May 7, 2011
SEATTLE - The threat of rain and high winds made for choppy racing conditions, but did little to spoil the festive atmosphere at the 25th Windermere Cup.
Both Washington crews dominated the 2,000-meter racing, winning in impressive fashion on all fronts to commemorate the Windermere Cup's silver anniversary, which featured Stanford, Oklahoma, international guest Cambridge and 40,000 spectators along the Montlake Cut.
Despite the pedigree of their opponents, the Huskies defended their home course in all nine races they competed in, most importantly the four cup races to close out the event. The men's varsity eight, ranked No. 1 in the nation, cruised to a 12.5 second win over Pac-10 rival Stanford, with the Light Blues from Cambridge finishing third. All three crews had to combat rocky water at the start, as 25 mph winds out of the south sent waves into the boats. Once the water flattened out, the Huskies picked up speed, crossing the finish line with a time of 5:43.2.
"In the beginning of the race, we tried to stay real focused and keep everything internal," said 3-seat Robert Munn. "But you could tell the boat was rocking a little bit. It was pretty tough to stay (on keel)."
For the Husky men, it was their fifth straight Windermere Cup title, the most since the program won 10 in a row from 1991-2000.
The biggest takeaway for Washington was an idea of where it need to be heading into the Pac-10 Championships next weekend at Lake Natoma. Men's coach Michael Callahan offered notice his crews would need to put in plenty of work on the water this week if the Huskies have designs on repeating as conference champions.
But the fourth-year coach was also pleased with how his top boat performed, particularly against adversity and a high-level league opponent in Stanford.
"We wanted to have an aggressive start, but it was really tough for everyone to handle the conditions," Callahan said. "I think the guys did a good job of doing that across the board. But they didn't feel like they relaxed and got into a rhythm until mid-race."
By the time the Huskies cruised into the Montlake Cut, they were well-ahead of their two opponents, and crossed the finish line to the sound of the Husky band playing "Bow Down to Washington."
The women's varsity eight was just as impressive in capturing the Windermere Cup, particularly since the boat was sporting a new lineup. Women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst made some switches during the week, and he liked the effort by freshman stroke Camilla Andersen, which also resulted in a 14.5-second win for the Huskies over Oklahoma. Cambridge finished third, finishing 22.7 seconds behind the UW's winning mark of 6:42.6.
The UW women won their fifth straight Windermere Cup in the process, their best stretch since they captured six straight from 1992-97.
Ernst echoed his protégé's assertion that the Windermere Cup was excellent prep for the Pac-10 Championships, where the Huskies will face three other crews (Cal, Stanford & USC) ranked in the top-10 of the CRCA/US-Rowing poll. He agreed the conditions were not ideal, but was proud with how his crews handled the.
"It takes some real courage to throw it down," Ernst said. "There were waves breaking over the kids back and the boats. It was tough sledding out there."
The Huskies cruised to win in the two Cascade Cup races, which featured the program's second varsity eights. In the men's race, the Huskies defeated Stanford's JV boat, along with Oregon State and the University of Victoria. The women's eight topped Western Washington's top eight, along with Seattle Pacific. In fact, the only surprise of the afternoon came in the men's varsity 4+ classification, where the Husky "B" boat edged out the "A" boat at the finish.
Both coaches thanked Windermere Real Estate for their outstanding support of the community event, which had fans piled along the sides of the Montlake Cut and on boats. The event also featured dozens of local, national and international masters and junior crews, including one from Australia.
Notes: The Windermere Cup will be televised as a one-hour documentary, with the first of several airings beginning on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. on ROOT Sports.