One of the biggest dates on the Cal rowing calendar has a new twist this weekend.
The Golden Bears’ men and women will compete against rival Washington in Seattle on Saturday morning as part of the Windermere Cup, an annual event that opens the Pacific Northwest spring rowing season and has connections to competitions that began to the late 1890s.
This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still hovering over the prospect of large gatherings, the Windermere Cup was forced to adjust. An event that has drawn top crew teams from around the globe and typically includes a parade, attracts as may as 10,000 fans to Lake Washington. The races were canceled a year ago.
Fans are being discouraged from attending this year and races on the 2,000-meter course that passes Husky Stadium will be streamed live here. The first race goes off at 8:45 a.m., with the Windermere Cup (varsity 8) events starting at 9:45 am. for men and 10 a.m. for women.
Huskies men’s coach Michael Callahan talks in the video below about the place the Windermere Cup has in the Seattle maritime community and how the event was tweaked this spring to make Cal vs. UW the focus.
Both UW teams are currently ranked No. 1 nationally.
Cal’s men are No. 2, and coach Scott Frandsen said his team is excited about Saturday’s opportunity. The teams will meet twice more — May 16 at the Pac-12 Championships and May 28-29 at the IRA nationals.
“This first race will definitely be a gauge of where we’re at. It’s a pretty important marker,” Frandsen said. “I think the rivalry between the two programs makes both programs better. And in doing so, in the past few decades, our two programs have generally set the standard for collegiate rowing across the country.
“Would it be a big boost to go up there and win a few races? Absolutely. That’s the goal.”
Washington has won seven of the past 12 IRA national team titles 19 championships since 1923. Cal has 17 IRA team titles since 1928, and most recently won in 2016. Yale won the 2017-18-19 crowns.
The Huskies’ varsity 8+ boat has beaten Cal eight straight times, dating back to a win by the Bears on April 22, 2017 in a matchup of No. 1 Cal and No. 2 UW in Seattle.
This season has been different than any other because the pandemic prevented Cal from following its usual fall training regimen. The Bears didn’t gather as a team for workouts until January.
“Every program has had their unique set of challenges,” Frandsen said. “For us, not being able to train in the fall, I think more than any other year it put that impetus of taking control of their own of their own training more on the athletes.
“The majority of our group did a good job with that. We’ve had from January onwards to get up to speed and catch up, a pretty good job of dealing with all the challenges.”
Cal’s women, ranked No. 7 nationally, are coming off a loss last weekend to Stanford. Coach Al Acosta talks in the video below about how his athletes have adapted to this year’s fractured training calendar.
UW women’s coach Yasmin Farooq said her team anticipates a serious challenge from the Bears.
“Racing against Cal is our most anticipated event of the year,” Farooq said. “It’s going to be the hardest thing we have done this year so far.”
Cover photo of the Cal men's varsity 8+ team by Catharyn Hayne, KLC fotos
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo