Brown Bear Insider: Senior Coxswain Ellie Smith Blogs During the 2011 Henley Royal Regatta

Brown Bear Insider: Senior Coxswain Ellie Smith Blogs During the 2011 Henley Royal Regatta

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – After claiming Brown's seventh National Championship, 11 women's crew seniors are in the U.K. for the Henley Royal Regatta. Senior All-American coxswain Ellie Smith (Brookline, Mass.) is blogging from the event to keep fans up-to-date on the happenings of the most famous regatta in the world.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Brown Crew Class of 2011 have raced their last race. We took our shot against the British U23 boat but unfortunately we were not able to compete with their speed.

Racing on the number one Berkshire station, we were on the crowd side, which gave us the true Henley experience. Having raced at many courses around the United States, at some point there is not much difference between one six-boat-across race course and another. However, Henley is special. The format of one-on-one competition gives a feeling more of an in-season dual race then of the elite competitions. The really unique aspect of this course is the spectators. At the majority of race courses the spectators are only in one small area of the course, normally the majority of the race is relatively quiet; save for the interjection of coxswain yells. However, at Henley you are watched and cheered down every inch of the course.

As you race down the entire 2,112-meter (approximately!) course you are greeted by yells and cheers from die-hard rowing fans supporting their favorite crew. As you hit the middle 1,000-meter mark you are hit with the sound of music as live bands play at many of the bars which have propped up along the course. Often there appears to be more happening on land than on the water. As you move down the course to the last 500 you reach the enclosure section. As you race  down you are greeted by the sounds of polite claps, with people speaking "Well rowed Brown!" A little different from the inconspicuous mob cheer that greeted us in the sprint at nationals this year at Lake Natoma.

Heading into our race, in which we were competing against the crew that knocked us out of the Women's Henley regatta two weeks ago, we knew that we had to do better. With two weeks of training under our belt we were ready for the challenge. Off the start we held our own, only a few seats down following the start, improving on our previous performance. We raced them all the way down the course, maintaining contact through the first 1,200 meters, and finishing back approximately 2 lengths. The Great Britain U23 boat finished with a time of 7:01, the fastest time of the morning in our event.

With this race wrapping up our time at Brown, this was extra special to all of us. We are proud of what we have accomplished over the last four years and look forward to supporting BWC from the sidelines, as hard as that will be for many of us! Thanks go out to  our rigger Mark Schofer for taking care of us, the boat and introducing us to clouds (they are the best pastry in the world!), to Mishca Joukowsky '87 for all his help, support and Henley knowledge. And thanks to Catherine Starr '05 who has been an amazing coach to us over the last year, but specifically over the last few weeks. All the success we have had could not have been done without her advice, tough love and smile. We are all excited to now be fellow alumni with you!

Finally, myself and the rest of the team would like to thank John and Phoebe Murphy. Your support, advice and metaphors will be with us forever. Thank you for an amazing four years, and don't worry the psycho racers will always be around in some context!



Thursday, June 29, 2011

Racing is back on! Today was officially the first day of the Henley Royal Regatta. Hats, knee length skirts and crazy blazers suddenly descended on the small town of Henley-on-Thames.

For the last two weeks we have been training to compete in the Remenham Challenge Cup (Women's 8+). Our first training day, Monday, June 20, was spent outside of Henley. We began the day at Dorney Lake. This purpose-built rowing lake is the site of the 2012 Olympic games rowing events. It was a thrilling experience to row down the course that will be filled with the best rowers in the world competing for the most prestigious medals in rowing. Following our practice we headed to Oxford where we had dinner at Christ Church College with a number of women from both the Oxford Lightweight and Oxford Open weight Women's Crews. It was a great opportunity to trade stories about rowing from both sides of the pond! We also got to peek inside the dining room used in the Harry Potter movies!

Training in Henley for the rest of the last two weeks has been exhausting but extremely interesting. We have watched as the boat tents have filled up as crews from around the world have been arriving. As one of only a few women's boats at a male dominated regatta we have had spent many practices as the only women's boat on the course. However this hasn't stopped us from finding people to race. We have had practices with both men's fours from both Harvard and University of Virginia.

Friday, June 24 was the time trials which allow boats to qualify into the regatta. Although we were lucky enough to automatically qualify into our event based upon our previous racing, we were able to watch eight other women's boats compete for the remaining two spots in the Remenham Challenge Cup.

The Draw was held on Saturday, June 25. This event is held in the Henley Town Hall and is open to the public. The hall was filled to the brim with rowers and coaches and a few confused tourists as we all eagerly (and nervously!) waited to see who we would draw to race in the opening rounds.

As Henley is run as dual races, with winner going to the next round and the loser out, who you draw can affect how far you make it in the competition. Your hardest race can be fought in the first round. We all sat quietly as one by one names were pulled out of the huge silver trophy (over three feet tall). Sighs of reliefs, groans of dread or even laughs erupted following every draw.

For our cup, four of the eight crews were ranked, in order to prevent the top 2 crews from racing in the first round. This meant that as one of the four unranked crews we were going to draw Princeton Training Center (US national team), Leander Club & Thames Rowing Club (British National Team), Leander Club & Reading University (British European Championship Crew) or Oxford Brookes University & ­Molesey Boat Club (British U23 Crew).

This means that we will be racing Great Britain's U23 boat. Having raced a similar crew during the semi-finals of Women's Henley, we are looking forward to the re-match and hoping to improve on our previous performance. 

