Men’s crew looks to replace 9 graduating oarsmen this fall

Despite graduating nine oarsmen, including five from the New England silver medalist varsity eight, men’s crew has high hopes for the season ahead. The crew returns all members but one of its New England champion novice eight. Under the reins of interim Head Coach Ben Lewis, men’s crew looks to improve on last year’s disappointing fall season.

Over the summer, men’s crew sent an eight to compete in the Henley Royal Regatta in the U.K., qualifying for the Temple Challenge Cup and reaching the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, the men fell to Harvard’s heavyweight novice men, winners of the Eastern Sprints Regatta.

Despite the team’s impressive accomplishments this summer, Williams is still working hard to fill in the gaps from the graduating members. Currently, there are 12 oarsmen in serious contention for the top eight, based on fitness testing and rowing ability. “We have a lot of potential, but a lot of work to do,” Lewis said. “The fitness is not where it should be, but the rowing is good enough that we have been able to take a lot of competitive strokes on the water and should be able to find greater success this fall.”

Already, the team’s overall fitness has improved enough to make a notable difference in performance on the water, with crews able to maintain higher levels of intensity over longer periods of time.

The depth of the program extends beyond the oarsmen, with several talented coxswains in the mix. “[Having good coxswains] is a real bonus – competition for seats and good quality workouts,” Lewis said. “It means I can worry about the athletes and their rowing, rather than babysitting coxes.”

Lewis, returning to Williams following a stint as assistant coach from 2002-2004, has “unfinished business,” after seeing his 2003 novice crew place second in the New England Rowing Championships by mere inches. Between this and his last time at Williams, he rowed and then coached for Leander Club in Remenham, U.K., one of the world’s premier rowing clubs. Lewis is focused on fostering a common technical pattern and promoting an intense competitive spirit within the squad. He also hopes to achieve advances in the mental, physical and technical aspects of the crew.

The novices, with three recruited oarsmen and a recruited coxswain in addition to the walk-ons, are quickly climbing the rowing learning curve.

“I want guys to be enthusiastic about rowing, to buy into the philosophy of the program,” Assistant Coach Colin Regan said. “But I am going to be honest with them. I will not cater to those who don’t want to work hard and compete.”

In the upcoming weeks, Williams, led by co-captains Rob Buesing ’09, Andy Ward ’09 and Mike Sacks ’09, will compete in a series of head races against tough competition like rivals Trinity and Wesleyan.