Henley 2014 – Days 5 and 6

This is the last report from the 132nd Royal Canadian Henley and will cover the racing of the last two days – Saturday and Sunday.

Almost all ERC athletes were in action on Saturday in either 2000m semi-finals and finals or dash heats and finals. The day started with the preliminary rounds of the dash events (which are raced over 500m and are considered crowd favourite due to the high speed close fought competition.)

 

Saturday – Dash Heats

Steve Payne and Aaron Hartley were first up in the Senior Mens 1x. Steve, being a previous winner of this event, did his best to set up another final appearance. He had to fight to the line, but progressed by winning his heat. Aaron raced hard, but did not progress against significantly “bigger” competition.

Steve went straight from the single into the Senior Mens 8+ to lend his power to the six seat of the ERC heavyweight crew raced by Gregor Allan, James Allan, Steve Payne, Aaron Hartley, Michael Hohnstein, Colin Findlay, Anthony Encarnacion, Aaron Harrower and cox Theora Gray. At this point in the morning, the Edmonton squad was out in full force, cheering on the ERC crews as they entered the gates and trying to unsettle the competition. A particularly loud cheer led by the Edmonton lightweights prompted a small dance performance from bow seat Aaron Harrower. The ERC eight raced well, but failed to progress in a very competitive field. None the less Theora Gray expressed her pleasure at seeing all the hard work that the crews had put into training paying off at this regatta.

Sprint specialist Quinn Brandly competed in the heat of the Senior Lightweight Mens 1x next. Having dominated sprint racing in the Prairies and beyond earlier in the season, Quinn underlined his ambitions by winning his heat in style. Super-lightweight competitor Cody Anderson competed in the sprint as well, but did not progress in a tough heat.

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Quinn Brandly attempting some acrobatics after winning his heat in the Lightweight Men’s 1x Dash

The Senior Womens 8+ of Andrea Labrecque, Amanda Cinnamon, Leanne Leder, Jess Phillips, Mallory Turner, Kendra Hartley, Aline Belzil, Isabelle Belzil and cox Roland Dennett went out in the dash heats looking to make their second final of the regatta after having competed in the finals over the 2000m distance earlier in the week. The girls raced well in a very close heat and finished second to qualify for the final. The last time an ERC Womens 8+ competed in both the 2000m and dash final at Canadian Henley was in 2005. ERC president Rob Swart showed himself relieved: “Finally, a 9-year drought comes to an end.”

 

Saturday – Semifinals and Finals

Up first for the Edmonton Rowing Club was the Junior Mens 4x of Gregor Allan, James Allan, Michael Hohnsteinand Till Tietz competing in the semi-finals. The crew had looked impeccable in the heats and were looking to further cement their claim on a Henley podium finish. Conditions were tough out on the course, but the boys quad did not encounter any major problems out of the starting blocks. A big push at the 600m mark brought the crew a length ahead of its competitors. The crew from Teutonia Rowing Club (Argentina) put in a big push in the third 500m of the race, but the boys were able to counter the move at the 1250m mark and finish the race by winning the semi-final 6 seconds ahead of second place. Once again the Edmonton quad posted the fastest time of all semi-finals. When asked about the race later on Michael described the row as “pretty awesome”. Till commented that he felt a serious commitment from the twin-powered stern pair. A great competitor through and through, three seat James Allan takes personal responsibility for boat speed so far that he imagines himself in the bow seat at times. In the third 500m of the race James turned around to urge actual bow seat Till to call a big push. After the race Michael looked ahead to the final on Sunday: “This is my first Henley final and it is strange to go in as the fastest boat out of the semi-finals.” Michael showed great composure by further remarking that although the crew qualified fastest, the competition might not have raced to their full potential in the heats and semis. The ERC boys are ready for a hard race on Sunday afternoon!

Next up in the semi-finals was Aline Belzil in the U17 Womens 1x. After having competed in one major national final already (Aline came fourth at the schoolboy regatta in June), the younger Belzil sister made it two in one year by coming second to qualify for the final. Aline, once again, showed great maturity in her post-race analysis and excitement for the upcoming final: “I made it through to the final, which was my goal. I am excited to race the final tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.” Alines semi-final performance brings the total number of Henley final appearances by the ERC to 13 (9 finals over the 2000m distance and 4 finals over the dash distance), compared to 5 finals in 2013 (4 of the 2000m distance and 1 dash final).

