The Craftsbury Small Boat Training Center’s (SBTC) campaign for Canadian Henley began in full just two weeks before the opening day of the regatta. With six athletes representing five different universities, Coach Larry Gluckman decided to take on an even greater challenge by entering his six athletes into six different events.
Oarsmen Spencer Crim, Johnny Hood and Eric Winstead would all be entering the U23 Men’s Single. Spencer and Johnny would then team up to race the U23 Men’s Double, while Eric and Code Sternal would partner to row the Senior Men’s Pair. The four competitors would then band together to compete in the Senior Men’s Coxless Four. Also representing Craftsbury SBTC were John Graves and Eli Roxby; who had recently returned from the U23 World Championship regatta racing for the United States in the pair. At the Canadian Henley, John and Eli would be entering the Men’s Champ Pair. The entire camp would then come together to race one of the premier events, the Champ Eight. A special thanks to Colin Touhey, Hal Ebbott and Katei Apfelbaum from NYAC for filling out the eight.
With so many events and only two weeks to prepare there was no time to waste; as much time as could be spared was spent on the water training in a variety of boats and changing line ups. Practice in the eight would have to wait until the day before the race.
Upon arrival in St. Catharines on Sunday, the boys unloaded the trailer and checked out the race course. Monday was spent practicing in the different boats and racing began in full on Tuesday. The first day of the regatta was dominated by an overwhelming tail wind, creating some big waves and interesting racing conditions. The first race of the regatta for Craftsbury was the Men’s U23 Double. Spencer and Johnny advanced through their heat to the semis with a gutsy sprint at the end that resulted in a third place finish only two seconds behind the leader and four tenths of a second in front of the fourth place crew. Code and Eric had more difficulties managing the tail wind in their heat of the Men’s Senior Pair. After a rocky start, they surged into a qualifying position at several points during the race but the ripping wind and rough water pushed their steering off course. In the end, the pair finished fifth with a time of 7:22, four seconds out of qualifying for the semis.
On Wednesday, the wind had died down to make for some nice racing weather. This was going to be a busy day for Johnny and Spencer who had three races to compete in. Craftsbury’s opening event on Wednesday was the U23 Men’s Single. Johnny started the day coming in second with a time of 7:40 and advancing to the semis. Spencer would also advance to the semis, easily winning his heat. Eric placed fifth in his heat with a time of 7:59. The next race of the day was the Senior Men’s Four. In an open race, Craftsbury found themselves second to last off the start; a position they would hold till the final 500 meters when they took a massive sprint moving on the entire field pushing them into fourth place, with a time of 6:45. Unfortunately this was not enough to advance. The final race of the day (and the third for Johnny and Spencer) was the U23 Men’s Double semifinal. Despite unloading another ferocious sprint at the end, it was not enough and they finished fifth, less than two seconds behind the third place qualifying crew.
The only race for Craftsbury on Thursday was the U23 Men’s single semifinal. In an unlucky draw, Johnny and Spencer found themselves facing each other in a race where only two would advance. Despite pulling a time that would have likely qualified him for the final in any other semi, Spencer just missed out on qualifying and came in third with a time of 7:22. Johnny put together a courageous race taking second and nearly rowing down the winner of the semifinal. The next day Johnny would race in the final and place 4th overall with a time of 7:18, five seconds away from the first place finisher. These races perfectly illustrated the value of training at the SBTC this summer as both Johnny and Spencer rowed nearly thirty seconds faster than they had prior to coming under Coach Gluckman’s tutelage.
On Sunday, the final day of the regatta, Craftsbury had two crews competing in the championship events. John and Eli would be rowing the pair and the whole squad including the three recruits from NYAC would be competing in the Champ Eight. The day was almost ruined as an early morning storm rolled through the course and blew over tents and boat slings. Competitors went running to ensure the safety of their boats. Racing was delayed over three hours as lightning kept appearing on the horizon, but when the storm passed, the weather turned perfect for fast racing times with a quick tailwind and calm water. The Champ Pair, consisting of John and Eli, began the day placing 6th with a time of 6:47.
The final race of the regatta for Craftsbury was the Championship Men’s eight. The crew had only been together for two days and had the simple race plan of just go hard off the start. The event would be a rare eight boats across race, full of excitement. After the first ten strokes of the race Craftsbury found themselves a length down on the entire field. At the 500 meter marker Craftsbury was able to find a solid rhythm maintaining a stroke rate of 37 and stormed back through most of the competition during the middle 1000 meters. In the final 500 meters of the race Craftsbury tried to sprint through Mendota RC but had to settle for overlap and came in fourth with a time of 5:48. For having only rowed together twice before racing yield such a successful and exciting race, it was a great way to cap of the regatta and summer season for all the athletes.