Women's Rowing Travels To England

The Holy Cross women's rowing team traveled to England for the 25th Henley Women's Regatta. The Crusaders blogged from the trip.

Monday, June 18, 2012
By Jill Sollazzo (Class of 2012)

June 18 Photo Gallery

#WinningLondon—Today the Holy Cross Women's Rowing Team took London. The morning began bright and early with a light breakfast and a brisk walk to the train station just a few minutes from the house. By 9:01 we were on our way into the city. Two trains and several connections on the "tube" later, we arrived just outside Big Ben. You never realize how BIG it really is until you're standing right underneath it looking up.

From there everything was done at Patrick Diggins' pace—which for those of you who don't know that means no stopping or you will get left behind and sometimes people were (but we always caught up at the next stop light). From Big Ben to Tower of London. From Westminster Abbey to Churchill War Rooms. And the London Eye to Harrods. We literally jammed centuries of history and culture into one day, but it was so worth it. The Eye (or "the Ferris wheel" as Roy called it—so American) provided some of the most spectacular views over everything we had seen during our sprint across London.

With our feet about to fall off, we ended the day in the chocolate center in Harrods. Now Harrods is like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom's, Sacks, and Barney's all mixed together and then hopped up on steroids. It is CRAZY!!! Everything was so nice, so expensive…I felt a little bit like I shouldn't have been in there, but was glad I could get my hands on some of that chocolate; a delicious snack for the train ride back. Finally, 13 hours later we were back in Henley—our new home—for a late night feast and then bed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012
By Kate Broderick (Class of 2012)

June 17 Photo Gallery

Unlike yesterday, this morning we woke up to beautiful clear skies! Exhausted from the excitement of Saturday's races, we were very happy to be able to sleep in a little bit. After eating breakfast and making coffee, we headed down to the race course to watch the women's elite eight semifinal between Radcliffe and the Thames/Henley Boat Club who had beaten us the previous morning. Radcliffe won the race by around a boat length, putting them in the finals against a very fast composite team made up of a group of rowers all stemming from different British boat clubs. After watching the semifinals we were all very hungry for lunch and spent the early afternoon eating and exploring some of the shops in town. For the rest of the day we were free to watch some of the great racing on the Thames! I was very excited to be able to see my high school's team win the junior eight event by just two feet in an amazing final race. Go big red!

The racing ended with the women's elite eight and senior eight finals. Radcliffe lost the elite race to Tee's composite, while Newcastle University took University College Dublin in the senior final. The races were both very exciting and it was a lot of fun to watch such talented teams from entirely different places compete against each other. Back at the house, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken broccoli ziti prepared by some of our teammates! Thank you Catherine Roy, Mollie Sydlowski, Jackie Hanna and Maggie Diggins! We spent the rest of the night reading, playing cards, calling/e-mailing our fathers (happy father's day!) and preparing for our trip to London tomorrow. We are all very excited to see the city!

Saturday, June 16, 2012
Race Day
By Adrienne Randall (Class of 2015)

June 16 Photo Gallery

The weather did not look promising as we woke up this morning at 8:00 a.m. to dark clouds and gusty winds, making both rowers and coxswains a little anxious of their races. As we walked over to the course, we noticed the persistent strong current of the Thames, however we reminded ourselves that all competitors would be racing in these rough conditions today and so we relaxed, focused and gave it our all in the races.

Later in the morning, by a random drawing, our V8 raced a British club composite team in the Elite 8 competition. In the afternoon, our 2V8 raced against another British club team, Vesta, in the Senior 8 competition. Unfortunately, neither of our 8's were able to pull ahead of the British boats and advance in the competition, but it was an experience we will surely not forget.

For dinner that night, we all threw on some real clothes and ate dinner at the Dewdrop Inn, a quaint British pub. Most of us ordered fish and chips that were delicious! Afterward, we all went out for an exciting night in the town of Henley and headed to bed to prepare for our upcoming days of travel and sightseeing.