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A strong showing from the Lightweight Men’s 4x of Kris Butler, Andrew Douglas, Burak Ozguluk, and Cody Anderson

Cody Anderson competed in the semi-finals of the Flyweight Mens 1x. After a very close heat the day before, Cody was struggling to find his legs in the strong head-wind that was blowing down the course. He finished the race in 5th, missing out on the qualifying spots for the final. Later on Cody was overheard marvelling at how it was possible that rowers that small (under 64kg) could possibly go this fast. Cody will be attending university in his native country Denmark starting in September. In Denmark he will be stepping into a rich history of lightweight and flyweight rowing and will interact with some of the greats in the sport on both the active and the coaching side. We wish Cody the best of luck in his upcoming studies and hope that he will be back to wear the green and gold at Henley 2015.

Further racing for the ERC were Steve Payne in the Championship Mens 1xKris Butler, Burak Ozgulak, Andrew Douglas and Cody Anderson in the Lightweight Mens 4x, and Caitlyn Courtier, Kendra Hartley, Rebecca Carrick and Theora Gray in the U23 Womens 4-. Kendra and Caitlyn later reflected on their first Henley. Caitlyn described her experience as bittersweet – although she would have liked to have done better it is an achievement in itself at race atHenley after only one year of rowing. Kendra added that at this stage in their rowing careers the crew mostly “went for style points.” The two rowers concluded that “they had stroked themselves to a personal victory.” In addition to the four girls, Kris Butler, John Carr, Torrin Lemire and Ben Altman were among the novice rowers that braved the challenges of racing at Henley after taking their first strokes in September last year. The coaching staff is looking forward to great performances from this group moving into the fall and university seasons.

 

Saturday – Finals and Dash Finals

Then only 2000m final for the ERC on Saturday was in the U23 Lightweight Mens 2x. The Edmonton crew of Quinn Brandly and Till Tietz had qualified for the final by the closest of all margins (0.008 sec) in the semi-final on Friday afternoon. Quill and Tinn knew that they were the slowest qualifiers for the final and concluded that they had to find something special to be able to compete for the Henley podium. Stroke seat Quinn devised a strategy by which the ERC double would “jump” out of the start to “spring a surprise” on the field. Despite the huge amount of racing that the duo had already put behind them the “jump – start” worked beautifully and the Edmonton crew found themselves leading the field in a Henley Final!! When asked what it felt like to be on course for Henley gold (if only briefly) Quinn admitted that it was “quite exciting” and really helped him “to dig deep”. When the boat came past the ERC cheering section at the 1250m mark, it was clear that they were digging deep. Bow seat Till Tietz conceded that the boat experienced a “temporary laps in boat speed” at around the 1000m marker, but had regained their feet in the third 500. The boys came into the final quarter of the race in fourth place and tried to have a stab at the bronze medal by opening the sprint early. When asked whether he had called another “Anything goes” push, Till seemed deflated: “Everything had gone, we ran out of gears.” Quill and Tinn finished the race an excellent fourth, beating the Western double that had been open water ahead of them in semi-final.

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Quinn and Till congratulate each other after a hard fought final in the U23 Lightweight Men’s 2x

A dashing Steve Payne got the sprint racing underway for the Edmonton Rowing Club. After a tough race in the heats of the Championship single early on in the day, Steve ran out of fuel in his bid to reclaim the Senior Men 1x dash title. Steve finished the race in fifth, adding to the ERC tally of top-5 finishes.

Next up was ERC lightweight rocket ship Quinn Brandly in the Senior Lightweight Men 1x dash final. True to “What works in a double over 2000m might also work in a single over 500m”, Quinn went out hard and led to the field to the 250m mark. Unfortunately, Quinn experienced catastrophic engine failure with about 200m to go. Where some of Quinns well rested competitors (cheats!) were able to add to the boat speed in the final meters of the race, the ERC sculler had to go into damage limitation mode. Quinn crossed the finish line in fifth and looked like he might exit his single right then and there. We would like to congratulate Quinn on a great Henley. Quinn represented the club in 5 finals, finishing 4th, 2x 5th, 6th and 7th – a very impressive achievement for the 20-year old.

