Henley ’11

This blog will be updated daily now through HRR.

Thursday, June 16th

First of all, I would like to say welcome to all of the Brunswick parents and supporters reading the Brunswick 2011 Henley Blog! It’s a seriously amazing experience to be rowing here with some of the best teams in the world. Currently, however, Brunswick, St. Andrew’s, and St. Paul’s are the only teams in the boat tent, but we are very excited for the regatta to build up and really want to thank our parents and coaches for giving us the chance to row here.

After training on the Sound for a grueling week, we were looking forward to finally seeing the course we’ve been training to race on and it is truly amazing. The Thames is flat and calm, even when shrouded in rain and mist, which it has been for the last couple of days. We were able to find the same speed we had back home, even with all the distractions of the new race course and Women’s Henley, and we will spend the next week focusing on perfecting our technique while trying to build boat speed.

Another big thank you to Andy Gutteridge and the Atkinsons for being such kind hosts. While we do not have the chandeliers of ’09, we have an amazing house to stay in over the next two weeks thanks to them, perfect for four rowers and a coach. We can only hope that we don’t eat our way through Henley over the course of two weeks.

We are truly excited to represent Brunswick School, and we hope to do it well. See you in four days.

– Jack Williams ’12

Friday, June 17th

The hours spent here in Buckinghamshire are truly unique and well spent as our quad continues to increase in boat speed. Coach Falco has taken a paternal role over this boat. His assistance at the house and his guidance through practice and on land has positively affected this team as we can see gradual improvements each day.

Today was dedicated to preparing for our first major event at Dorney. Thanks to the Marlow Rowing Club we were able to easily transport our boat and oars to the Eton rowing course this morning. As the location for the 2012 Rowing Olympics, this course left our team in awe as we gazed upon this massive man-made body of water with perfectly straight racing lanes. The difficult training we received back in the states will hopefully payoff tomorrow as long as our boat continues to focus on fast catches, quickly engaging the legs and maintaining a clean finish. Though the weather has not been ideal, Henley has yet to stop amazing me with its historical status and beauty; it has been an honor to row in this location with such a driven group of Brunswick boys.

This is our first experience racing in England or in any event as grand as this. We appreciate the opportunity to race here in England and we will make the best of every day and every stroke. Our team has settled in nicely to our wonderful home and I know that tomorrow will be a great day.

– Graham Miller ’12

Saturday, June 18th

Good evening everyone, Dylan here! Hope ya’ll are doing well back in the States. Today began with an early wake up call and a drive to a race held at Eton’s Dorney Lake. This giant man-made lake seemed surreal to many and it is no wonder why it will be the site of the 2012 Olympics. It truly was a privilege to be able to row in the waters of future Olympians. Once we arrived at the course, it was evident that the raging gusts would be one of our many formidable opponents. Although the day did not come together as we had hoped for, we believe that we will continue to get faster in the upcoming week.

After racing, the families of Marlow Rowing Club were kind enough to house us in their tent as the rain began to pour down. They were an amazing group of people that brought together a passion for the sport of rowing and a warm natured kindness. After getting to know our friends at Marlow, we headed back to the bucolic town of Henley where we trained during the afternoon. Following the training session, we went to a secluded pub known as the Dew Drop Inn for dinner (located several miles outside of Henley). The servers were kind and the food was sublime. It definitely is a well-kept secret of the town. Well, that’s all for now. I hope that everyone is enjoying a well-deserved summer back in the states. God bless and hope to see ya’ll soon.

– Dylan Troy ’12

Sunday, June 19th

“Don’t ask how many, but where.”

That’s my adopted Spartan philosophy going into this next week. There are 70 boats signed up for the Fawley Cup, and after the Qualifier, 24 boats move onward. What is key for us to remember is that it does not matter how many crews sign up, or what “big” names are here, but we should rise to the challenge and attack the races with the same intensity and confidence as we would if 10 boats were entered—if not, more intensity! We shouldn’t let the empty names and numbers on a piece of paper intimidate us, because all that matters is which boats row fastest—and we are perfectly capable of being one of those boats. The success of our quad is going to depend significantly on our mental and technical performance going into the races, since the four of us have already been striving to perfect our physical conditioning. Looking around the boat, all of us put maximal effort into our training, at practice and on our own. We all have spent countless hours of free time on the weekends, vacations, and school mornings getting our bodies in the best physical condition possible. I’ve always joked about sweat, blood, and tears—but it’s true! Therefore we should have a reasonable degree of confidence in our training. As an old mentor once said, “Nothing breeds success like confidence, and nothing aids confidence like a plan of action.” Well, this quad has been religiously following the plan of action, and being confident in the work we have put in will certainly help to alleviate the stress and the distractions that most people would expect athletes to suffer from at such a high level competition. Whether it takes visualizing a perfect race and victory, or just taking the time to relax, a clear mind will get us far.

