Henley ’18

The Brunswick School Boat Club will travel to The Henley Royal Regatta this summer with one eight (c Diego Jasson, S David Sorbaro, 7 Austin Sammons, 6 Matthew Jacobson, 5 Jack Mozingo, 4 Scott Gibbons, 3 Hank Michalik, 2 Tommy Kimberlin, B Christian Ruf) and a four (S Ben Shore, 3 Will Gregory, 2 Daniel Augustine, B Jack Altman, C Andrew Grossman) to compete in The Princess Elisabeth Challenge Cup and The Prince Albert Challenge Cup, respectively. During our trip, each of the boys will catalog their experiences  with daily write-ups.

Thursday, June 21st
Jack Altman ’18 (Bow seat of the Prince Albert 4+)

We kicked off the Henley trip with a ceremonious goodbye at Maher.  Mr. Phillip was in attendance, along with our moms and dads.  Coach Costas and Coach Falco boarded the school bus with 13 (of the 14) athletes and landed at Heathrow with the same number, thankfully.

One notable anecdote from the plane was that, despite all sitting together, we made a group chat on the monitors on the seatbacks in front of us.  Also, a baby in seat 63D was screaming for the first 10 minutes of the flight.  Even though the baby stopped crying pretty quickly, we all still had trouble getting quality sleep.

We departed Heathrow in a small coach bus and dropped our stuff at The Thames Hotel, our home for the first few days of the trip. We went down to the 2012 Olympic course in Dorney, where we will be racing this Saturday, for a quick practice.  Both boats had excellent practices despite strong winds.  We ate in the hotel restaurant which was “fiery”  Then, everyone went walking out on the town to acquire nourishment for the days to come.   Now, all we will do for the next couple of hours is fight the jetlag in order to adjust properly to the time here.  We are all very tired.

View from the Thames Hotel

Friday, June 22nd
Daniel Augustine (2 seat of the Prince Albert 4+)

Hello to all,
The first full day of training in England is done. Everyone seems to have woken up refreshed and is fully prepared for our regatta tomorrow. We woke up this morning around 8:15 AM for breakfast. There was a solid array of food; eggs, sausage, bacon (ham), hash browns, and some cereals. After finishing the delightful breakfast, we left for Dorney lake.

Both the 8+ and 4+ put in a fruitful 8k. The course is beautiful, as Altman probably said in his blog from yesterday. One major difference of today from yesterday was the wind. Yesterday there was a whipping wind, but today it was much lighter. Both teams had great practices and, I think, we are both very prepared for our regattas tomorrow and are extremely excited.  After the morning practice, we all got a flat white from the coffee car right outside of the Eton Boathouse. Coach Falco told us we should, as he thought it was the best flat white he has ever had.  Then we went back to the hotel to get lunch. We had about two hours, and spent most of it hanging out and eating. This picture here shows the boys grabbing a bite outside the hotel at lunch. Right behind them is the Thames River.

After lunch, we went back to the course and had our second practice. The practice was pretty normal, nothing too crazy; just a simple 8k. Although after practice, we got to go into the “Olympic suite’ building next to the Dorney lake. This building held all the judges and was a major part of the Dorney events in the 2012 Olympics. We then went back to the hotel to get dinner. It was some quality food, much like lunch and breakfast. Obviously, it isn’t better than my mom’s cooking, and I’m sure every kid would argue that point, but the food is still very good. Currently the four is jam-packed into my room getting in some good arrow.io gameplay, some quality banter, and forcing Gregs to stretch. Thanks for tuning into my blog for June 22nd. Hope you enjoyed, see you all at Henley on July 4th.

Saturday, June 23rd
Scott Gibbons (4 seat of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

Hello everyone,

Today was quite an incredible day. For the 8+, it started with a 6:00 AM wake-up followed by a taxi-ride to Dorney for our time trial at 8:30. Driving next to the course on the way in, we observed perfect conditions: “glassisimo” as some might say. The 8+ warmed up and experienced few interruptions as our time trial was the first of the day. After receiving a motivational talk from Russell Peacock about “bits and pieces” and going “flat-out”, we headed to the starting line and had a great race. After finishing a strenuous 2k piece, the wait for results seemed interminable. Luckily, we were comforted by the air conditioned cafe in Eton’s boathouse where we hydrated and played war. Eventually, we learned we had finished in 7th of 35, and made the A final by a fraction of a second, beating universities and other top British schools.

