazing,” said Maeve.

Mr. Anderson said that because Henley is in a single elimination format, sometimes luck is required, and he thinks the team had bad luck on the whole. Overall, the trip was a success. It had planted an idea in the rowers’ minds that “if we are fast enough, we’ll go.”

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