Henley ’12

Saturday, June 23rd: The team had to put aside their disappointment and prepare for racing after a day of heartbreak for all members of the Brunswick School Boat Club. We walked to the train station at 6:45 AM and caught the 7:15 AM train to the town of Reading for the annual Reading Town Regatta. I noted that the rail service managed by the First Great Western company is cleaner and less congested then the Metro North trains that we are accustomed to at home. After arriving in Reading, we embarked on a somewhat scenic walk along the Thames River to the regatta site.

We walked through the Reading Town Regatta with our heads held high as we passed many American and international crews who would be racing at Henley. All of the boys knew this would be our last day of racing in England and we wanted to demonstrate to ourselves and everyone else that the long and grueling practices on the Mianus had been worth the effort. The racing length at Reading was 800m (against the current) which meant we would have to bring a high level of intensity in order to succeed.

The Second Eight, coxed by Samuel Zuckert, began the day of racing for the BSBC. Due to strong winds and a ripping current, the regatta officials abandoned the starting stake boats and facilitated the starting process by implementing “floating starts” like we are used to back in the States. In the first round of racing, the Second Eight was lined up against St. George’s College Boat Club and the Isis Boat Club of Oxford University. We got off to an awesome start in the second boat and had a boat length lead on both opponents 100m into the race. As the race continued, the men of the Isis Boat Club continued to pull up closer and closer. With 50m to go, it looked like Isis could take the win, but the boys of the Second Eight truly showed their mettle and pulled ahead for the victory. With a “canvas” margin of victory, it was one of the closest races of the season. Running off their exhilarating victory, we lined up an hour and a half later for the finals of the Intermediate 3 event against the winners of the other semi-final, Hampton School (who had defeated RGS Worcester and Winchester College). After a close start, we were able to take a commanding lead 60 strokes into the race. The boys did not back down and were able to claim Brunswick’s first hardware of the trip. Each boy was awarded an engraved pewter “tankard” after the victory. It was a great way for the Second Eight to end their season.

The stern four of the Second Eight (Jamie Knox, John Mayberry, Alec Durkin, and Pete Rogan) had their third race of the day in the finals of the coxed fours event (also coxed by Samuel Zuckert). The boys faced off against like fours from Groton and Belmont Hill. The boys in the four had really come together the last few weeks as a group and were looking to avenge the close defeat to both Groton and Belmont at the Marlow Regatta last Sunday. The boys had a good start and were within a few seats of both Groton and Belmont half way into the race, but ended up losing by little more than a length. While very technically sound, the four just could not keep up with the sheer strength of the more fresh crews from Belmont and Groton. Even though they lost, the boys really showed us all that they had matured as rowers and that they are prepared to lead the team as seniors next year.

The Varsity Eight was hungry for redemption and to prove that they belong in Henley. In their first heat of the day against St. George’s College, the Varsity came out strong, took a massive lead and was able to cruise into the finish. Due to the harsh weather conditions, races had been pushed back throughout the day. We believed that the races had been pushed back over half an hour, but when they launched, the race had started without them and the boys were not able to compete in the finals. At this point, it seemed like nothing was going their way. The boys kept their composure and prepared for their afternoon races.

In their heat in the ‘School & Junior Eights,’ the boys faced off against the varsity crews from Groton and Pangbourne. Both crews had qualified for Henley and the boys were eager to make a statement. The Brunswick boat looked stronger and more determined then the other two boats as they came down the river clearly in the lead by about a length over these good crews from Groton and Pangbourne. Thirty minutes later, the Varsity was in the finals against Tabor and Belmont Hill. NEIRA champions Belmont Hill and NEIRA silver medalists Tabor both seemed to have a little more strength and endurance then the Brunswick boat who had just turned around and headed to the start again. Both Belmont and Tabor are “selected” crews at Henley (top 8 schools in the world). Belmont won the final by ½ a boat length to Tabor and then two more seats to Brunswick in the final race of the regatta.

Even though the trip did not go exactly how the boys in the Varsity had planned, no one can question the effort and heart they put into their rowing.

After a twelve hour regatta, we came back to Henley and had quick dinners followed by long slumbers. Rowing in Henley and the surrounding towns has been a great experience. The river is pristine and the town is picturesque. Even though we did not accomplish all we hoped to, we have built strong team bonds and made memories that we will never forget.

~ Ryan Amill ’14

Friday, June 22nd, 2012: We report from England tonight with feelings of tremendous disappointment. The Varsity Eight missed qualifying for Henley, finishing just below the cut line in tonight’s qualifiers. The boys gave it their all, but were just not fast enough out there today. We hope that everybody can see the positives in this great trip and make the most of these last days in Henley.

