Rowing into Henley

Groton took 24 oarsmen and -women to the races in Great Britain this June. With several regattas leading up to the Royal Henley Regatta, the rowers had many races on their agendas: the Reading Amateur Regatta, the Women’s Henley Regatta, the Marlow Regatta at Dorney Lake, the Reading Town Regatta, and, finally, the Henley Royal Regatta.

After highly successful spring seasons, including a New England championship for all four girls events, the teams went to England anticipating a learning experience. The teams went to England anticipating a learning experience. They hoped to win some races, but both the girls and boys crews were taking risks. The boys would be rowing in an eight with a coxswain for the first time, and five of the girls would be taking to the water in sculls—whose rowers have two oars each. Sarah Black ’12 would learn to row and compete in a single scull, and Allie Banwell ’12, Maeve Hoffstott ’13, Olivia Bono ’13, and Charlotte Berkowitz ’13 would compete for the first time in quad.

To row an eight, the boys needed to learn how to get the boat up to speed and to coordinate eight catches and finishes: they needed to become a cohesive rowing machine, which they did under the careful eye of coach Bob Madden. The girls faced a different challenge: sweep rowing with a coxswain allows each rower to concentrate solely on her tempo and technique, while the coxswain is steering the boat, worrying about the rhythm, and managing the race course. In a quad, three rowers take on part of the coxswain’s duties: one will steer, one will manage the race, and one keeps track of the rowing rate, all the while concentrating on rowing with two oars and maintaining power and technique. For the single scull, all of these responsibilities—tempo, technique, course management, direction, and cheerleading—fall to the rower herself. So while Groton crews may have had something to prove when they went to Henley this year, they also knew that they had a great deal to learn.

And learn they did. The English have a tradition of awarding medals to only the first place crews. Had they done otherwise, Groton would have come home with heavy suitcases. Both the boys and girls crews raced well and enjoyed close finishes, challenging conditions, and the incalculable gift of working hard in concert with fellow athletes. They also were able to savor English strawberries, clotted cream, and rowing in the dusky evening of Midsummer’s Eve.

Faculty member and girls crew coach Andy Anderson P’15 kept the Groton community abreast of the Groton crews’ exploits on the other side of the pond through a Henley blog.

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