Sunday, June 29, 2014

Reading Regatta

WPI wins at Reading Regatta!  
The V8 with their prizes
This Saturday, the 28th, was Reading Town Regatta.  It is a much smaller regatta than Henley and takes place on the Thames up stream a few towns from Henley.  It is a small course of about 800 meters, and each race is either two boats or three boats wide (the three boat races are for finals only). It is a regatta attended by locals as well as crews that are looking for some experience and practice before HRR.  WPI has traditionally attended this regatta when we have been in the UK for HRR.

For this race we entered both of our 4s into two different events and our 8 into two events.  Like I said the race is short and we wanted to give our boats more experiences, more races, and more chances for international swag.  All of our boats learned some valuable lessons in their first respective races.  They learned how efficient and quick  races are run over here compared to the US style of races. With little time between getting on to the course, getting locked onto the stake boats and the start, some of our crews  were taken by surprise.  Some of our crews learned how quick boats can leave the start and how a lead can be an advantage.  Some crews learned the importance of steering a good course.  Some learned that talented boats can come in different shapes and sizes.  Luckily after we learned these valuable lessons there was more racing to be had.
 The experiences learned by our fours in the first races were not enough to get them wins in their second event.  The were out powered and out stroked by some very fast crews.  However the V8 was able to take full advantage of the lessons they learned and they got out to a early lead in their second race.  They were able to hold on to the lead of that race on their strength, talent, and determination.  As a result they were able to bring home some very nice prizes in an international race.

Aside from racing we also got a nice taste of English weather during this regatta with on and off rain shower all day.  However it seemed to get a lot sunnier after our V8 victory, capping off a great day of racing.  After the races it was time to head back to Henley, which is a story in itself as I will finally detail the trips up and down the Thames by boat.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Qualification races

I'm going to skip over Thursday as a full blog entry.  The very short version is that we had a day similar to Wednesday in which we practiced twice during the day.

V8 practicing on the course
Friday was a day of two different tales.  In the morning the V8 had a much different practice than the fours.  The V8's practice consisted of a boat trip up the river to Reading, where Saturday's Reading Regatta will occur.  The two fours had another "traditional" practice in preparation of their qualification races later that day.
I was going to post about the awesome trip up river with the eight but I thnk the fours deserve the focus of this post.  I will post the pictures and blog of the v8 trip at another time, maybe in conjunction with our trip back from Reading Saturday night.  
Both fours were to compete in the Prince Albert cup at HRR, but first they needed to qualify.  (The V8 pre-qualified for their event with their spring race results). While our 2V8 had a great season their results were not sufficient to pre-qualify them as the split up fours in the Prince Albert cup compared to many schools fielding their top 4 as their entry. There are only so many entries in each event at HRR and the steward of the regatta determine the crews that are pre-qualified and the rest of the many entires that need to qualify.
For this qualification event there were 22 crews, that were not pre-qualified, that were racing for the last 6 entries into this HRR event.  The qualification race is run different than the HRR events in which it is run very similar to a head race where crews are started down a course with staggered starts and the best times win.  In this case the 6 fastest time qualify.
This Friday afternoon it was time for our fours to put on their uniforms and race down the course to earn a spot in the Prince Albert cup.  Unfortunately the odds were against us and both crews failed to capture one of those top 6 positions in qualification.  Both boats had incredible races. I know speaking with the Lomi four that it was one of the better pieces they rowed.  And when the Kelsey four passed by me, they looked very fast and comfortable.   We thought one or both of our boats would qualify then we heard the results that neither qualified.  Again unfortunately they were competing against a crowd of very fast crews that were able to edge out our time.
Lomi four in Qualification rowing strong

Kelsey four in qualification
The fours trip is not over yet.  They have some very exciting rowing tomorrow at Reading.  And they still get to experience a lot of the fun of HRR despite the disappointing early ending.  Although I am proud of both fours performance we are still in shock of the results of the qualification race, and it is still a little soon before we can have an uplifting post.  But the fours will race tomorrow like there is no tomorrow and we'll have a much better stories to be told.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Get Down to Business

With the team adjusted and rested it was time to get down to business.  It was time for the team to get back to rowing.  Wednesday, June 25th was our first full practice day.

In the morning the crews went out for another swing row.  Giving them another chance to get comfortable on the river as well as the race course.  Both the rowers and the coxswain need time to adjust to the conditions and atmosphere of the course.  Some of the challenges the rowers need to become comfortable with are as follows.  Getting onto the race course; There is a narrow opening between the starting platforms, some posts, and an island not to far away.
The V8 entering the course

The race course itself is only wide enough for two crews and is separated from the rest of the river with the use of booms with vertical posts.  There is not a lot of room to maneuver and hitting one of the booms or posts is a lot more severe than a floating plastic buoy.  The booms provide some protection from the wakes of power boats moving up and down the river, however it is not complete protection and creates an interesting bouncing water feeling for the rowers.