We are racing at 12:05 p.m., or 7:05am EST, and racing can be followed by listening to Regatta Radio which will provide commentary of the race:

Go Bruno!!



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today was definitely a day of highs and lows. Our day started with the semi-final in the Elite 8 competition of Henley Women's Regatta. We raced a composite boat of girls from around the U.K., who are all training to compete in the Great Britain Under-23 boat. The composite boat took off quickly at the start and despite our best efforts to catch up to them we were unable to make up the distance we lost on the start. The composite boat won with a time of 4 minutes 56 seconds approximately a length and a half ahead of us.

In the following semi-final Princeton was also unable to match the speed of the other GB U23 entry, taking out all of the American crews in the event.

The winner of the Elite 8 event at Henley Women's Regatta is given an automatic bid into The Remenham Challenge Cup at the Royal Henley Regatta in two weeks. As we were out of the competition, we were looking at having to race in a time trial to gain a spot in this event.

However, it was announced this afternoon that based on the results of our racing from throughout the entire season, Brown University Alumni (us!!), Princeton University, Princeton Training Center (US national team), as well as the two GB boats in the final of the Women's Elite 8 would all have automatic bids into the Remenham Challenge Cup.

We now have two weeks to prepare for this event, with racing beginning on Friday, July 1. A draw will take place of Saturday, June 25 at 3 p.m. here at Henley town hall to determine who we will be racing.

For the next two weeks we will be hard at work training for the Remenham Challenge Cup. While the majority of the practice will take place on the regatta course in Henley, tomorrow we will travel to Dorney Lake, the site of the 2012 Olympic rowing events.  


Go Bruno!!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Today we competed in the Elite 8 event. Having finally come to terms with the fact that we are racing as Brown Alumni as we have all graduated, we were ready to compete against our fellow American boat from Princeton University. This became the most hotly contested race of the three heats of Elite 8's. Princeton's second varsity eight equaled our speed off of the line and it was a hard fought battle through the first half of the race until we were able to push ahead and get the lead. However, not to be outdone, Princeton continued to push all the way down the course, never letting up and allowing us to walk away. The Brown Alumnae was able to take thre race though, crossing the line with a time of 5:12, with Princeton approximately 1 1/3 lengths back.

We will be back in action tomorrow for the semifinal when we will race a composite crew comprised of women from Universities and Clubs from around the U.K. Racing is at 11:28 a.m. local time (6:28 a.m. EST). 



Friday, June 17, 2011

And we're off! The 24th annual Henley Women's Regatta has begun and the Brown senior class of 2011 has already taken their first plunge into racing in England. Rowing began today when the double, with Rachel Ellenbogen '11 at stroke and Jessica Calihan '11 at bow, entered a time trial for the senior double event. Battling the wind and rain they made their way down the 1,400-meter course, racing some of the fastest doubles from around the world including some national team members.

The double came 18 out of 24, with only the top 16 making it to the afternoon races the double was not able to compete in the following round. 

This evening the team attended a reception at the River and Rowing Museum located in Henley. There, we were able to meet the other crews from around the world as well as look at the exhibits demonstrating how rowing has changed over the last 200 years. We have come a long way from women's rowing being judged by style and not speed.

We were also able to visit the famous Leander club when we attended a dinner hosted by member Misha Joukowsky '87. Famous coxswain, and University of Pennsylvania alumnae, class of 1954 Bernie Taradash gave us some wonderful words of wisdom for our race tomorrow

The eight will race compete in the Elite 8 event, with our first race at 1:27 p.m. (8:27 a.m. EST) on Saturday afternoon against Princeton University with the winner racing in the semi-finals on Sunday morning. 



Thursday, June 16, 2011

The class of 2011's trip to Henley-on-Thames has officially begun! After a week of training in Providence, R.I., the 11 seniors accompanied by assistant coach Catherine Starr '05, rigger Mark Schofer, Misha Joukowsky '87, and Associate Athletic Director for Facilities Tom Bold, arrived in Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom.

Following a morning of unpacking and exploring the local town, we traveled to the Oxford University's Fleming Boathouse in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. There we met our shell for the next few weeks, The Anthia Grace II, which is kindly being loaned to us by the Oxford University Lightweight Women's Crew. While it may be missing our customary bear, we are quickly making it our own.

After adjustments with the help of Mark and the Oxford Lightweight Women's head coach Chris O'Hara, we were able to take the boat for a spin along the river Thames. The double were able to rig their boat, having had it sent over all the way from Providence, and armed with their new oars, they were able to try out Oxford's course as well.

Day two finds us practicing on the race course in Henley. Enjoying the experience of true British weather, rain, we rigged our boats and were able to get our first taste of the race course.

Racing starts on Friday, June 17th, with the double racing in senior 2x time trial of 24 boats from which the fastest 16 will qualify and progress to the heats. The time trial will be at 11:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST). If they advance they will be racing at approximately 3 p.m. local time (10 a.m. EST). The eight will not be racing until Saturday.


Go Bruno!


About the Henley Royal Regatta

The Henley Royal Regatta is undoubtedly the best-known regatta in the world and it holds a unique place in the respect and affection of all oarsmen. Founded in 1839, it is famous both as a great sporting occasion and a social event; and people come from all over the world to attend, either as competitors or as spectators. Winning an event at Henley has always been considered one of the greatest achievements of a rower's career, even amongst those who have become world champions; and a rowing life is not complete if it does not include competing at Henley.