Meanwhile, the 4+ was gearing up for their time trial at 12:20. Despite a nearly 20 minute delay on their race, they had a great race. They really felt they had pushed themselves to their full potential, even though they were racing against a few university crews. As the 4+ went back to the hotel, the 8+ stretched and waited for our grand final.

Despite being minutes from launching for the grand final at the 163rd Marlow Regatta, Diego decided he needed a flat white. Luckily, he did not spill any of it while slowly walking to our boat meeting before launching. However, we had plenty of time to warm up and get the legs primed for another race after sitting during the day. Facing up against top crews such as Eton, we knew the race would be tough. After the first half of the race, we found ourselves towards the front of the pack after a powerful start. Unfortunately, a plethora of factors, including jet lag and dehydration, kicked in and prevented us from maintaining a medaling speed. After finishing 7th, we were proud of our ability to make the grand final and felt confident that we would be much more competitive at Henley Royal with some recovery and practice.

The 8+ de-rigged the boat and the 4+ had their grand final later in the day. Similar to the 8+ they had a great start but struggled to keep up with the other top crews because of fatigue. All of us went back to the hotel for a much needed shower and nap before a nice dinner and quick run to the gas station for chocolate bars. We are looking forward to our day off tomorrow and cannot wait to see everyone in a few weeks!

Sunday, June 24th
Will Gregory (3 seat of the Prince Albert 4+)

This morning we woke up for a 9am breakfast at the Thames Hotel.  At 10, we got on the London Minibus and headed out to Henley. After a 30 minute ride, we passed the Henley course. We drove over the bridge, and the finish line came into sight. We all started freaking out. The course from all of the videos that we have watched of the Henley races came into sight. This was literally a dream come true.

We arrived at the houses we’ll be staying at the next two weeks. We all piled into the houses and met the host families. They are all so welcoming. In our house it is a family with two little boys who are hilarious and in the other is a family with a daughter who had her 6th birthday today.

After putting our bags down, we headed out to rig the boats behind the Leander Club and Henley boat tents. We were the first boats inside the tents which were really cool to see empty.

We then all split up to have lunch and some free time. Some of us walked down the course and others went into town to eat and explore a bit. We all met at the houses again at 4 to get ready for dinner.

We all had a great dinner at Zizzi’s which is an amazing, Italian restaurant right in the middle of town. After dinner, most of us headed directly back to the houses and have just been hanging out, watching soccer, and relaxing, as this is our only day off for a while.

Monday, June 25th
Andrew Grossman
(Coxswain of the Prince Albert 4+)

Today was the exciting first day of rowing on the Henley Course. The four and eight headed out onto the Thames early in the morning, full of adrenaline and excitement, and rowed close to 10 kilometers. Both practices were successful, and we were all left with the  humbling experience of rowing on a course we recognize from videos. It was a feeling akin to practicing in a stadium that you’ve seen on TV hundreds of times, with the added knowledge that in a short time, we will be competing on the same course.

After practice, a few of us had lunch at Cafe Rouge, and then went to a supermarket to stock up on between-workout snacks. After spending what seemed like hours searching for normal snack foods, we returned to the houses for some leisure time. At home we got some much needed rest, talked rowing technique and calls, and even played some fortnite before both boats returned to the course for afternoon practice. This practice was even more productive, as we were more used to the excitement of the course and better able to focus on improving our technique. The most notable part of the practice was when both boats did a build down the Henley course side by side. We all were amazed by the raw intensity and thunderous noise that came from both boats rowing in such close proximity. It was another very humbling experience.

After afternoon practice, we once again returned to the houses for relaxation before dinner again at Cafe Rouge. All in all, it was a productive day and we’re looking forward to putting down more meters on the Thames.