The Kelsey Four rowing along the race course.  
The rowers are also getting comfortable with their rented boats and oars.  All of our rowers are rowing in boats not in our own fleet.  The V8 and the Kelsey 4 are in Empacher boats and the Lomi 4 is rowing in a Stampfli.

During the morning practice our rowers got to share the water with some exceptional rowers.  There was a pair rowing on the course comprised of Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. If you don't know who these men are, I encourage you to wiki them to understand why our rowers were starstruck.  (As a side note, as I am writing this, Redgraves was just shown on TV as a spectator in the crowd of center court Wimbledon)

After practice the rowers grabbed some lunch and relaxed before the next afternoon practice.  In the afternoon we started to reintroduce the boats to some speed and higher ratings.  Again getting them comfortable in the boats and the course.  We continue to coach them through these practices, besides getting them comfortable , but coaching over here is a little different as well.  At home we normally follow along in a small motor boat, over here we have to ride a bicycle along the river.  Riding the bike can be challenging as we are trying to watch the rowers and ride along a bumpy path avoiding other coaches on bike and pedestrians walking down the same pathways.  The practices have been ending the same ways at home which is with team discussions on land.

Coach Noble and Coach McDonald (on bike) talking with the V8

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rest Day

Looks like I'm already a little behind on doing a daily blog update.  I will have to look back and see if I stated 'daily' or not and whether I should feel guilty or not.

Tuesday, June 24th was set as a rest day.  After the long flight and a quick introduction to the Thames and the town of Henley it was time for a rest day.  Most of the team took this opportunity to take the train into London and explore that great city.  I'm hoping I can get either Coach MacDonald or one of the rowers to write about their adventures because I did not follow them to London.  A few of the coaches needed stay back to work on the boats a little more.  After we (the coaches that stayed back) were done making adjustments we headed to Oxford to explore that city.  I will caution you here that this post is non-related to the bulk of the team, just a few of us coaches.

We decided to head to oxford via public transportation via the train.  It was incredibly easy getting a ticket from Henley to Oxford round trip and an easy trip on the trains both ways.  Going to Oxford we had to make a switch and we ended up taking a 'slower' train that made more stops but the ride was not bad through the country side.  We were able to look out the windows at the many farms, and small clusters of dwellings along the way.  If I had to compare the countryside to something State side it would be Vermont, where there are plenty of rolling hills of fields.  But where you'd find scattered farmhouses in Vermont you'd find small rows of 5-10 of very tightly packed houses here in England.  After traveling through miles of farms we arrive in the city of Oxford, which appears out of nowhere.  It seemed like there was no suburbs, just farms straight into a city.

Again making a comparison to something States side, the city of Oxford felt like the city of Cambridge, MA.  It was a bustling city with lots of people centered around a University.  Obviously, Oxford centered around Oxford University and Harvard University at the center of Cambridge.  But to make a comparison of these two cities /schools would be silly.  Harvard was established in the year 1636, Oxford university takes roots in higher education almost 600 years before that in 1096!  To put things in perspective there was a medieval castle built in the city around the same time.  Since inception there have been many impressive buildings built for the various schools of the Univeristy.  Here are a few sightings from around the city.

After a lengthy walk around the city we traveled back to Henley via train.  This time we were able to locate the express train to Reading and then a couple switches to get us to Henley much quicker.  It was a good long day which made me very tired and not wanting to make a post yesterday.  And as it is fairly late tonight I will have to report on Wednesday a day late as well.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Greetings from England

We all arrived into England and into Henley safely.  However after an overnight flight (red eye) and walking around Henley all day, I am quite beat.  So this will be a quick short post before I fall asleep.

Short recap of the travel
Sunday afternoon we left from WPI via bus to Logan (BOS).  We got through check in and security very quickly and were able to find a tv to watch the USA Portugal soccer game.  From BOS we flew across the Atlantic direct to LHR, London Heathrow Airport.  We were able to get through border crossing and get our baggage with relative ease as well.  From the airport we took taxi-shuttles to the town of Henley.  This is where we got our first 'out of the USA' experience.  Traveling on the left hand side of the road.  Normally I would say this is a cliche/touristy thing to comment about but it is strange the first time you experience it.  After a brief ride on the English roads, the rowers arrived at their home for the next couple of weeks.

