Last June, while the rest of the Williams student body was busy enjoying the first weeks of summer vacation, the Men’s Crew team was undergoing three weeks of strenuous training in preparation for the Henley Royal Regatta. Led by Coach Peter Wells ’79 and, at times, by former U.S. National Coach Allen Rosenberg the team prepared for the regatta.
The Henley Royal Regatta, which takes place in Henley-on-Thames, a small town near London, is the oldest continuous running rowing event in the world, and has been held every year since 1839. This prestigious regatta attracts many of the best college teams from the United States, South Africa, Canada, Norway, France, Ireland and England. In addition, national teams from twelve different countries were also on hand to take part in the festivities.
This year Williams sent both an eight man boat and a four man boat to England. On the Eight were Ethan Lasser ’99, Dennis Debasio ’00, Cam Clendaniel ’01, John Williams ’98, Brad Johnston ’98, Gerht Lubitz ’98, and Zack Mully ’99. The boat was stroked by Jon Kallay ’00 and the coxswain was Reggie Hall ’98. The Four consisted of Lindsay Tucker ’98, David Noe ’01, and Nick Daft ’00. It was stroked by Todd Nacho Stiefler ’00 and the coxswain was Eric Soskin ’99.
At Henley, the Eight participated in the Temple Challenge Cup, an event for single college Eights while the Four, which narrowly missed qualification for the Henley Regatta, entered the nearby Marlow Regatta. The Temple Challenge Cup, named for a large Victorian building that sits upon an island in the river near the start of the race, is a 2,112 meter straight course which cuts through the rolling hills of the English countryside before finishing in the center of the small town of Henley. Every day of the competition each of the colleges has one head-to-head, single elimination race with one of the other participants.
With as many as 25,000 people lining the sides of the river, the Williams team faced off against the Loughborough Rowing Club of England on the first day, and won with relative ease by a boat length and a quarter. The second day brought on the Nephthyl Boat Club, which had also been victorious on the first day. Again the Williams team rowed well, and again they won; this time thrashing their opponents and winning by a full four boat lengths.
The first two victories set up a showdown on the third day with the powerful Princeton team. Williams came out strong and led Princeton at both the barrier and the fawley (the quarter and halfway points). Then the Princeton team surged forward with a strong sprint to take the lead.
According to Mully ’99, “it was a really fast race, and we were doing well until they had this surprising sprint which really got us at the wrong point in the course.” The Princeton team pulled ahead by a boat length and managed to hang on for the win, despite a late rush by Williams to close the gap. Meanwhile, the Four was competing with great success and made it to the semifinals of the Marlow Regatta before finally losing. After more than two weeks of practice and racing the two teams finally headed home for some well-deserved time off before next season.