T.C. Williams High School of Alexandria, Va., and Georgetown University of Washington, D.C., cruised to victories in their first-round matches today. But both crews are looking to correct minor flaws in preparation for sterner competition Friday in the 129th Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames.
Williams posted a four-length victory over Clonmel High School of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in their opening race of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup. But Titans stroke Steve Slough thinks his crew still lacks the total teamwork that is paramount in rowing.
"It's getting really good," Slough said of his crew's performance. "We're not quite there. You know when you are there. It's like being in heaven."
William's quarterfinal hurdle in the schoolboy competition is Shawnigan Lake School of Canada.
Williams would like to leave the starting line a bit more clamly Friday, Lengthening its strokes and letting the shell do more of the work. Despite a shaky start today, which they attributed to nerves, the Titans quickly settled from 41 strokes per minute to a 34 to 36 rating. They led by a boat length after the first quarter mile on the 1-mile 550-yard course and extended their advantage to 2 1/2 lengths at the midpoint before crossing the finish line with a 32 rating.
"We just got ahead and we figured we better not kill ourselves," Slough said. "We'll race a little different tomorrow."
Williams will need a total effort to take Shawnigan Lake, which recorded a winning time 15 second better than the Titans' 7:25. The gap, however, doesn't reflect a true comparison of the two crews since Williams was untested while Shawnigan Lake was pushed to the finish by Hampton School of England.
Georgetown needed only a quarter mile to take nearly a length lead over the Isis Boat Club of Oxford University in their match for the Visitors' Cup for straight fours from academic institutions.
The Hoyas jumped off a 46 strokes per minute and continued rowing high at 37 for the first quarter mile before setting to around 36 for most of the race. The Hoyas were helped by Isis, which adopted a peculiar strategy. After early steering problems dropped Isis well behind in the early going, it settled to a rating of 32 to 33 rather than boosting its pace, the usual procedure for trailing crews.
Georgetown led by two lengths after a mile of the battle and held most of that across the finish.
Hoya Coach Greg Carroll said his crew has adopted the European approach to rowing. "Here, we go for the lead immediately, try to get a lead after a quarter mile, then go all out to hold it," he said. "That's what the British do. They try to put you away right away.
"My crew realized this is the first time Georgetown raced internationally and the adrenalin was really flowing. It was a question of Isis settling down to 32 to 33 and rowing the race while we raced the race."
The Hoyas will adjust the rigging of their shell and put in a late workout tonight to try to correct a minor keel problem. Their opponent Friday is Exter University of England, an easy victor over Kent (Conn.) School today.