We’ll be off to race at Reading bright and early tomorrow and hope to continue to proudly represent the School with our chins held high.

Thank you for your support. We are so terribly sorry that we will not be racing on Wednesday.


Wednesday, June 20th: Although this trip is focused around rowing, I will be attempting to portray an accurate image of the town of Henley and the wonderful place in which we are situated. The rowing news is rather habitual, as our two-a-day practices on the Thames continue and will continue up until the momentous qualifiers on Friday for the Varsity Eight and Four. I am amazed every morning rowing on the Henley course by the picturesque English countryside towards the start of the course contrasted with the storied townhouses and docks at the end of the course.

The three houses in which we are staying are sited about five minutes walking distance from the heart of the town, proving to be very convenient for the morning, afternoon, and evening runs to the local Waitrose grocery store. Whether it be the copious amounts of granola and hummus purchased by Dylan, or the overall eradication of chocolate milk practically every day, Waitrose has been a haven for all of the members of the Brunswick team. Along with Waitrose, the town of Henley has two exceptional sandwich shops that have each provided all of us with the ability to eat a sandwich (or 2 or 3) every day for lunch. We are always going into town to buy more food, even though our gracious hosts have provided us with a great breakfast every morning and dinner every other night or so. All of these food spots are within walking distance of the center of town, only five minutes from the race course and boat tent. The hubbub of town is basically marked by a crossing of two main roads that cut through the middle of town, and each of those roads is filled with restaurants, clothing stores, bookshops, hotels, and even a Starbucks.

Upon reaching the actual racecourse, one is struck by the aura that it gives off. The combination of leisure boats, hectic racing, coaches on bicycles, and strolling seniors is a balance that defines the course. Just past the finish line of the course is the boat tent—a massive structure filled with what will soon be hundreds of boats protected by jabbering hounds at night. The course is 2112 meters, a little longer than the typical course featured at spring races in the US, and the last 500 meters or so is blanketed by grandstands on the side of the river, providing an animated sprint at the end of a race. The buzz surrounding the regatta in the town is evident, as this colossal event captures the entire town in a frenzy of preparation and anticipation. The town is pretty quiet as of today, but after talking with the guys who came to Henley last year (Matt, Jack, Dylan, and Graham) we understand that things will surely pick up in the upcoming days in terms of spectators, preppy jackets, and Kentucky Derby-esque hats.

Everyone is excited for the qualifiers on Friday and is training very hard in these last few days to prepare for the ultra-competitive racing to ensue. I can’t wait to see all of the parents, friends, and siblings planning on coming to Henley for the racing. That is all I have to say for now; hope all is well back in the States!
~Sean Forester ’13

Monday, June 18th, 2012: Hey everyone, I’ll try to keep with the tendency towards lengthy entries that we’ve been providing so far, but I can’t make any promises.  I write tonight from the most comfortable and easily the largest bed in the Sayer’s household, quite the opposite from many of my teammates, especially Alec Durkin’s cramped and bright pink bed on the floor above me.  The Sayer’s house, although not the most spacious, is quite beautiful and conveniently about a five minute walk from the center of town and about a ten minute walk to the boat tent (but closer to fifteen minutes after an early morning wake up or a groggy mid-afternoon nap).  The lack of space is mostly our fault as we are currently occupying three bedrooms with eight people (including Coach Martin) and with full suitcases and minimal cabinet room, a fair amount of the floor space is covered by randomly strewn clothing.  The Sayer household has also thrown a curveball at us by introducing a dog, ironically named Angel.

When we first arrived, Angel appeared to be all about the belly rubs and affection as though there was a beautiful friendship in the making. As early as day two, we were introduced to the other half of “Angel,” who turned out to be far more intelligent then we had first thought.  The entire stay so far has consisted of her raiding trash cans, opening completely shut doors and eating mostly everything, including the sleeve of a shirt, an amount of chocolate that is considered dangerous even for humans, an expensive retainer, and even a few hands.  Otherwise, life in Henley has been very good to us.

