GW Men's Rowing to Compete at Henley Royal Regatta
Colonials to Make Transatlantic Trip to Row at World Renowned Event
WASHINGTON - Ten student-athletes from the George Washington men's rowing team will travel across the Atlantic Ocean to compete at the world renowned Henley Royal Regatta from June 29-July 3 on the River Thames in Henley-on-Thames, England.
The trip marks the first time in program history that George Washington men's rowing will be represented at the world's preeminent rowing event. Other than a pair of hiatuses for World War I and World War II, the Henley Royal Regatta has run every year since 1839. It regularly attracts thousands of spectators during the five-day event. An online web stream of the 2015 Henley Royal Regatta had an additional 290,000 viewers.
The Colonials have split their Varsity 8 boat into two fours. A pair of alternates will also make the trip, in addition to GW Head Coach Mark Davis and assistant coaches Tom Guncik and Lee Rumpf. Student-athletes making the trip will be Jordan Tewksbury-Volpe, Bob Hobert, Hugh Tribe, Joe Gorman, Ben Delaney, Jonathan Ghaul, Brendan Keegans, Maddux Castle, Matt Kerwin and Kevin Garvis.
Although rowing alumni have competed at the Henley Royal Regatta, most notably former Olympian and GW Athletic Hall of Famer Aquil Abdullah ('96), this will be the first time that the GW rowing program will compete.
GWsports.com sat down with Coach Davis to discuss how the trip came to fruition, the travel itinerary and the aura at competing against the world's best athletes.
GWsports.com: When was this idea conceived and when did it begin to take form into a reality?
Coach Davis: We've wanted to go to Henley for the past few years. This trip, unlike other international trips that teams do at GW, is for a specific event. So you don't want to go unless you feel like you can go over there and do well and represent the program well. Because of our conference that we're in, the Eastern Sprints, we're kind of designated to a couple different events that we can go to and compete in, at least our varsity guys. We've decided that we would go this year after the end of the Head of the Charles when we finished fifth in the Championship Fours event. We realized that our top four guys are pretty competitive with anybody in our league and we saw the same thing at the Princeton Chase a few weeks later. And that kind of confirmed that we have enough speed, that we can go and race in the Visitors Challenge Cup and do well. So it was October when we decided to do this and said let's move forward and start making plans.
GWsports.com: Can you explain the qualification process and how you arrived at the decision to bring a pair of fours?
Coach Davis: We were originally going to take a straight four for the Visitor's Challenge and then a four for the Prince Albert Cup event. But anybody who races in the Varsity Eight, including freshmen at Eastern Sprints, isn't eligible for the Prince Albert Cup. So we thought, the best thing for the program would be to bring two boats: break the varsity eight into two fours and let them race together in the Visitors Challenge Cup. We don't know if we'll have to go through the qualifying regatta first; we'll find that out later once entries close June 13. I'm guessing that one of our boats will have to qualify and one might get an automatic entry, but we'll find out. A lot of that is just based on your speed and your season and what you have done so far. We embraced a straight four - most people don't - so it's up to the stewards of the regatta to decide who will go through the qualifying regatta and who doesn't. We planned on it, we based our travel around it, knowing that we may need to do that event.
GWsports.com: What is the plan leading up to your departure and then once you get to England?
Coach Davis: The team met up in Boston yesterday (Sunday) and then we are going to be training up in Lewiston, Maine, for a week before we go, from June 12-19. Then we head over to England on the 19th , arriving on the 20th. We're there for a week to prepare for the qualifying regatta, if we have to do that, we'll be ready for that. And then four days later, the regatta itself starts. I'm excited to go because GW has never been before. We could have just kept waiting and waiting and waiting - is this the crew to take, is this the crew to take -- but we feel that this is the year to go. We have enough speed. It's also a young group, out of the 10 rowers that are going there is only one senior. So nine of the guys will be back next year and will be able to bring this experience back to the team and make next year's team that much better because of it.
GWsports.com: What has been the reaction and support like from your alumni?
Coach Davis: We haven't gotten the word out to all of our alumni yet, but the ones that do know are all really excited about it. We all view this as the next step for the program -- keep trying to get the program better and faster, get our name out more. This is the way to do it because you have not only the top university and collegiate programs there from all over the world, you also have the top junior programs from all over the globe. It just helps get our name out so more people know about us. People are excited. We've had GW oarsmen go over there and race for different organizations. Aquil Abdullah did the Diamond Single Scull in 1999 and Robert Bartlett won, he's doing the 30th anniversary row, with Great Britain. So we've had individual oarsmen race there before, but never as George Washington University.
GWsports.com: You personally have had the opportunity to race at Henley. What is the experience like?
Coach Davis: It's the best rowing experience you can have unless you're going to the Olympics. Henley is just the rowing mecca. It's the place where every oarsmen wants to go, just to be in that event. It's just this tiny little town that's all geared toward rowing. It's a unique event because of the format of it too, it's just two crews racing at a time and single elimination. The spectacle of the enclosure area and everybody just dressed up -- it's really just an awesome event.
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