Tuesday, June 26th
Matthew Jacobson
 (6 seat of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

The day started with an early wake up for the eight so we could get a few Fawley length (~1k) pieces in to practice the first half of our race plan. The four got a later start and did a steady state row with some builds to begin preparations for their time trial this Friday. After a solid row, the 8+ split into two groups: one going out to breakfast and the other headed to the supermarket to buy food to make at the house. The group that went out to breakfast came back to the house from what they claimed was “one of the best breakfasts ever” to witness the culinary team of Jacobson, Jasson, and Sammons create a masterpiece of a lunch featuring chicken, lettuce, tomato, and pepper sandwiches. The other group also made some eggs when they got home and Hank chowed down on his personal loaf of bread. While this was happening, the guys in the four returned from their lunch, where they made full use of the unlimited flat whites, to another unsuccessful fortnite session. The win total is still at 0.

When we returned to the course for the afternoon row, it became apparent how many crews have shown up since we got here a few days ago. The boat tents continue to get more and more crowded and more of the regatta site setup is being finalized as the racing approaches. The afternoon row entailed some more steady state in the four and the eight was able to have the experience of doing a 1/4 mile piece lined up next to the Eton 2V. This was exciting and informative, as none of us had ever done racing pieces next to another crew on the Henley course, and we identified some areas to improve upon for upcoming training sessions and eventually for the races. The rowing up to this point has been solid and we are going to improve as much as possible before race day to have as much speed going into this regatta as possible.

After dinner everyone is planning on an early night to get ready for another important row tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27th
Diego Jasson (Coxswain of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

Today started a bit earlier than usual. I excitedly awoke at 5:50 AM for our early morning practice — our first full Henley piece on the course. Kimberlin, however, lost in a world of ghouls and warlocks, didn’t exit his dreams until 6:03 AM, much to everyone’s disdain.

Unlike the other mornings, it was chilly and overcast as we walked down to the boat tent, with an ominous force seemingly foreshadowing death and tragedy typical of British gothic writing. Nonetheless, we quickly took our boat out of the boat tent and rowed up to the course’s starting line full of optimism.

Rowing down the course, I focused on guiding and pushing the boys along in a straight line as we impromptu raced a Leander-Upper Thames quad composed of top oarsman while avoiding the wooden booms that line the edge of the course. These booms famously punish unfocused coxswains with an all-but-certain regatta-ending crash.

We worked our way through the crew with a tenacious aggressiveness matched only by my excellent steering. Alas, a family of geese unfortunately found itself in the way of my razor straight line. In life, sometimes hard decisions must be made. I decided to put the safety of the crew ahead of that of the Queen’s geese.

After celebrating a good piece and mourning the tough loss of a feathered friend, we got breakfast and continued on our daily routine. Hank identified airplanes in the sky. Tommy and David serenaded us while strumming a guitar. Christian worked on his tan. And Austin engrossed himself in his phone communicating with some unknown entity.  Later on, we chatted with our hosts, Garth and Ashleigh, about everything from flying airliners and mountaineering, to parachuting as the sun set.

After an afternoon practice in the sun with the four, we headed to dinner at a local restaurant, The Bull. As we chatted about our rows, attics, and the fours’ inability to master Fortnite, I couldn’t help but feel the fleeting nature of the moment. Today was our first and last full practice piece on the Henley course. Next time will be for real. The day after tomorrow, the four will face rowing’s best in the Prince Albert time trial. While the sun may never set on the British Empire, it most certainly is setting on our training, leaving only the final test of competition on our horizon.

Thursday, June 28th
Hank Michalik (3 seat of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

According to Coach Falco, 7am was just a tad too early to hold morning practice. To be sure, there are no practical rowing reasons to row later in the day, as the sun comes up well before 5am here in England. Rather, as Coach later informed me, a 7:30am start gives him enough time to warm up the coffee machine at his lodging.

Today’s row, while the longest of our practices on the Henley course thus far, was not as physically demanding as some of our previous morning rows. We completed 3 laps of the course, focusing on our form and technique, completing such exercises as the “pic” drill and full pressure pieces at low rate. At one point in the practice, Coach Falco found a university eight to race against, and he got us to do a “Barrier” piece (650m) against them. We defeated them by a fair margin (although we did start with a slight advantage).

