By Ruth Whyman / UW News Lab
Ruth Whyman, a junior from Gloucestershire, England, is a Journalism major at the University of Washington Department of Communications News Laboratory and will row in Saturday’s Windermere Cup the nationally ranked women’s varsity eight. The first race is at 9:55 a.m. on Montlake Cut, or follow the live Twitter feed from @UWHuskyCrew.
Rowers aren’t used to media attention. We go through day-to-day life working hard, undisturbed and secretly wishing people cared a little more. Luckily for us, Seattle’s annual Windermere Cup gives the University of Washington crew team a moment in the spotlight.
Each year excited whispers circulate throughout the locker rooms. Which “exotic” school, we all wonder, has accepted the invitation to challenge us on our home water?
In the week before the race, we watch the familiar layout begin to unfold. First the log boom outlining the 2000-meter course is constructed. Then, one by one, spectators begin to moor their boats against the best spots. Flags and banners are displayed by each, revealing which school they’ll be rooting for.
“The Windermere Cup is the equivalent of rowing in a stadium,” said Pat Marré, a UW senior who will be competing for the fourth and final time for the men’s crew. “Fans and supporters lining the course cheering from start to finish.”
Nothing beats the commotion that resonates throughout the boathouse on race day. It’s the end of a long week of training, yet every athlete finds fresh energy to carry him or her through the day. There’s music booming from the speakers and the noisy whirring of ergometers as we get our bodies warmed up.
Unpredictable Seattle weather means the chances of rowing on rough water are high, but whatever the conditions, the show must go on.
Within seconds of your first stroke, you can hear the crowd. As you progress down the course, you row into a tunnel of sound, both urging you on and creating endless distractions.
Kirstyn Goodger is a junior at the UW and will be rowing in her third championship event this weekend.
“Windermere Cup is electric,” she said. “When you enter the cut, it’s like a firework going off.”
Every year you hope you’ll get a chance to celebrate a win with the crowd as you cross the finish line.
Rowing back to the boathouse, you battle for water against other crews all fighting for space. Still trying to focus on instructions from the coxswain, your eyes wander and take in your surroundings properly for the first time. It’s a chaotic recipe for disaster, and it’s awesome.
Many have a love-hate relationship with rowing. It’s a painful, time-consuming lifestyle, which you question most days of the week. Yet fierce competition – to win by mere inches – forces it to become an addiction.
We love the Windermere Cup, because we finally get our 15 minutes of fame, but it also gives us the opportunity to share our great sport with Seattleites.
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