Henley 2015 – Day 3

The Edmonton Rowing Club started the morning with the best set of results in the regatta thus far. Every single crew that raced before noon progressed to semi-finals or finals. Sources close to head coach and Australian national Ali Williams suggest that the rage and ferocity she inspired in the Edmonton athletes came in defiance of Australia’s less than optimal start to the fourth ashes test this morning. {Note: The Australian cricketeers were dismissed before lunch on day 1, the only other time this happened in an ashes match was in 1896 – a full 9 years before Alberta became a province}. Ali more than made up for her countrymen’s lack of competitive edge and is currently rumoured to have entered contract negotiations with cricket Australia as chief selector. 

First on the ticket for the Edmonton Rowing Club was the U23 Lightweight Men’s 4- of Quinn Brandly, Torrin Lemire, Ben Altman and Dillon Peters. The boys raced a solid first 1000 m to establish their authority over the field and easily qualified for the Henley Final by finishing the race in second. The Edmonton crew are going into Friday afternoon’s final as the third fastest qualifying time with aspirations to put the top two boats under some serious pressure. When asked which flower best described their race the four athlete unequivocally decided on a “seeding dandelion”.  Make of that what you will.

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Quinn, Torrin, Ben, and Dillon established their position early and breezed into the finals of the U23 men’s four with the third fastest qualifying time

Next up was the Open Women’s 4- of Andrea Labrecque, Amanda Cinnamon, Kendra Hartley and Mallory Turner. The crew went into their heat under the bad omen of having to race in non-matching undershirts. “Basic” lore dictates that winning is impossible unless kit matches down to the sports bra; matching lululemon kit is almost certain to lead to Gold medals, but expensive in acquisition. The crew raced hard to qualify for the Henley Final by placing second. Opinions in whether the Edmonton boat had to race all out or saved an extra gear for the final were divided among coaches and athletes alike. 3-seat Cinnamon attempts to explain: “A basic house has two and a half kitchen sinks, two big ones and one small, as well as one bathtub. We only threw the half-kitchen sink.” Bow seat Turner elaborates: “For the final, we are planning to use the first kitchen sink at the 300 m mark, the second kitchen sink at the 600 m mark and the bathtub in the final 500.” For the second time in the space the 30 minutes the Press Officer was left profoundly confused but assumes that the above roughly translates to: “Yes, we did leave another gear for the Henley Final.”

One of the Krispy top boats was out next to contest a heat in the U23 Lightweight Women’s 2xLara Damen and Emily Dolphin have raced a great summer for the Edmonton Rowing Club and were looking to crown their achievements by progressing to the semi-finals of the highly competitive doubles event. The Lightweight Women’s 2x is the only Olympic boat class for lightweight Women and usually attracts the best athletes. The girls managed to produce the best race of the season on the biggest of stages and progressed to the semi-final after placing third in their heat! Lara assured the coaches afterwards that “both her and her doubles’s partner wanted to win”, surely one of the best conditions for a race in any crew boat.

Bedrock and foundation of the ERC youth program Aaron “AA-Ron” Harrower showed his impressive array of sculling skills in the heat of the U17 Men’s 1x. Aaron raced true to his mantra – “Don’t try any harder than you absolutely have to” – and unpacked a number of his signature technical moves to ease into pole position. Aaron started the race with the brutally powerful “Magnum” to make the start his own. Through the second 500 m he dropped the relentless “Blue Steel” on an astonished audience to put some distance between him and the sculler sitting in second.  At the halfway mark Aaron decided to close the race down with a beautifully executed and highly tuned “Le Tigre”. The spectators were in raptures and even competitors were applauding the Edmonton sculler has he made his way back to the dock with the serene composure that only the true artists display. 

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Flowering talent Aaron opening up the gap on his competition, leaving plenty in the tank for his upcoming semifinal

The grandstand was treated to big change in style as the (arguably) least delicate of the flowers, Mark Bonar and Quinn Brandly, displayed some powerful sweep rowing in the Lightweight Men’s 2-.  The boys pounded down the course and managed to move on the competition in 10 stroke bursts to finish their heat in first place and qualify for Saturday’s final as the second fastest qualifier. At the finish line it turned out that bow seat Quinn had chopped the wood a lot harder than stroke seat Mark in what came to be referred to as an “effort expenditure discrepancy”. As of Friday morning “Discrepancy-gate” had been picked up by TMZ and Quinn had issued a public statement reassuring his concerned fans that “he didn’t blame Mark personally for what happened”, “their personal relationship was as strong as ever”, and that “ he was looking forward to a professional performance in the final.” Despite Quinn’s soothing words, the paparazzi are undeterred and surround the St. Catherine’s Holiday Inn hoping for more controversy from the “Discrepancy-gate” scandal. A big thanks to the ERC security detail for keeping the press out and the lightweight Men’s pair save!

Yet another pair with a big fan base was in action soon after, racing a heat of the U19 Women’s 2-.  Erin Watchman and Rachel Koortbeek swapped their sculling oars for sweep sticks to take on the competition in a very challenging field. The girls raced well to place 5th out of 7 crews, a result that could be attributed to excellent communication in the boat. Even from 200 meters away the coaches and spectators on Henley Island could see Erin shout commands in the bow seat and Rachel nod her agreement in the stroke seat, after which the hull lifted out of the water and took chunks out of the competition. Rachel will join the University of Alberta in September this year and we hope that she will become a part of the UART’s strong lightweight Women’s squad. Erin is an U17 competitor and has another two years of eligibility as a junior athlete. Club and coaches are excited to follow the progress of these two exceptional athletes.