Breakfast at the Café Rouge was notable in that it was our first at Henley with all nine of us together. Usually, we had split up into groups for breakfast, some of us looking to explore the variety of options Henley had to offer, while others attempting to prepare their own breakfast. As with any group of competitors, this split quickly became a battle to see whose breakfast found the best balance between taste and cost-efficiency. Needless to say, the store-bought breakfast won out. All jokes aside, it was nice to see the eight stymie their differences for a nutritious breakfast of bacon and eggs.

After completing five practices in the course of 51 hours, I found myself fairly tired, and decided to take a “brief” nap. I woke up 3 hours later at 3:09pm, quite literally one minute before we needed to leave for the course at 3:10pm for some boat maintenance. We took the boat off the rack and washed the oarlock pin, the seat-tracks, and the hull. While not quite as interesting as some of the more exciting facets of the sport, it is of the utmost importance to keep a clean boat, as not only does every fraction of a second count, but the prospect of losing a race because the seat got stuck is one all too real.

We finished the day with a second trip to the Catherine Wheel, the pub restaurant we ate at on Tuesday. Much to Coach Falco’s dismay, we did not talk about “sports and girls” like normal teenage boys would, but rather we discussed the geopolitical situation in Israel and debated the importance of Judeo-Christian values in the formation of Western Culture. The conversation continued on our walk home and into the attic, in which the discussion had devolved to a point where we decided to call it quits and settle in for another episode of Love Island.

Friday, June 29th
Ben Shore (Stroke seat of the Prince Albert 4+)

Hello everyone,

Today marked our 10th day in England, the midway point of our trip, and the 10th consecutive day that Coach “Bostas” Costas has called the trip “almost over.” Here in the four’s house, our day started in a calmingly routine way with Jack, Daniel, Coach Costas and I eating oatmeal or toast, Andrew dreaming about eating oatmeal or toast and William literally still dreaming.

Today was our Prince Albert qualifying time trial, so we headed down to the Henley course for a shortened wake-up row. We did a few builds down the course, aware that it may have been one of our last times to enjoy the prestigious environment. After the wake-up row, we headed to Café Rouge for a second breakfast, and then walked home to get out of the heat and rest up for our 3:00 time trial.

We walked back to the boat tents around 1:00, each of us dealing with the building pressure in our own ways. The walk itself helped quiet nerves as did our practiced routine of dry-land warm-ups. Around 2:20 we launched our 4 and continued to warm up as we paddled to the time trial chute, hitting good speeds on the GPS in the boat and feeling out a good rhythm. Here, we tried implementing Coach Costas’ mental exercise of putting ourselves at the bottom of a lake, with distractions rippling the surface but not reaching us at the bottom. We sat in the chute (where teams build into the start of the 2042 meter course like a head race) behind Bath University A. They went off and then 30 seconds later we chased them, striking down the course at around 38 stroked per minute and then settling to our base of 34 strokes per minute. Other than moves at the Barrier and Fawley, what I distinctly remember is the sound and sight out of the corner of my eye of the Enclosures. Coming through the last 600 or so meters and having the sense of the myriad other rowers to throw down on that stretch of water before us was a borderline religious experience and one I am bound to remember.

We paddled into the dock with a weight off our chests, at that point only having to wait to see the qualifying times. Missing qualification by about 30 seconds and finishing faster than only 3 crews had a surprisingly small effect on the spirits of our boat, as we were happy with our execution in the piece and improvement over the past six weeks.

We made a trip home for showers and had time to process the shot we took at the Prince Albert Challenge. Heading to dinner at Zizzi’s, we closed the book on the chapter of Henley qualification and resumed our usual banter about our misunderstanding of actual sports and local massage parlours.

At dinner, the whole team gathered and conversed about the day’s racing and the Varsity’s training sessions and impromptu competitive builds against other teams. It was a good moment to relax after being dialed in on racing all day. At the end of dinner, we celebrated Coach Costas’s birthday (and my older brother’s via text) with a hearty rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Love Island loyally awaited us at home.

