Men’s rowing will not compete this fall for the first time in six years.
One unofficial scrimmage comprises the Colonials’ fall schedule, marking the team’s first season without an Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges sanctioned fall slate since 2013. Rowers and head coach Mark Davis said the team cut the fall competition to save funds to travel to England for the Henley Royal Regatta in June.
“I felt we could spend our time better just training, focusing on ourselves, making our own selves fast, and put us in a position to be able to race at the Henley Royal Regatta next June,” Davis said. “So it’s just prioritizing what we want to use our budget for.”
In past years, the team has competed at the Princeton Chase and the Head of the Charles during the fall. Senior captain John Knies said the lack of fall competition doesn’t disappoint the team because the team can use the extra funds to travel overseas to a competition it has only attended once.
“Everyone realizes that it’s pretty big for our program to go there,” Knies said. “We’ve only gone once before. I think everyone is on board with it and OK with it because Henley is one of the biggest rowing events in the world. That’s definitely the goal.”
The squad went to its first Henley Royal Regatta in 2016. The Colonials ended their first competition in the quarterfinals of the Visitors’ Challenge Cup. The Royal Henley Regatta hosts club, university and national teams from nearly every continent. In 2019, U.S. teams like Purdue, Harvard and Georgetown universities have entered to compete in the regatta.
Knies added that competing can take away from the team’s practice time, and the open fall slate will allow the team to focus on its training.
“Sometimes racing can get in the way of your training, because you can’t really practice that day,” Knies said. “We’re just taking advantage of all the time we have here better.”
Last season, the Colonials captured their best finish in program history at the IRA National Championship in June. The Varsity 8 boat nabbed a 13th-place finish in the nation.
Junior Alex Maycock said the team will use the time between now and March, when the spring season usually begins, to carry the momentum from last season forward and improve on its technique.
“In the past, we’ve jumped into racing really early, especially in the fall,” Maycock said. “The fact that we don’t have these races means that we can really slow down and focus on technique and some things and aspects of practice that we haven’t really had a chance to work on.”
The Colonials will turn toward their 15 upperclassmen for motivation and guidance during the training period, Davis said. The Colonials have 12 juniors, one graduate student and two seniors – Knies and Brendan Carney – rostered on the squad.
Davis said Knies has stepped into his leadership role as a captain and has kept the team motivated in its training by maintaining a positive attitude during practice.
“He works so hard, and his energy every single day is always positive,” Davis said. “It’s always on, which is hard to do because it’s a long year. It’s early mornings and it’s a lot of hard work. The whole sport is just about training and training really hard.”
Davis said he created several opportunities for the team to stay motivated throughout the offseason so rowers are ready to hit the ground running in the spring. The team members race against one another to play for shirts – a rowing tradition that Davis said began in the 1700s.
“There’s this rowing tradition, that when you’re racing another team, if you lose, you give them a shirt,” Davis said. “So we race for shirts and guys usually bring in the goofiest shirt they have, or the smelly shirt, depending on what it is.”
Davis added that the team is keeping track of points won during practice races throughout the fall. At the end of the season, members of the winning team will receive a prize, like a piece of gear.
Despite the lack of a fall schedule, the Colonials will see action in one scrimmage against Navy and Drexel Nov. 2.