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Varsity four boat takes fifth in prestigious race

Cory Bernard | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston annually brings together some of the world’s top rowing competition from the high school, collegiate and club levels. In the championship four-race, only one university finished ahead of the Irish.

Notre Dame clocked a time of 18:40.01, good enough for fifth place overall. The Vesper Boat Club took first with a time of 18:21.85. Virginia, the only school to top the Irish, finished second at 18:34.40. Defending national champions Brown rowed a 19:00.23, placing seventh.

As one of the most prestigious regattas in the world, thousands of spectators lined the Charles River over the weekend to watch the myriad races. Irish coach Martin Stone said he made his team aware of the magnitude of the event during practice the previous week.

“We talked about [the crowds] beforehand,” he said. “It’s an incredible atmosphere for this type of race. It’s gotten a lot bigger. I remember 10 or 12 years ago it was a one-day regatta. This year, they were estimating about a quarter of a million people would be watching from the shore over the weekend.”

Although Notre Dame’s four-crew could not replicate the fanfare of the regatta in practice, it handled it well according to Stone.

“It was crazy,” Stone said of the atmosphere in Boston. “You can’t really prepare for it, but at the end of the day it’s a time trial. You’re racing against the clock, and we’ve done a tremendous amount of those.”

Toward the end of the race, Notre Dame encountered a potentially damaging hurdle. Heading into the final bridge, the Irish encountered some slower traffic. Stone said his squad practiced for such a situation, and junior coxswain Abby Meyers guided the boat out of trouble.

“We had prepared for [such a situation], knowing we were starting in the back of the field and we might run into some slower traffic,” Stone said. “To her credit, Abby saw what was going on, and since the other team wouldn’t yield, she shut it down for a few seconds to make sure we had a clear path.”

By virtue of finishing fifth, the Irish are guaranteed a spot in next year’s Head of the Charles Regatta. According to Stone, Notre Dame hopes to return annually.

“It’s a race that has a lot of value,” he said. “It’s definitely a place we should be as a program.”

Despite Notre Dame’s impressive showing against some of the nation’s best, Stone said he has to see his team in more races to accurately gauge its ability.

“This race gives us a base idea of where we are in the general field. Spring is a long way away still. We’ll have a better idea after we race Indiana and then Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana again.”

The Irish next race the Hoosiers in Indianapolis on Nov. 6.

Contact Cory Bernard at cbernard@nd.edu