Saturday, June 30th
Jack Mozingo (5 seat of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

After rowing our shell eight miles southwest on the Thames yesterday, today was dominated, for the most part, by a long row back from the Reading Regatta. Early in the day, the four competed in the 800-meter sprint race and, despite having a great piece, were unable to advance further into the Open 4+ grand finals. Immediately after their heat, was a very enjoyable, ladsy row back to Henley on Thames, with the eight and the four rowing side by side and traveling through the famous Thames locks together.

At the first lock, we encountered a long line and ended up waiting for around an hour before being able to continue rowing down the rest of the river. Baking in the sun for most of that time, the hour was improved thanks to DJ Jasson, who selected an assortment of songs to play through the speakers of our boat, and a woman waiting in line behind us, who suggested we “lift our canoe out of the water and walk it down to the other side of the lock” to shorten the line for the boats waiting behind us. After unsuccessfully explaining the differences between canoes and rowing shells to her, the wait was finally over and she awkwardly joined us in the lock. The other two locks had much shorter lines, but the trip still was a staggering four hours long.

Despite the row taking much longer than it should have, the eight made significant technical improvements and the four had a great final row together as a lineup and for Altman and Shore as oarsmen for the BSBC. Afterwards, we headed to our favorite restaurant, Café Rouge, where we tested the capabilities of the hostess by ordering an immense amount of food and coffee. She was up to the task and delivered an excellent lunch to a hungry crowd. We headed back to Zizzi’s for dinner and then went home to bed, as everyone was exhausted after the long row.

The eight is looking forward to a great week of racing ahead after receiving great news from the draw: we were one of ten crews to be selected during the formal regatta ritual at town hall (pictured), and will be racing the Reading Blue Coat School on Wednesday. We are all very excited and humbled to be only the second Brunswick crew ever to be selected at the regatta, and have high hopes and expectations for our competition against the world’s best.

Sunday, July 1st
Christian Ruf (Bow seat of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

After a rather quick and early start to the day, we headed down to the Henley tents for our first practice. We were told to have an extended warm up and have a longer amount of time to stretch to prepare us for the morning workout. What the practice entailed was practicing our start sequences along with a piece to the ¼ mile mark, as well as a 30 stroke build at the Fawley marker (roughly halfway through the course). After we got back on land, the general consensus was that the steady state and the build at Fawley were great, but the start could be improved.

This afternoon was quiet, mostly filled with reading and sitting quietly on our phones. Meanwhile, Emily, our hosts family’s daughter, interviewed and drew portraits of a few rowers. With practice scheduled for 4:00 pm, people took long naps to prepare themselves for that afternoon’s practice.

Ahead of the afternoon practice, we walked back down to the Henley tents. After the morning consensus of the starts not being up to par, they were be focus of the row. When we reached the end of the warm up area on the Henley course, we ran into our competition that we would be racing on the first day, the Reading Blue Coats. Maintaining our focus, the speeds on the start sequences that followed were significantly faster than the speeds we had been seeing all week. It was a very encouraging performance.  After the practice was deemed successful we met the 4+ and ate dinner at Catherine’s wheel with a side of Garlic bread from Zizzi’s and retired back to our house.

Tuesday, July 3rd
Tommy Kimberlin 
(2 seat of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

The day before race day at Henley Royal Regatta: an all too surreal feeling. If you had asked me 4 months ago if I thought I would be in this position, I would have laughed. Yet here I am. Never before has the idea of competing at Henley alongside some of the best crews and rowers in the world seemed so real. Arriving to this town over a week ago was exciting, don’t get me wrong, but now, as the regatta starts to move into full swing, Henley is beginning to live and breathe that extravagant yet charming lavishness that makes it so special. Rowing down the course on our warmup, it’s impossible not to notice that every square inch on the banks is taken up by some over-the-top way to get drunk and watch the racing. It seems like we’re going to be rowing through the middle of a party thrown by Jay Gatsby.