The daily routine has essentially been wake up, eat, row, eat, sleep, row more, eat dinner, take a nightly trip to the supermarket, maybe eat a little more and then go to bed for the night.  There is certainly no shortage of food on this trip (as the schedule might suggest), and we have alternated nights between eating at the first boat’s house and going out to restaurants in town, and of course raiding the supermarket in town.  As far as today was concerned, we headed down to the boat tent this morning and, with the help of our friend Russell Peacock from Marlow Rowing Club, began to unload the trailer from this weekend and rig the boats.  From there it was essentially business as usual, the Varsity 8+ took the water for the morning and afternoon while for the second boat, the 4+ practiced in the morning and the 8+ went out for an afternoon row.  The next step for us is the Henley qualifiers on Friday and then the Reading Town Regatta in which we will row all three of our boats in a series of short 800 meter sprint races against, among others, many of the crews we faced this past weekend on the course at Eton.
~ James Lucey ’13

Sunday, June 17th, 2012: Waking up at 6:00AM is a tough task for most teenagers and after a long day of racing on Saturday, it was even harder for the men of the Brunswick rowing team this morning. We were on the bus at 6:45AM this morning ready to head back over to the famous Dorney Lake for a second day of competitive racing. The thirty minute drive gave us a bit more time to get some much needed extra rest but when we arrived at the soon to be Olympic race course, it was time for battle.

We all shuffled off the bus and made our way through the field to the trailer where our boats were located. Unfortunately, Jack Williams, captain and Varsity Eight oarsman, had developed a brutal sickness after the race on Saturday and was unable to come with the boys to the races today. Because of this, a very large hole was left in the boat that needed to be filled in order for the Varsity Eight to race, but Jack’s twenty-one year old brother, Edward Williams, stepped in and rowed in his little brother’s position.  As we began to warm up on the water the boys slowly got used to the new feel of the boat. Ready and focused to race, we made our way to the starting line. Races today were 1000 meter sprints. This caused for even more of a push for the Brunswick boats. As the race began, we were down on Dublin University and Belmont Hill but even with Radley College and ahead of Lea Rowing Club.  By 500 meters in, Radley, Belmont Hill and Dublin all pushed ahead of us quite swiftly.  We finished the race with a time of 3:02.28, two lengths behind the winner, Belmont Hill, and also behind Radley and Dublin. It was a disappointment for us to finish 4th in our race but there are many more to come and many more to conquer.

The Second Varsity Eight had their final right after ours. This boat had come in 2nd in their heat earlier in the day, which pushed them through to the finals. In their final, they took 4th behind varsity eights from Groton and Latymer Upper along with a good university crew from Ireland. The effort was there during the entire 1000 meter race, they just got out powered by the other crews during the second 500 meters.

Although the eights racing came to a bitter close, the last battle of the day was the Brunswick 4+ race.  This 4+ was coxed by me (Tobin Saer) and rowed by (from bow to stern): Pete Rogan, Alec Durkin, John Mayberry and Jamie Knox.  In our heat, we immediately took the 2nd place position as we put open water on the other 3 crews within the first 600 meters. Groton was next to us and they were cruising along in a comfortable first place position. We took the 2nd place position and held it to finish in order to qualify for the finals. Approaching the starting line for the finals was nerve racking yet extremely exhilarating. With four other very strong crews in the lanes next to us, we knew it would be a battle to the finish. With an incredible start lead by stroke seat Jamie Knox, we were able to take a slight lead on the other crews.  We held the 1st place position for a solid 300 meters and then Belmont Hill made their move. They came back on us through the 500 meter mark and we fought them back and forth for as long as possible trying so hard not to let them escape our grasp.  Through 750 meters, Belmont Hill had taken three seats and Groton, our rivals in the heat, readied their sprint. Groton moved fast and hard and the boys of Wick pushed and pushed but it just was not quite enough. We finished less than three seconds behind Belmont Hill, less than two seconds behind Groton, less than a second ahead of fourth place, and less than two seconds ahead of the 5th place crew. It was a dismal, yet exciting to finish to a great boat race.

The racing day came to a close. Although the Brunswick School Boat Club did not have the best racing day, we left the Olympic course with pride and our heads held high.  We loaded up the trailer and piled back onto the bus. We arrived back home around 2:00pm.  We had an English Sunday roast at a place in town called The Catherine Wheel. Afterwards, we walked over to the boat tent on the Thames River to unload the boats from the trailer.  We did not have the successful finish that we had hoped for in the racing today, but by the end of the day everyone was full of joy and ready for the next week of training.
~ Tobin Saer ’13

Saturday, June 16th: This morning the team ate light breakfasts in our respective homestay houses, walked down to the boat tents and boarded our bus at about 8 o’clock. The chartered bus drove us thirty minutes to Eton College’s Dorney Lake. When we arrived at the course we were a bit discouraged to find out that the conditions from the previous day of training at Dorney hadn’t changed much. There was still a strong crosswind of about 25mph and there were many looming clouds in the sky.