Staying calm and cool under pressure is also crucial for this squad. While these qualities can be somewhat attributed to sheer experience, there is something to be said for recognizing of when you start to panic or become anxious, and then having the ability to relax yourself—especially as you are flying down the race course, or sitting at the catch before Temple Island and have the realization. With the regards to the powerful head, cross, and tail winds that have been whipped at us in all combinations, it is so important to keep in mind that the same wind bearing down on our lane has the same effect on all the other boats. Since the last time I checked we can’t change the wind, there is no sense worrying about what we have no control over. Instead we must set our minds to rowing the best possible way in whatever conditions Mother Nature decides to send our way. Since being worried leads to a lack of slide control, missing strokes, tightness, and a loss of focus, it’s obvious that nervousness is something we will want to remove from our minds as the days go on and as the race course becomes more chaotic, and instead replace the void with confidence, relaxation, and a determination to do whatever it takes to win our races.

Today, we raced again at Dorney Lake in an intermediate level race, and aside from the massive Norwegian men (yes, grown men with beards and wives and kids), we were within a few seconds of the other crews, and beat the Army. Despite some steering trouble at the beginning, we improved from yesterday, and want to carry this improvement with us as we approach the qualifier. From talking to the Marlow quad rowers who won the School Boy Nationals here in GB, we are right there with them in terms of erg scores and size (measured in “stone,”), and that goes to show us that our focus should be on moving the boat as efficiently and quickly as we can through those booms because the strength is already there! Working on light and quick catches, starting the leg drive only after the blade is buried, steering straight, controlling the slide control at the catch, and finishing cleanly to maximize the run of the boat, are all technique things that we will continue to improve on. If we are able to consolidate all our power into a unified, controlled, and focused stroke, the Enclosure better be on the watch a serious race from this Brunswick crew.

– Matt Podlesak ’13

Monday, June 20th

Podlesak, that’s going to be tough to follow. Another rainy day at Henley-on-Thames, with two productive practices that bought us closer to the big day. We spent most of the day preparing the running start from Temple Island to The Barrier that we will have to do on Friday’s qualifier. So far, we have picked up speed, with the jetlag from the trip last week slowly starting to ease off.

The Boat tent is starting to become full of teams, after most of the schools came here from the Marlow Regatta at Dorney. Steering the boat has proved to be difficult in the narrow lanes on the Thames, but it is something we are working on together as a team, and can easily overcome before Friday’s qualifiers.

Tomorrow we are planning to do three separate practices, and squeezing in every row we can is something that will help us greatly in this historical race. Even today, the U.S, British, and Australian national teams announced that they would be racing in the Grand Challenge Cup, a race that will be amazing to see. We are looking forward to more training, but right now I am mostly looking forward to sleep.

– Jack Williams ’12

Tuesday, June 21st

The tents are slowly filling up as we approach our qualifier this weekend and Henley in the near the future. And with this gradual increase in crews, it gives us the opportunity to glance out across the water at our competition.

With the obstacle of weather (wind), the sweet sound of our boat cutting through the water is still achieved. The run of the boat is going to be key come race time, as this has become our primary focus day in and day out. Today we practiced three times on the Thames – early morning, noon and late afternoon. Everyday I see the eagerness in my teammates to practice. Their obsessive drive to improve our boat has become the base of this team and our motivation to row. With our white and red Wintech nearly stopping dead in the water today, it seems the weather in England is definitely pestering but essential in developing a strong boat. Coach Falco is guiding us in the direction of success!

Life here in the Gutteridge’s house is great and effortless due to their hospitality and generosity. We look forward to more days here in Henley and are eager to see our parents upon their arrival in approximately two days. This Friday is the qualifier and this weekend is the Reading Town Regatta – the future holds great promises (time to pull hard boys).

– Graham Miller ’12

Wednesday, June 22nd

Good evening everyone, Dylan here! Hope ya’ll are doing well back in the States. The day began with an early morning practice on the beautiful Thames River. Our focus points were on fast catches, a controlled yet powerful stroke, and clean finishes. Over the past few weeks we have seen improvements in both our boat speed and technique. I think a large part of these gains have come from watching and learning from the older international crews. It has been a truly humbling experience to see Olympic crews row a mere ten feet away. The streets of Henley have truly exploded in the last few days. Eight days ago we were the only crew in the boat tent now there is little room to breath.

Following this morning’s practice we put Brunswick’s colors on our oars (which gave us a perfect reminder of the community that we so proudly represent). Thank God we painted the oars at this time because a torrent of rain began to come down. After a few hours of down time we came back on the water for the final time of the day. This practices focus was more on learning to listen to our body and truly feel the boat moving underneath us. Following the days practice we went to the lovely Angel restaurant on the banks of the Thames River. It was truly a stunning sight watching the sun go down as we enjoyed great food. Well, that’s all for now. I hope that everyone is enjoying a well-deserved summer back in the States. God bless and hope to see ya’ll soon.

– Dylan Troy ’12

Friday, June 24th

Today, as many of you know, was the day of the qualifiers for the Fawley Challenge Cup, in which sixty schools raced for eight spots in next week’s competition.  Unfortunately, we did not place, falling ten seconds flat to be one of the eight. While this is sad news, there were aspects of the race that we were happy with including improving our time by beating crews that had beat us at Dorney by sixteen seconds, excelling every practice in the week prior to our race, and tackling head on all obstacles that came to us over the 2112 meter track. We were calm and diligent, and out of that came a time that was good, but not quite good enough.

Looking back over the goals we set forth for ourselves for this week approaching the big race, we actually came very far. We dropped ten seconds off our 2k time from Dorney, despite adding 112 meters to that 2K piece. While we didn’t qualify, we beat the vast majority of teams who also didn’t make the cut. More importantly however, the sheer speed of the boat greatly improved over the five days, and this improvement was accompanied by a new psychological approach to racing, which had changed for the better. Maybe what changed our mindset was having an air of confidence with the Spartan attitude, especially as the boat tent overflowed with sixty scurrying boats competing for eight spots. Or maybe the change came from tapping into all potential for improvement we had pent up within. Or maybe it was the two or three practices a day and the comfort and familiarity we felt with the Henley course. Whatever it was, our form in the boat came together tremendously, we grew faster by the stroke, and our minds became confident, resolved, and calm under the pressure.

What we truly wanted to do today was to set a foundation for 2012. This has been something that the freshman crew of ’09 has dreamed about. The successes of the ‘09 varsity boat in England only did more to inspire us. There is no doubt in any of our minds that next year’s Varsity Eight can achieve just as much success in these five days on the Thames, if not more. We have respected and valued the precedent that the Brunswick boat of ’09 set for us, and now it is time for us to respond in full form. While the four of us did not attain all of our goals this year, we have absolute faith in the next. We would like to, again, thank our parents, the coaches, and the Stewards for giving us the chance to race, and we would like to thank every member of BSBC. LET’S GO WICK!

– Matt Podlesak ’13, Jack Williams ’12, Dylan Troy ’12, Graham Miller ’12

Saturday, June 25th

About 21500 meters later, we returned from the Reading Town Regatta. My favorite part by far was just getting to the races. We rowed 10k up the Thames through a series of locks, used to control the heights of the river and to raise and lower boats between these different water levels. On the way up, the locks were easy to deal with since Coach operated one and the other two had attendants. The return trip however was a lot more interesting. At lock #1 we were by ourselves in the quad when the Yale alumni eight-boat showed up and squeezed in. Just when we thought the lock was full, a massive white yacht came and was reluctant to waiting. By some miracle we fit the yacht in. Rowing up to the next two locks, we were determined to stay in front of the Yale eight, so we hauled our way down the Thames. At the final locks there was no one to operate, so I had to abandon ship and get a little wet to work the locks, but a little dip in the Thames was worth it. We rowed the last stretch to Henley between a 34 and 40 full pressure trying to catch the Yale boat that had a 10-length head start out of the lock. “Racing” Yale turned out to be a highlight of the day.

With regards to the racing, luck didn’t seem to be on our side. The first race, two seats up on Malvern B (who qualified for Henley), as well as several seats on the third crew, after only 20 strokes, we nearly collided with a barge riding the other side of the buoys. We had to hold water and were consequently well off the pace. Nevertheless, we powered through the race and finished going hard at a 39, which to Coach resembled a stroke-rate in the low thirties because of the great boat ratio and power application. We rowed our best into the finish despite the mishap. Even in that split second when we had to stop for the safety of the crew, we instantly started back up again, despite knowing the race was most likely over for us (nearly a thirty second delay on a 750m course). We would not accept defeat so easily. In our second and final race of the day, we were lined up against Malvern A, who came second at Youth Nationals, and an Australian crew on the far side of the river. With all the bow-balls lined up after the start and amid the intermediate settle, it seemed the race could go to anyone. Malvern then began to encroach on our lane and we collided oars. Nearly forced into the shore, our boat lost course and we never got it back from there.

While the racing never came together the way we wanted, it is clear from how the races began we are on similar levels as some of the best crews out there. Sometimes things don’t necessarily go the way you want, but what is most important is to learn from what happens, not take these things so seriously that they ruin your morale, but instead come back next time with a greater resolve for victory and an eagerness to improve upon our racing.

– Matt Podlesak ’13