April 4, 2011

Strong Winds and Waves Hurt Heavyweight Rowers’ Weekend Race

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The heavyweight rowing team faced its first race of the spring season this past Saturday in Cambridge, Mass., against Harvard. Facing weather conditions that were less than forgiving, the Red fell behind the Crimson — coming in behind by a nearly 18-second margin. The second and third varsity boats put in gallant efforts as well, only falling behind the Crimson by lesser margins of 9.3 and 2.2 seconds, respectively.

“I think that the guys did a great job this weekend,” commented head coach Todd Kennett ’91. “The conditions were anything but good — it was snowing when we got there. We weren’t used to these conditions. As for boats that competed for Cornell … it doesn’t surprise me about the final result. It’s a really hard condition to do well in. Harvard did well and used home water to their advantage. I think that give us a couple of weeks [and] things will change and we can give them a run for their money.”

The conditions for the 2K race were marked with harsh water conditions. The rowers experienced whitecaps — when the wind blows so hard that the crests of the waves foam — for the first 500 meters of the course as well as a continual strong headwind, which progressively increased throughout the morning.  The brunt of the blustery force was felt by the varsity team that took to the water around 9:45 a.m.

“There were really tough conditions,” said Commodore Colin Smith. “We almost got so swamped that we almost went under water. We haven’t really had much practice in those types on conditions and we haven’t been in the water as long as other teams. It’s hard to get a sense of where we’re at right now there are so many other factors in the racing. Harvard is a strong team of guys that row really well. They are one of the top teams on the East Coast. We knew it’d be tough to beat them, but it’s the first race of the season so there are many more opportunities to test ourselves and see what speed we’ll have.”

Talking to the coaching staff who reviewed weekend footage at their Monday morning practice, the weather was the biggest determinant in the weekend’s outcome, so they were going to remain positive about the future.

“We started with a Northeaster, not even sure if we would go,” Kennett said. “We knew that with the conditions that we would get, it would be harder than we’d expect. With Boston it’s bigger water, so there are larger waves. Larger waves in rowing take more savvy to row confidently in those conditions.”

The first varsity boat took in a few inches of water in the race against the Crimson — a possible factor that may have slowed the boat’s pace. Waves kept smacking the sides of the rig, rocking the rowers back and forth and disrupting the boat’s balance, which Kennett explained as being essential for keeping extra water weight out of the boat.

“You don’t see those conditions very often,” Smith added.

The Cayuga inlet, where the Cornell team practices, is more protected than the open waters of Harvard’s home race course, the Charles River. Knowing that all courses will be different, the Red practices in harsh weather conditions — including snow, 30-degree weather, wind and heavy rain — as preparation for anything it may face in future races.

“Sometimes we go on the lake to practice for that kind of scenario to get used to the rain or wind — extremes to really prepare for.”

Weather has been a concern for the team all season — as it affects when the rowers can begin spring practices because ice poses major problems. Rain also affects how much water time the team gets in a day because rowers cannot be on the water if there is thunder or lightning like this morning. Days like these cause practice to be cut short and the rowers sent to the weight room for extra weight-lifting practice or more time on the erg machines.

“When stuff gets cut short like today [due to the thunder and lightning], you can’t take it for granted,” said sophomore Chris Massey. “You have to concentrate and not take flappy strokes.”

Original Author: Lauren Ritter