March 3, 2011
SEATTLE - For the 25th anniversary of the Windermere Cup on May 7, the Washington rowing program is bringing in a slew of marquee opponents.
Cambridge University Boat Club highlights a strong field that also includes Stanford and Oklahoma, each of whom will take part in the Windermere Cup races, a 2,000-meter sprint through the Montlake Cut and into Lake Union. Pac-10 stalwart Stanford will race the men's crew program while Oklahoma is scheduled to combat the Husky women's team.
With its reputation as one of the premier rowing events worldwide, the Windermere Cup continued with the tradition established 25 years ago of attracting the best programs to Seattle. This year is no exception as Cambridge brings two boats loaded with talented rowers to the Pacific Northwest.
"It's one of the most special events the whole rowing world offers," said women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst. "Crews have come from all over. From the Soviets to the German National Team, to the Australians when they brought five Olympic Champions, it's just a super opportunity for our student-athletes."
The Windermere Cup, in conjunction with the Seattle Yacht Club, marks the opening day of boating season. The free event binds the Seattle community to the sport and is one of the pre-eminent sporting events the city offers. Last year, an estimated 40,000 fans lined the Montlake Cut to watch Washington sweep all four marquee races. The Husky men's program has won four straight Windermere Cups.
Cambridge is one of two crews who helped originate intercollegiate rowing competition in a race with archrival Oxford that dates back to 1829. It's a four-mile race from the Putney Bridge to the Mortlake church tower on the River Thames in London. The competition has become such an event that it receives television coverage throughout England and abroad, bringing in millions of viewers.
For Washington, it fulfills a program tenet of always scheduling and racing the best competition the sport offers.
This will be the third British rowing program to participate in the Windermere Cup, and the second trip for Cambridge. Oxford finished third in the 2010 Windermere Cup while Nottinghamshire Country Rowing traveled to Seattle in 1998.
Stanford brings a competitive boat filled with talented oarsmen. The Cardinal annually challenge Washington and Cal for Pac-10 bragging rights, and have staged some hyper-competitive races in the past, most notably the 2009 IRA Grand Final, when the Huskies walked through both the Golden Bears and Stanford in the final 500 meters of the race.
"It couldn't be any more fitting at the 25th anniversary to have crews of this quality here in Seattle to race on Opening Day," said men's coach Michael Callahan. "The Seattle Yacht Club continues to provide an amazing arena and experience for Windermere to sponsor such a strong race."
Oklahoma is a competitive program that is quickly establishing its reputation as a burgeoning rowing power. The region itself has become a hub for the sport, with Oklahoma City housing one of the more high-tech rowing performance centers in the world. Last year, the Sooners finished second in the Big 12 Championship behind Texas.
The Windermere Cup is not just for powerhouse collegiate programs. This year's fixture features dozens of local, national and international junior and masters crews which highlight the races prior to the main events.
"The Pacific Northwest offers us such a great environment for the sport," Callahan said. "And it's great that we're able to celebrate it at all levels with the Windermere Cup."