The Senior Womens 8+ were next to try and dash their way to Henley Gold. The crew of Andrea Labrecque, Amanda Cinnamon, Leanne Leder, Jess Phillips, Mallory Turner, Kendra Hartley, Aline Belzil, Isabelle Belzil and cox Roland Dennett looked very powerful out of the starting gates and seemed to lead the field into the last 250m. The atmosphere on the bank reached fever pitch as ERC supporters tried to scream the Womens 8+ down the course from 400m away. The crew had to concede to the winners of the U23 W8+ from Detroit Rowing Club. The ERC boat featured strongly in a tight race for the podium, but had to settle for fourth place in the end. Four-seat Mallory Turner was level-headed in her post-race analysis: “After a good race in the morning we were all very excited to test ourselves in the final. The final was a close race and we finished fourth by a small margin. It was good to see how far we have come over the past season.”  Indeed, the crew has had a great season winning the boat race against the Calgary Rowing Cub, establishing their claim to best in the Prairies by winning the Prairie Championship and winning a silver medal at the BC Championships (where spectators on the bank referred to them as the best looking Womens 8 they had seen in some time). The 8 has to say good bye to bow-seat Isabelle Belzil, who will leave to start her post-secondary education at Gonzaga University in September. We wish Isabelle all the best and hope that she will be back at the ERC for next years summer season. The eight meanwhile will aim to continue its dominance in the Prairies and look to turn over the as many west coast crews as possible.

The Senior Lightweight Mens 8+ of Ole Tietz, Till Tietz, Kris Butler, Burak Ozgulak, Andrew Douglas, John Carr, Ben Altman, Torrin Lemire and cox Roland Dennett put the newly christened Lion Heart into dash gear to try and beat few skinny people. The eight raced hard and hit here thereto uncharted rpm ranges of 46.5. The eight finished 5th in a competitive field, but felt very satisfied with their performance. Six-seat Kris Butler asserted that big boat dash racing was probably the most fun he has ever had. Kris now advocates for 2000m racing to be done away with altogether in favour of the faster paced dash.

This concludes a long day of racing on the penultimate day of the 132nd Henley regatta. Three ERC crews will be in action on the final day of racing: The Junior Mens 4x, the Lightweight Mens 8+ and the U17 Womens 1x.

 

Sunday – Finals

After extremely strong performances in the heats and semi-finals the ERCs hopes of claiming a Henley medal rested on the Junior Mens 4x of Gregor Allan, James Allan, Michael Hohnstein and Till Tietz. The crew had qualified fastest in both preliminary rounds and were ready to put everything on the line to put another picture up on the wall in the tank. The crowd of ERC supporters gathered on the bank of Henley Island ready to cheer the crew through the third 500m. As the boats approached the 1000m marker it became clear that the Edmonton boys were leading the field. At the 1250m the crew had half length lead over the closest competitors. The Edmonton boat was on their way to victory. The ERC crowd went bananas. Noise levels broke records and two spectators had to be treated by local medical staff because of bleeding ear drums. When the boats entered the final 500m silence fell over Henley Island, as everybody pulled out their smart phone to wait for the result. Unbearably tense minutes passed. Finally the results came through: Crescent BC – Gold; Edmonton – Silver. Final verdict 0.06 sec. Neither coaches or athletes could believe what they were seeing. The Edmonton camp was heart broken. Only two days previously the ERC U23 Lightweight Mens 2x had beaten the Crescent 2x by 0.008 sec to reach the final. This time Crescent found themselves on the winning side of a narrow margin. What goes around comes around. A photo taken on the finish line revealed the technicalities of the loss. The moment the bow balls crossed the finish line the Crescent crew had just finished their last stroke (thus sitting at the finish), while the Edmonton crew had just started their last stroke (thus sitting at the catch). The technical term for this type scenario is “winning on the surge”. Winning a race “on the surge” is a gamble since neither crew can predict when exactly their bow will cross the finish line. The boys were speechless when they came back to the dock and have not been available for comment at this point. However, trusted sources indicate that the crew is planning to sponsor a new award for the ERC annual banquet called “The Golden Bow Ball”. The trophy is to be award to the crew that recorded the closest loss / victory of the season.

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Inches from glory. The Junior Men’s 4x had to settle for silver after this incredible finish

We thank the Junior boys for a great effort and a phenomenal final race. James and Gregor will be leaving Edmonton to pursue studies at the University of British Columbia, Till will start his university education in London (UK), while Michael will start an engineering degree at the University of Alberta and will therefore continue to feature in ERC crews. All the best of luck to all four.

