Crew wins big at Thames race

by From Staff & Wire Reports | 7/17/01 5:00am

In a stunning and unexpected victory, Dartmouth's heavyweight men's crew team won Sunday's Ladies' Challenge Plate at the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames, England.

Henley has been described as one of the world's most highly respected races.

Although Princeton University -- the reigning Eastern Sprint champion -- was the heavy favorite in Sunday's race, the Dartmouth heavyweight team pulled ahead in the final 10-15 strokes, winning by a mere fraction of a boat-length.

Princeton had held the lead at the beginning of the race, pulling to an intimidating lead.

"It was an incredible race and a great win," Dick Grossman, Dartmouth men's crew team coach, said last week. "We told the guys to stay close and try to win the race towards the end. Princeton jumped out early, but our guys kept battling."

Numerous observers remarked that the final sprint, gaining the win for the Dartmouth rowers, was truly remarkable.

"That was an awesome sprint, but to do that against the strong current in the Bucks lane is unbelievable," Dartmouth men's crew coach Scott Armstrong said. "The only way I can explain it is that those guys refused to lose."

The race -- one of eight that take place at Henley every year -- was won by Brown University in 2000 and Cambridge University & Queen's Tower Boat Club in 1999.

The Big Green's time of 6:30 was a scant one second slower than the winner of the Grand Challenge, the top event.

Earlier in the elimination process, Dartmouth repaid Yale for last year's painful defeat with a blistering 6:19 victory, the fastest of the whole regatta.

The Regatta, first held in 1839, was originally staged by the mayor and the residents of Henley as a local amusement fair. As time passed, its emphasis fell to competitive rowing.

By 1986, the race had expanded from one afternoon to five full days of races.

According to the organization's web site, the Regatta is not subject to the oversight of England's main rowing boards.

Only two boats race in each heat, which means that about 100 races are staged over the five days. The races of one mile and 550 yards are staged every five minutes during race days so the schedule moves along. On the final day, only the semi-finals and finals are rowed.

According to its web site, the Regatta is "one of the few major sporting occasions today which is run without any reliance upon commercial sponsorship or outside subsidy."