Friday, June 15, 2012
By Kate Diggins (Class of 2015)

June 15 Photo Gallery

Because there were races being held on the course, we weren't able to practice today. Instead we got our first real taste of the many amazing attractions England has to offer. After a quick breakfast of the British versions of a lot of our favorite cereals and some delicious chocolate croissants, we left our home away from home in Henley at around 9:00 a.m. Our first stop was Windsor castle, which everyone loved. Though we weren't able to catch a glimpse of any members of the royal family, the extravagantly decorated rooms of the castle, many of which were being prepared for Garter Day on Monday, were amazing sights. Most of us really like King George's Hall, which held the coats of arms of everyone ever knighted by a British monarch. We were also able to see the changing of the guard as we left, which was very cool to watch. 

We got lunch in Windsor and a few of us tried fish and chips for the first time, myself included – they were delicious! After waiting for a few teammates who had unknowingly ordered sandwiches that needed to be cooked, we piled back into our vans and drove to the Eton College Rowing Center, which is where the rowing events for the 2012 Olympic Games are going to be held. The boathouse was beautiful, and the course was an amazing sight to a bunch of rowers. With our memory cards full of boat pictures and team pictures at the course, we returned to the house in Henley and as the exhaustion from traveling hit us, we all fell asleep. 

We left the house around 6:00 p.m. to begin the trek to the Rowing and River Museum, where we were invited to a "Wine and Nibbles Reception." We scoped out the competition, heard speeches from the director of the museum and the regatta director, saw a lot of very interesting exhibits centered around rowing, and tried our hands at rowing a replica of an ancient Athenian trireme. My personal favorite artifact was the boat in which a British coxless four won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. After a delicious dinner prepared by our host, Maggie, we had a quick team meeting and it was off to bed in preparation for the next day's races!

Thursday, June 14, 2012
By Abbey Wilkman (Class of 2015)

June 14 Photo Gallery

Today making the morning coffee turned out to be a new challenge due to the fact the water heater took a bath in the pearly tub because it was "heating the icy water." Luckily a new water heater was discovered to only reveal the French-press was damaged only confirming the suspicion that we are not meant to wield British appliances. After munching on crispy croissants and American brand cereal, we were off to the racecourse at 9:15 on the dot.

We were greeted at the site with fixing the dreadful rigging so our oars would stop flipping out of the water and making us sound like our purpose was to create waves opposed to rowing. On the water the new rigging helped the washing-out problem and we worked on getting the rate up with power 20's and some starts and two-minuet pieces. The practice was off due to the exhaustion we felt from traveling so Patrick ordered us to a much-needed nap (of course at the time we all grumbled saying we felt "FINE"). Before the 2-3 hour nap, there was the battle of lunch where the team demolished two pounds of turkey and Dijon Mustard that cleared all the post-nasal drip that many teammates were experiencing.

We were ripped from our sound slumber to the voice of Patrick going from room to room with the harpy-like call "time to wake up girls" said with too much enthusiasm for the current situation. With a couple more hours of rest, the walk to practice was more like a speed walking competition compared to the glacial speeds we moved at in the morning. On the course, we completed our warm-up without hitch and completed a 1500m piece into the spiraling current and brute head wind that continually tested our coxswains by pushing us into the deadly poles. Even with these challenges, the piece felt powerful and all the exhaustion from the morning was replaced by the excited anticipation of the upcoming race. The afternoon practice was much more focused and calm. There was some distraction noticing the cows that line the bank were all laying down revealing the future rain that would begin to fall on us before the end of practice. Also during the piece we managed to row in the background of a commercial being filmed showcasing the Upper-Thames Rowing Club. All our small set problems seemed to be cast-aside as we were showing off for the cameras; divas (d1 varsity athletes) at their finest.

