More heats and semi-finals were on the program for Wednesday, before the hunt for Henley medals would officially open on Thursday afternoon.
The Edmonton contingent started the day be splitting up the successful doubles combination of Michael Hohnstein and Colin Findlay to race in separate heats of the U23 Men’s 1x. “Whirlwind” and “Fury” took to the water eager to prove which one of the two could lay claim to being the “engine” in the crew boat. Michael’s race plan foresaw a relaxed second 1000 m, but plan B had to be implemented almost immediately: “I thought I could get ahead and relax, instead I had to sprint from the start line all the way to the finish!” The competition was fierce and no reprieve in sight for the full 2000 m distance. Michael got his bow into second place and held on until the competition gave up “a few meters from the finish line” to qualify for tomorrow’s semi-final. Colin saved his best for the spectators in the grand stand by sitting in sixth for most of the race before unleashing “fury” to push through the pack and into third place. Unfortunately, Colin’s efforts in the last 500 m fell a few meters short of securing a place in the semi-final.
After a “baptism of fire” introduction to racing at Henley for Junior rower Rachel Kortbeek in the Lightweight Women’s 2x yesterday, Rachel was joined by fellow Junior rower Erin Watchman to compete in the U19 Women’s 2x. Erin joined the ERC youth squad after being introduced to the sport with the Jasper Place High School Rowing Team. Erin has taken some incredible strides through her first season and earned a spot on the Western Canada Summer Games team due to compete in Wood Buffalo the week after Henley. Rachel and Erin raced a good race against significantly more experienced competition. The girls held their own to finish 5th and make Junior coach Amanda Cinnamon proud.

The future of the ERC, Erin and Rachel, making their Henley debut in the U19 women’s double

The “Rice Krispy Squares” were out next to contest a heat in the U23 Lightweight Women’s 2-Theora Gray and Georgie Hyland swapped their sculling blades for sweep handles recently to race the only boat class that really matters. Just as the two launched the wind started to pick up, which presented a big problem for the underweight combination. The “Krispies” were mercilessly blown around by the gales, but lucky managed to acquire a large pool of water in the bottom of their boat to act as a sort of anchor. Having acquired an appropriate paper weight, the two raced well to finish 5th.
The entirely novel combination of Patricia Juarez and Rebecca Harrower went to test the waters in the U23 Women’s 2x. Rebecca is the older sister of ERC Junior rower Aaron Harrower and has rowed with the ERC over the past couple of summers. Rebecca is a very accomplished synchronized swimmer and was selected as an alternate for this year’s PanAm games held in Toronto. Rebecca enjoys a few short weeks off training every summer, but choses to spend them rowing because “she doesn’t deal well with sitting still”. We are very happy to have Rebecca join the Henley team for this year’s regatta.
Next up was Andrea Labrecque in the semi-final of the Open Women’s 1x. It is said that pair and double partners gradually start to behave alike over the course of many training miles spent together in a the close confines of a racing shell. Andrea’s race proved the truth of this rowing myth as she managed to emulate her double partner Amanda Cinnamon stroke for stroke off the start. Both Andrea and Amanda tried to start their single’s races with one oar out of the water. Since this strategy did not work for Amanda, unsurprisingly, it did not work for Andrea either. Despite the sub-optimal start, Andrea made some serious progress through the middle of the race, but came up short in the end. Andrea did extremely well to progress to this stage in a competition which included 15+ national development athletes from the US and Canada.
What do you get when you combine Whirlwind and Fury? A ticket to a Henley Final, apparently. After their successful single’s races this morning, Michael Hohnstein and Colin Findlay stepped back into the crew boat to compete in the semi-final of the U23 Men’s 2x. After some inspirational words from coach Ali Williams, the superiority of the ERC crew over the peloton was never in doubt. Michael and Colin were digging deep and grinding hard to maintain a half length lead over the field coming past the island. The boys shifted up a gear to finish second to a crew from South Niagara and qualify for the final with the third fastest qualifying time. Hohnstein nemesis Daniel deGroot will be waiting in the final, as part of the St. Catherine’s crew. Reports from inside the Hohnstein/Findlay camp suggest that Michael will unleash “Whirlwind” to seek revenge for a number of single’s defeats suffered last year. Michael forgives, but he does not forget. 

Aline cracks a smile on the way back to the dock after qualifying for the final in the U19 women’s single

Last in the order of ERC events was Aline “Princess” Belzil in the semi-final of the U19 Women’s 1x. Aline exceeded coach’s and spectator’s expectation by easing to victory against tough competition. After posting the fastest qualifying time in yesterday’s heats, Aline also posted the fastest time of all semi-finals. A semi-final is not a final and Aline knows it: “The sculler from London RC is fast. We can not underestimate her.” When asked about her race she appeared self-critical: “I did not row well. I need to scull cleaner. I am going for that bling bling tomorrow!” Aline’s final comment left the press officer with some serious research to do: {“bling, bling”: synonym for expensive, often flashy jewelry sported by hip-hop artists and middle-class adolescents}. The search for a jewelry store was abandoned in the early hours of the evening after fresh intelligence suggested that Aline was in fact referring to a Henley Medal.
After a fine start to the week the Edmonton Rowing Club has qualified four crews to race in Finals and compete for Henley Gold tomorrow afternoon. Four Henley Finals in one day may or may not be a club record!! (Note: The economic downturn affects many sectors and has left its mark on the Edmonton Rowing Club along with many other non-profit sporting organizations. The consequence are staff cuts, which has left the ERC backroom think-tank without a data specialist or historian, resulting in the sort of vague reporting adapted here. To give please contact Frans Slatter.)
-Press Officer Tietz