Dawgs – The Bounty Hunters: Huskies Go For The Grand

Coach Callahan and the crew he successfully raced against Cambridge on the Thames Tideway last February. 

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes from London,

The oarsmen of the University of Washington, both past and present, have received a lot of attention from Hear The Boat Sing recently. We have written about the UW crew that won the eights in the 1936 Olympics, a story now told in book form and which may yet become a Hollywood movie. Last year we reported on the clash between the Huskies (the generic name for all sports teams from UW) and Cambridge on the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race course, an event in which ‘The Dawgs’ were clearly superior. Back on their side of the Atlantic, the Men’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight has also proved dominant at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta, winning five years in the seven that Mike Callahan has been head coach. In both 2012 and 2013 UW won all five events at the IRA Championships.

Perhaps looking for a new challenge, Coach Callahan has now made a bold move. He has entered two varsity crews for Henley Royal Regatta – but not in the events that most people would expect. Traditional wisdom would be that the Varsity crew would enter the Ladies’ Plate which is the second highest men’s eights event (UW won it in 2003) and that the Second Varsity would enter the Temple Challenge Cup which is the top eights race for male students but which is below the level of the Ladies’ (UW Freshmen won it in 2010 and 2012). However, Callahan has put his second boat in the Ladies’ and his first crew in the Grand.

The Grand Challenge Cup is Henley’s top event and is mostly raced for by national squad crews. To preserve the fiction that Henley is for club boats only, such crews enter under some other name. As an example, when an American squad eight won last year they were called ‘California Rowing Club’. It is rare but not unknown for a college crew to win the Grand. Washington actually did it in 1977 (a nice contemporary account is here) and Harvard were victorious in 1985 as were the University of London in 1992 and Imperial College London in 1996.

Mike Callahan likes winning and wearing sunglasses at dusk.

The website gohuskies.com asks a good question and provides a pleasing answer from the man in charge:

Why are the Huskies putting themselves up against such tough competition this year? Coach Callahan believes he has two special crews and wants to see them push themselves, even if it means winning is less assured. “We want to know how fast we can go,” says Callahan. “I think racing as the underdog after a high pressure season of being ranked #1 gives us a fresh opportunity and perspective.”

The Grand Challenge Cup – currently held by the HTBS Mixed Pair of Tim Koch and Hélène Rémond.

It must be admitted that the Grand is not always of the standard that the Stewards would wish for as the timing of Henley does not fit well into the international rowing calendar. However, a post-Olympic year is likely to produce tougher opposition and Callahan must be congratulated for not taking the ‘easiest’ option. Henley entries closed on 17 June and the draw is on the 29. We will then find out what this remarkable squad has actually taken on. There is a nice video of the Huskies in action on YouTube. (I would have liked more shots of the IRA race and less of sweaty men stripped to the waist – but that is just my preference. Perhaps there is a shortage of shirts in Washington?)

To give financial support to the Huskies’ trip to Henley, click here.

2 comments

  1. I hope my old school will eventually produce videos with less juvenile music. The sport can speak for itself quite nicely without it. I was a freshman on crew the year they won in 1977. I recall a number of old alums form the 30's or 40's speaking at a banquet. Each emphasized one point in particular, actually pounding his fist saying “You must remember, you are the LAST AMATEURS!” It didn't make a lot of sense at the time, there wasn't any such thing as a “scholarship” support for rowing. All strictly walk-on athletes, most had never rowed before. Those alums were right, though. We were the last ones. Now a large number of the Huskies are recruits, often from New Zealand, Germany and further east then that. It's a thrill to see them win. I also miss the days before it was polluted by the NCAA and professionalism.

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