The walk home was hurried along with the incoming storm clouds that let out their complete wrath just as we reached home. Maggie, who we are renting our humble abode from, yet again slaved over a hot stove to produce a scrumptious dinner. We had a tasty green salad followed by delectably steamy lasagna and to finish, our "pudding" was freshly baked tangy apple pie and sweet custard to top it off. A great wrap up to a refreshing day.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
By Michele Grenier (Class of 2013)

June 13 Photo Gallery

Our first morning waking up in Henley and the jet lag has definitely set in. All of the caffeine addicts on our team quickly learned the art of making coffee with a French press. After a light breakfast, we were welcomed by sunshine as we left the house for practice. You could feel the excitement growing as we walked along the course watching other crews and taking pictures. We took the morning row as an opportunity to adjust to everything new. Not only do we have to get used to rowing in the boats we are renting (or hiring, as the British would say), but we have to deal with the tough conditions of the water. With significant rainfall in the past couple of days the river flow on the Thames is fast and increasing. A quick current leaves little time to stop rowing once we are on the water and makes turning the boat that much harder for the coxswains. In the end, we successfully made our first two trips up the course testing the new water and equipment as we went. Other than some adjustments to the rigging we all felt good going into the afternoon session.

Between practices everyone split up in town to grab lunch with most of us finding sandwiches at various cafes and restaurants. We had the mid-afternoon off to hang out around the house, reading and playing Uno, or exploring our neighborhood a bit as a group was sent to the grocery store. By four o'clock we were back out the door heading for the course. This practice we were able to get in a full workout with power strokes, starts and pieces at race cadence. Having two eights proved helpful as we were able to practice the full 1500 meter course together. Getting to row side by side not only helps us push one another to row harder but gives the coxswains the chance to practice steering straight.

For those of you unfamiliar with racing at Henley, the course here is marked by wooden bars, or booms, that leave the course wide enough for two crews to race down with just a few meters between them. "Rowing here really makes you appreciate rowing at Lake Quinsigamond," one of our coxswains, Amanda Woodgate pointed out. We ran back from practice to find a delicious spread of pork, potatoes and an assortment of vegetables cooked by our house renter, Maggie. The dinner was hot and delicious, but it was the black forest cake that really put the cherries on top. No pun intended. J Congratulations to Lauren Carlo for figuring out how to cut twenty one equal slices! Before heading to bed we played some very intense rounds of our new favourite game, Mafia. For tomorrow we are looking forward to another day of double practices and hoping the nice weather holds up and the current slows down.

Monday, June 11, 2012 & Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Holy Cross takes on Henley!
By Mollie Sydlowski (Class of 2012)

June 12 Photo Gallery

Woohoo! Our big day finally came and we were so excited to start our European adventure! We woke up early to have a morning row on Lake Quinsigamond. Then we had some time off to do some last minute packing, and when I say last minute, I mean down to the wire (we're working on our punctuality). We left school around 3:00 p.m. and headed to Logan Airport where we departed for Newark, N.J. We then took another flight to Heathrow International Airport. I had never been on a flight this long before and while I was slightly disappointed that the plane had only one aisle, not two, I easily found my seat, 36C, and got ready for take off.  Catherine Roy and I made friends with a man from Scotland who had been on holiday in the U.S. with friends, and he chuckled at our American quirks and our extreme interest in the flight plan and the temperature outside the plane, which was about -59 degrees.

Thankfully, I slept for about four hours, falling asleep just after we ate dinner and waking up just before breakfast. Once we touched down in England, we exited the plane and began the next part of our British adventure. After a short van ride, on the left side of the road :/ we arrived at the town of Henley. We chose our beds and settled ourselves before heading into town. We stopped at a cute café and ordered cappuccinos and desserts before we headed down to the racecourse.  The course was just a mile or two from the house, but we drove since it was our first day here. We rigged our boats, an Empacher and a Filippe. After rigging, we walked along the course to see where the start was and the finish line. The scenery around the course was absolutely beautiful, with the quaint town of Henley at one end, and rolling hills and pastures at the other (I kid you not, pastures, with cows!). On the racecourse, however, were lane dividers made of wood, which served as an interesting addition compared to our buoys on Quinsig.

After exploring the course, we headed back to our Henley home and got ready for dinner.  The woman who is hosting us made a delicious spaghetti and meat sauce dinner, and let's just say we have not gone hungry! The desserts as well have been amazing. After dinner we relaxed and tried to recover from a long day of traveling.

Tomorrow begins a new adventure of training on the Thames!