We unloaded the bus and then gathered at the Marlow boat trailer, where we tried to stay warm before launching. The first event of the day for Brunswick was the Intermediate 2 Coxed Fours Division 1 race. Racing in this event were Jamie Knox, John Mayberry, Alec Durkin, and Pete Rogan (from stern to bow). For this event, we borrowed Coxswain Harry Ashcroft from the Marlow Rowing Club, as the team is short a coxswain until the arrival of Sam Zuckert on Wednesday. Including the Brunswick four, there were seven boats racing in this event. The only competitor we had previously heard about was Belmont Hill  (2nd place at NEIRA in fours). The five other boats in the event were all from either high schools or colleges in England. Despite the grueling conditions and fierce competition, the Brunswick four finished 4th with a time of 7:41.46 behind 3rd place Belmont Hill (7:36.86). First and second place were taken by the two colleges racing in this event (St. Hild & St. Bede [7:28.53] and St Andrews University [7:35.37] respectively). Despite not making it into the top three positions, which was necessary to advance to the finals, the Brunswick four showed great poise under the extreme conditions and was able to have a strong showing in its first race in England.

Next up to race was the 1st Brunswick Eight in the Intermediate 1 Eights Division 1 event. Like the Brunswick Four’s heat, the Brunswick 1st Eight faced strong competitors in this event, including a boat from the perennial powerhouse Eton College and the prestigious St. Edward’s School. The 1st boat had a very strong start, staying right in the pack as a few of the other eights dropped back. During the last 1000m of the race, the St. Edward’s crew stretched the field as they pulled away in 1st place under the prevailing winds. The Brunswick eight, finished in 5th place with a time of 6:37.12 behind first place St. Edwards (6:26.73).

Unfortunately, the delays in the regatta’s schedule began to build up throughout the morning because of the extreme conditions, forcing the cancellation of the afternoon’s Intermediate 3 Events in which the Brunswick Second Eight would have competed. Luckily for those who did not race today, the team will return to Dorney tomorrow morning for more races in the four and both of the eights. Racing on the Olympic course was a tremendous experience for everyone who was able to race on it today. Hopefully, the weather tomorrow will hold up and everyone will get to experience a race on the truly remarkable course.
~ John Mayberry ’13

Friday, June 15th: Welcome to the 2012 Henley blog. Different members of the team will be updating you all on our trip daily, so stay tuned each day for the next couple weeks.  Apologies for the late start on our blogging here—to make up for it I will give a recap of our first couple days here in England.

We arrived at London Heathrow airport on Wednesday morning at about 8:30 AM, straight off of the overnight flight.  After a short 40 minute bus ride we were in the picturesque town of Henley.  It was a little strange driving over the Henley bridge and seeing the famous racecourse for the first time in person, after watching so many race videos and seeing so many pictures over the last couple years.  Our bus ride ended at the doorstep of our homes for the next three weeks, and each group went off to their respective houses owned by their respective host families.  The 1st 8+ is staying with hosts Miles and Joe (last names unknown) and their two children, Keela (spelling unknown) and Oliver, all four of whom are very gracious and friendly.  We spent the rest of the afternoon preparing the boats that had been rented, and were able to get in our first row on the Henley course at around 4 pm.  Being on the historic River Thames for the first time was quite an experience, although our rowing was a bit sluggish and labored (jet lag, new boat, etc.). That night the team had a great dinner at Zizzi’s Restaurant, and everyone was ready for bed well before 10pm, especially Jack.

Thursday began our first real day of training, and we were able to fit in two decent rows and also a thorough wash of our rented Empacher “The Lady Lindsay.”  During our rows we were able to spot some rival U.S. crews that are, along with our team, some of the first to arrive in the boat tent.  These include NEIRA competitors BC High and Groton, as well as Gonzaga (winners of the Stotesbury Cup & SRAAs).  The shortage of coxswains has been palpable in the last couple days, and Tobin has been quite busy coxing our 8+ as well as the 4+ that will be entered in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup (while James, Jackson, and even Pete have been coxing the Second Eight).  Thursday night the entire team had dinner at the Miles/Joe residence.  Today was another busy day.  The team had an early 6 am wake up to get one row in on the Thames before heading over to Eton Dorney to set up camp for the Marlow International Regatta which will take place tomorrow and Sunday.

We were able to get a quick row in on the Olympic course, despite the hectic nature of the site due to preparation for the Olympic regatta.  The 25 mph+ crosswind made for a frustrating afternoon but we were able to improve on our rowing throughout the row and hopefully will be prepared for tomorrow’s conditions, which are predicted to be similar. Our entire boat is excited to see some new competition on the water, and our opponents for our morning heat include Eton College and St. Edwards School, both finalists at the National Schoolboy Championships here in England.  This evening was spent at Cafe Rouge, a French restaurant that I encourage anyone who is visiting Henley to try at least once.  I think that’s all I have for now, check back in daily to hear more.
~ Max Heiden ’12

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