After the rowers were dropped off at their place, the coaches made their way to their homes across town.  With a quick change and shower we headed down to the boat tent to prep the boats and prepare for the first row on the water.  Our boat man, Coach MacDonald, and our strength coach, Coach Berube, were already hard at work on re-rigging the boat to a row-able state.  Some of the rowers and coaches even lent a hand when we weren't taking in our first sights of Henley.  

Finally after some hard work by all it was time to go on the water.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Preparations for Henley

We are into our final week in Worcester, MA and putting together the final preparations of our much anticipated trip.  Even if I didn't have a calendar in front of me, there are plenty of signs that tell me the trip is near.  The athletes have started to taper their workouts after a long season of training and racing.  The coaches are already showing their nervous ticks; Coach Pursell is pacing back and forth, and Coach Noble is losing sleep thinking about everything 'coaching'.  I'm laughing at them, assuring them we'll be fine and taking their smaller tasks to keep them focused on the big tasks.  For example, I'm still figuring out how to blog so we have one less thing to worry about over there.  I'm sure some of us have already started to pack our bags, figuring out how we're going to fit everything into one bag for the two week long trip plus other equipment. (cox-boxes, life jackets, tools, etc..)  A few more preparations and we'll be on our way. 

Although preparations and conversations for this trip started about a year ago.  The athletes have been solely preparing for this trip since the conclusion of ECAC's, which is our usual season finale.  They have been rowing on the water 8-10 times a week and I'm sure they have been doing extra workouts and lifts on top of that.  Many of those practices, they have been able to take advantage of our small boat fleet rowing in singles, pairs, doubles, and fours.  They have put in a lot of strokes and I have seen them improve a lot over a few week's span.  This past Saturday was our last Saturday practice on the lake for the season and the unofficial start of the taper.  The extra workouts were being discontinued and water practices continued just once a day.  The rowers looked good, they rowed stronger, cleaner and more focused than I had seen all season.  I could tell that these rowers were ready for the international challenge at Henley. 

(Photo Courtesy of H. Nyce)

The rowers are ready, the coaches are ready, our boat man is ready so let me introduce you to the boats going to England. 

The Varsity Eight (M8+).  Coxed by Ms. Mitra Marvasti-Sitterly. Competing as entry "Worcester Polytechnic Institute, U.S.A." for the Temple Challenge Cup
(Photo Courtesy of H. Nyce)

The Kelsey Four. (M4+) Coxed by Ms. Kelsey Regan. Competing as entry "Worcester Polytechnic Institute 'A', U.S.A." for the Prince Albert Challenge Cup
(Photo Courtesy of H. Nyce)


The Lomi Four.  (M4+) Coxed by Mr. John Lomi.  Also competing for the Prince Albert Challenge Cup as entry "Worcester Polytechnic Institute 'B', U.S.A".

(Photo Courtesy of H. Nyce)

The WPI Henley 2014 team ready for Henley. 
(Photo Courtesy of H. Nyce)

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Start of a Blog

Welcome to the WPI Men's Rowing Henley Trip 2014 Blog; A blog that will cover events and stories from the upcoming Henley Trip.

Before I get started with posts that you would actually want to read, I wanted to start this blog with a little introduction of myself and brief synopsis of what to expect with this blog. I am 'Coach' Cavanaugh, Assistant Coach for the WPI Men's Rowing Team. This is my 5th year volunteering as an assistant coach for this program. Prior to coaching I was a rowing member of WPI team during my student years. I will also point out at this time that I received my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2008. I reiterate that I am an engineer and that the stereotypes of engineers not being able to write are true. And, unfortunately, the only men's coach on our staff with an Arts degree (Coach Noble) has bigger priorities, so you are stuck with me. But I will try to have guest posts from either other members of the coaching staff, our coxswains, or our rowers. That way you won’t really be stuck with "my" blog and you will be able to get multiple perspectives on our trip.

The main purpose of this blog is to showcase our trip to the world, or at least to the friends and family of WPI Rowing. I want to provide those who could not attend a better picture of what we're experiencing over there. This will be accomplished with written stories, detailed events/results, and plenty of photos. I also want this blog to serve as a historical record of the trip, so that in many years time our family, friends and we can look back on it and reminisce. I am going to attempt to update the blog every day or every other day, but I'm not sure how busy or tired I will be. Although I won’t be the one rowing, so I guess I don’t have an excuse. Also another flaw of being an engineer is that I will be able to document the events and happening fine but I may not be able to "paint the picture" that some of you, the readers, will want. Again I will rely on the rowers to share stories and give a different perspective on the trip. They might even be able to explain how the flowers look and smell over there.

I hope you are as excited about this trip as we all are. So once again, welcome to the WPI Men's Rowing Henley Trip 2014 Blog.

-Coach Cavanaugh