The last ERC heat of the day was contested by Amanda Cinnamon and Andrea Labrecque in the Open Women’s 2x. Reports from the A and A camp indicate that bow seat Andrea (unused to bow seat rowing after stroking crews for the past two years) is starting to abuse her powers by calling for “more legs” every 10 strokes (Note: Dedicated readers might have crunched the numbers immediately, for everybody else – that is at least 20 calls for legs in a 2000 m race!). In fairness, if others were blessed with wattage that Andrea’s legs can produce they’d be calling for “more legs” too. In spite of the monotony, the call clearly work as the double qualified for the semi-final with a solid third place finish in the heat.

In the only Edmonton semi final of day Michael “Whirlwind” Hohnstein had what the Australians call a “bloody good crack” in the U23 Men’s 1x.  Michael raced extremely hard to finish in third place after sitting in fifth for most of the race. Unfortunately, only the first two scullers progressed the final. This is Michael’s first year at the U23 level and he is currently racing athletes much older than him. We are excited to see how far Michael can go this fall season when he is racing the single for the UART.

The first of the day’s finals was the Lightweight Men’s 2x with Edmonton’s Mark Bonar and Ole Tietz racing in the outside lane with an outside chance. The double tried to follow through on a previously agreed upon “all or nothing” race plan that foresaw a kamikaze style start and a “however much is left” middle 1000 m. The final 500 m was deliberately left out of the race plan to trick the crew into adopting a pace more suited for 1500 m race. The Edmonton double led the field to the 250 m mark and started to fancy their chances, but a sudden lapse in boat speed opened the door for the rest of the field. “However much left “ through the middle 1000 m turned out to be “not quite enough” as the pack moved away from the ERC crew. Coming into the final 500 m the boys went into energy saver mode, as the final in the lightweight four loomed later on in the afternoon. The ERC double finished the race in sixth place.

A mere 30 minutes later the next ERC double was out on the course racing in a Henley Final. Michael Hohnstein and Colin Findlay were out in the dashingly named “Bald Eagle Replacement” to compete for gold in the U23 Men’s 2x. The two ERC boys raced hard and put the top scullers under serious pressure. The boat usually comes out of the blocks slow and reels the competition in on the way down the track. For the final, the Edmonton crew stayed with the pack out of the start and put in a big push at 1000 m to finish the race in an excellent fourth place. Bow seat Colin Findlay appeared diplomatic after the race: “I was happy with race. We did what we planned and executed our race plan to the best of our ability.” Aside from his impressive sculling skills, Colin excels at post-race interviews and will soon start a seminar series on the subject. Congratulations to Michael and Colin on an excellent result.

The most anticipated of the Edmonton finals was the U19 Women’s 1x race of Aline Belzil. Aline and her single have had a great summer season so far, placing fourth in the school boy regatta in June, followed by selection onto the Canadian team for the Canamex regatta, where she won a gold medal. Her route to the Henley final gave no cause for concern and was easy on the nerves of coach Williams. Aline’s stated aim for the final was to go for some “bling bling” and the only way to do her race justice is to let her talk about it in her own words: “I am so lucky to have gotten this far, and it was probably one of the best races of my life. I’m happy with the result because I am walking away knowing I couldn’t have done anything differently or pushed any harder. My race plan went perfectly it just happened to be that the London girl was faster! All I’m sayin’ is though, she bettah watch out.” Aline finished the race an excellent second (in North America!!!) and can look forward to another year of eligibility in the Junior category, while the rest of her competition in the final is graduating to the U23 ranks next year. Congratulations to Aline on an awesome summer season!

Last on the ticket of Edmonton races was the Lightweight Men’s 4- of Ole TietzTorrin LemireMark Bonar and Quinn Brandly. The crew was ready for another “hurra” after a long day of racing that had started a full 10 hours prior for some crew members. The boat was eager to show the big clubs that the ERC lightweights can hold their own against the best and even more eager to describe their race using flower related puns afterwards. So here it is in the words of constant gardener Torrin {with some annotation for clarity}: “Akin to the ERC lawn, delicate flowers go through a dormancy phase during the seeding stage {Note: nap before the race}, but sprout and bloom in time to follow the setting sun west {Note: headed to the start refreshed}. Plenty of water, light and nurture allow the flower to grow and prosper in early spring {Note: the start went well}. The flower reaches full bloom and unfolds all its beauty in mid-summer {Note: the middle of the race went well}, but as photosynthetic processes start to fail in the fall the flower is left to wilt gracefully {Note: the crew fell of the pace somewhat in the later stages}. Fertile soil and care are essential for seedlings to prosper {Note: Thank you to club and coaches for their support throughout the year!}.” The Edmonton crew raced aggressively to place fourth in a competitive field, despite being drawn into “reserve” lane 8 (and running into some shrubbery on their way down the course {Note: fact, not a flower related pun}).

Well done to all those who raced today. We are looking forward to some semi-finals and a final in U23 Lightweight 4- tomorrow. Thank you for reading. The Press Officer and team would like to apologize for the ever more obscure references and metaphors. It has been a long week already.

– Press Officer Tietz