Sketched April 19, 8:01 p.m.
The wake of a tugboat settled, and the spans of the bridge lowered, as I found the perfect bench to draw this quiet scene at the Montlake Cut.
On Saturday morning, however, my picturesque urban hideout will turn into a jampacked sports venue. Thousands of fans are expected to crowd bridge railings and sidewalks to watch the best college rowers in the country power their boats through the narrow canal. The occasion: the 100th dual race between Washington and California, a heated intercollegiate rivalry that goes back to the early-1900s.
For the Huskies, rowing through the Montlake Cut is as good as it gets. “You can hear the fans cheering. You feel like a football player may feel at a football stadium,” said Michael Callahan, who competed against Cal in the mid-90s and is now the UW men’s head coach.
The spectacle is free and fast for the fans, but it takes a lot of effort and teamwork from the student-athletes. Depending on the wind, the men’s varsity eight covers the 2,000-meter course in five or six minutes, Callahan explained before a practice this week.
Saturday won’t be the last chance to support the Huskies at the Montlake Cut. On May 7, UW rowers compete against Stanford, Oklahoma and Cambridge in the Windermere Cup.
Men’s and women’s races start at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Blog extra! Here are other drawings from my visit to Conibear Shellhouse at UW’s campus:
Coach Callahan talked to the eight varsity team before the afternoon practice. He said they’ve been training six days a week, three hours a day since school started in September. They all stand tall at an average of 6′ 4″. To warm up, they kicked a soccer ball around and stretched at exercise equipment where they can practice the same rowing moves they do in the boat.
I wondered what would happen if you let those eight big guys row backwards without knowing where they were going. But coxswain Michelle Darby sits at the back of the boat and steers them in the right direction. She wears a microphone and the rowers can hear her through several speakers placed throughout the 60-foot-long shell. Darby is from North Andover, Mass., and will graduate next year with an engineering degree. She said it’s become more common in collegiate rowing for women to cox the men’s crews. “The guys are like big brothers.”
During the practice, Callahan instructed the crew through a megaphone while team manager Ben Dagang took notes. The coach’s launch is nothing fancy as you can see. Even Callahan sits on a plastic patio chair like those on sale at Walmart for $5. I tried to hold on to mine as I sketched, hoping not to end up in the water!
Coming up: As part of my once-a-month neighborhood exploration (see previous posts from my visits to White Center and Beacon Hill,) I’ll be sketching around Shoreline next Tuesday. Do you know of a good story waiting to be drawn? Send me your suggestions via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook. Have a great weekend!
April 22, 2011 at 7:58 PM