Ending its 2016 season as the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, or IRA, champions, the Cal men’s crew team continued to make waves during the annual Henley Royal Regatta. The five-day tournament in Henley, England brought 629 crews from across the globe to compete along the River Thames in the historic two-laned Royal Regatta races. The 2,112-meter course exclusive to the regatta provides a greater challenge from the typical 2,000-meter race collegiate standard, testing both physical and mental fortitude.
Led by head coach Mike Teti, Cal hoped to defend its 2015 Regatta title of Visitor’s Challenge Cup champion while competing overseas. Members of the IRA championship team — the team’s top four rowers — including Joachim Sutton, Maarten Hurkmans, Niki Van Sprang and Alex Wallis, progressed to the Henley Finals after defeating crews from Yale, Cambridge and Oxford Brookes & Proteus. The team would finish runner-up in the event to the Thames Rowing Club, falling just two strokes behind the first-place position after a last-second crash in the final race.
The talented Bears fought for a spot in the coveted July 3 final race throughout the first four days of the five-day competition. Strong performances at the beginning of the regatta helped establish Cal’s eventual position in the championship race. Two of the Bears’ crews advanced to the quarterfinals after wins in both the opening rounds of the Visitors’ Challenge Cup and the Temple Challenge Cup. Cal exhibited a strong mental game against Yale University during the Visitors’ Cup and found its championship rhythm, pulling ahead of its opponent for an easy victory. The freshman squad competing in the Temple Challenge Cup was also able to beat Drexel University’s varsity eight by 1.5 lengths, a narrow victory which provided the young Bears necessary confidence in their abilities.
Cal’s victory against formidable opponent Imperial College London during the quarterfinals of the Temple Cup helped the Bears advance two crews to compete in the semifinals. Cal won the race by 1.25 lengths despite a strong headwind and rough waters — a strong win that showcased the strength of a historically strong program.
The Cal four of Joachim Sutton, Maarten Hurkmans, Nikki Van Sprang and Alex Wallis came from behind in the Visitors’ Challenge Cup semifinals to defeat a composite crew of Oxford Brookes University and Delftsche Studenten Roeivereeniging Proteus-Eretes by 2.5 lengths, demonstrating resilience under pressure. Saturday held the Temple Challenge Cup semifinal between Cal’s freshman eight and Harvard University’s Junior Varsity eight, where Harvard beat Cal by the narrow margin of one length.
Competing in the Ladies’ Challenge Plate semifinals, a Golden Bear eight of Mark Brinker, Marcin Pawlowski, Justin Murphy, Sam Horsley, Jordan Vanderstoep, Dylan Raphael, Elliot Rogers, Kyle Flagg and coxswain Julian Venonsky finished a length behind Leander to finish second. Cal’s top four rowers would then finish just behind the Thames Rowing Club in the final race of the Visitors’ Challenge Cup.
In honor of his achievement at Cal, Teti was recently awarded IRA Men’s Heavyweight Coach of the Year. In his eighth year at the helm, Teti won the Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading Cal to victory in the conference championship. While his coaching expertise has contributed to the memorable season, Teti emphasizes the role that his team’s talent and work ethic played in its achievements this season.
The end of Henley marks the close of a historic season for the Cal men’s crew, and while they did not walk away with the first-place title they’d hoped for, the result doesn’t diminish its achievements and the impact the team made on an international stage.