Attempting a fast bounce back from the race in the quad, Till took his seat in the Senior Lightweight 8+ to participate in one more high speed chase down the Henley course. The crew of Ole Tietz, Quinn Brandly, Kris Butler, Till Tietz, Andrew Douglas, Burak Ozgulak, Ben Altman, Torrin Lemire and cox Roland Dennett raced hard but the fatigue of the weeks racing was starting to show quite plainly. The crew struggled to find the power required to race the top crews in strong head wind conditions and had to settle for a 7th place finish in the end. Despite the tough going, the race was not without its pleasures. The combination of 5-stay riggers and standing waves quickly turns races into water park joy rides. A few hundred meters into the race, water was flying everywhere and six-seat Kris Butler showed himself impressed by the small aquarium around his footboard, which was rumoured to be the home to four goldfish by the end of the race. The bow pair of Ben and Torrin looked as if they had endured an hour of torrential rain fall once they cross the finish line. Torrin showcased his deep connection to water and water sports by adopting a small sea turtle that had joined the crew at the 1500m mark.

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The Lightweight Men’s 8+ face difficult conditions and tired legs as they approach the finish line

The last competitor to take to the water for the Edmonton Rowing Club was Aline Belzil in the U17 Womens 1x Final. Racing in the ever worsening conditions on the Martindale Pond, most of Alines pre-race strategy centred around holding on the oar handles. The race was likely to turn into a head race style affair of close to 10 minutes of racing, demanding substantial stamina of the scullers. Aline came through the 1000m mark in fifth place, saving energy early on in the race. Aline timed her move to perfection by putting in a couple of big strokes through the third 500m and moving into the bronze medal position in the final 250m of the race. Aline finished the race in third and as the best Canadian competitor!! After the race Aline commented: “ I am honestly just surprised that I stayed upright! I exceeded my expectations!” It is fair to say that the younger Belzil sister exceeded everybody’s expectations during a phenomenal summer season. Aline started the year by winning the boat race in the Junior Womens 4x and went on to race in two finals of the schoolboy regatta in early June, claiming one fourth place finish in the U17 W1x. At the BC Championships and the Henley Regatta, Aline managed to beat first the bronze medalist from the schoolboy race and then the silver medalist (the gold medalist was selected to the Junior World Championship team and did not race domestically after the schoolboy regatta). Further, Aline claimed a seat in the ERC Senior Womens 8+, making her one of the youngest competitors in the Senior category.

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Cool guys don’t look at explosions: head coach Ali Williams makes her way to the dock, flanked by Ole Tietz and Quinn Brandly

 

This brings the 132nd Henley Regatta to an end. The bottom-line statistics for the ERC are as follows:

—> 28 athletes competed in 52 different boats and events.

—> 20 boats made it through the first round of racing to qualify for semi-finals or finals. A further 3 crews were pre-qualified for finals.

—> That means that almost half of all ERC crews qualified through at least one round.

—> Out of these, 9 crews qualified for finals over 2000m and 4 qualified for finals over 500m

—> That means that one in four (or one quarter) of all ERC crews participated in a Henley final

—> In the 2k finals the ERC claimed 1x 7th place; 3x 6th place; 2x fifth place; 1x fourth place; 1x third place; 1x second place.

—> In the dash finals the ERC claimed 3x fifth place and 1x fourth place.

We would like to thank all the Edmonton athletes who committed to the hard training program in preparation for this regatta and who gave up their holidays to represent the club at this prestigious event. Further we would like to thank the coaching staff of Ali Williams and Terry McKall for their tireless guidance of the program and countless hours of support both in preparation for and during the regatta. Thanks must further go to Simon Lewin and Graym Wood for driving the ERC trailer 3000km across the country. We would like to thank the ARA for the financial support of the trip. The athletes and coaches would further like to thank the ERC board for the continued support of the competitive program. And finally we would like to thank the whole club for the countless volunteer hours and enthusiastic support of the competitive athletes who represent the Edmonton Rowing Club. None of these achievements would be possible without the support of every club member.

 

Press Officers over and out.

 

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The ERC at Henley 2014. Congratulations to all for a great week of racing!