Ever since freshman year as a budding young rower, I marveled at the prospect of rowing at Henley, an exciting yet seemingly unattainable dream. I have probably watched almost every race that has been broadcasted ever since Henley started its filming program in 2015 and I never, ever thought I would actually be one of those boys who got to line up against another crew at the starting blocks of Henley Royal Regatta. But I am here, and it’s starting to really sink in as our first race gets closer and closer. Confidence, nervousness, and uncontrollable excitement are but a few of the myriad emotions running through me. But we must stay composed and controlled and focus only as Coach Falco says “on the first stroke.”

Our day was essentially a mock day of what tomorrow is going to be: a late wakeup, a light breakfast, a 12 PM practice, and a 6 PM practice for a start at the blocks at 7:10. Both practices went very well with our focus, confidence, and rowing all being at the best it has ever been.

In between practices I went to visit my mom as it is her birthday (happy birthday, mom!). In her hotel room, I got a small but fleeting reminder of what air conditioning is like, but alas, I returned that night to my hot and sticky room.

After practice, we went straight to the Café Rouge for dinner, our go-to spot for quality food and slightly exasperated waiters who do their best to meet the demands of eight hungry rowers and an unappeasable cox who requires nothing but the best, both on and off the water. We returned back to our lovely home and watched England play Colombia in the World Cup, a nice reprieve from the financial or cycling related documentaries that have been unilaterally decided upon by Diego every night. But after a day of solid practice and mental preparation, I can confidently say that we’re as ready as we will ever be. Let’s go Wick.

Thursday, July 5th
Diego Jasson (Coxswain of the Princess Elizabeth 8+)

There’s one particularly brutal job at Henley Royal Regatta that goes forgotten, most likely because no one wants to accept the reality of its existence.

The bow card keepers have one simple mission: immediately remove the bow number from a crew that has been eliminated from the Regatta. Today, we all watched our card get plucked from LDR Empacher 10, the boat we’ve rowed here in the UK. For six of us, the moment marked the end of our Brunswick rowing careers.

After a confident defeat of Reading Blue Coat, we were to race Shiplake College — another selected crew— today as we sought to earn a Friday race. After a team breakfast, we suited up and walked our customary walk down to the course. While racing at Henley, competition, and its inevitable pressures, consume your focus. We entered the boat tents, eerily empty from the crews culled yesterday and began our warm up.

Launching at 1:40, we made our way up to the starting line. As we rowed up the course, we exchanged cheers and support with our fellow Nutmeggers, the Yale eight, and waited at the blocks for our race. The officials arrived right on time, starting the race with the iconic go.

We pushed hard off the line on the Berks station. As we left temple island, we wielded a slight advantage. By the 1/4 mike marker we had half a length. Through the barrier to Fawley we pushed to a length advantage. We charged hard, but Shiplake was not going to give in so easy.

With a couple tough moves, Shiplake began a march forward. We struck back, stopping their progression by Remenham, only to be overwhelmed by an admirable sprint in the last 500 meters. We gave it our all against a worthy opponent and came short. Shiplake called three cheers for Brunswick. We returned three cheers for Shiplake.

Our race was one of the most exciting races of the day, selected by Sir Matthew Pinsent in the day’s recap. Yet still our magical run as a crew has come to an end. Each of us handled the emotional realization differently. I personally chose to take an ice cold shower in the boat tent for closure.

We returned home, showered, and donned our boat club blazers, white bucks, and white pants before returning to the Stewards Enclosure and enjoying the Regatta from the pristine lawns at the finish. After a gorgeous (and brutally hot) afternoon of racing, we went to Cafe Rouge for a final team dinner.

After dinner, we returned home and relaxed — the pressure of competition gone for better or worse. At this moment, it seems only appropriate to thank the school, the parents for supporting us, and Coach Falco for sacrificing so much to let us test our speed against the UK and the rowing world’s best school boy crews.

Shiplake as well demonstrated the utmost sportsmanship and their Headmaster was incredibly gracious. Boys, thank you for a race we will never forget.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the eight other boys in the boat who poured their heart and soul into this adventure. There isn’t a better group of guys out there. With the program celebrating its 20th anniversary, we most definitely left our mark with a Stotesbury silver, NEIRA silver, and HRR selection. Now, our time has passed, and it’s up to the underclassmen to take the reigns and continue the charge. I guess it’s why they put these blogs under tradition.