Rowers snag silver at Henley

Difference in lane markings costs Gaels the gold

The women’s rowing team had a successful meet at last month’s renowned Henley women’s regatta, held at Henley-on-Thames in England.

The Gaels sent two lightweight boats across the Atlantic. It’s the first time Queen’s competed in the women’s division of the storied regatta, held June 19-21.

Kristine Matusiak, Rebecca McWatters, Catherine Moores and Queen’s alumnus Nicole Bobbette finished as runners-up in the elite lightweight fours race. Caylen Heckel and Kingston native Allisha Campaigne were eliminated in the semifinals of the elite lightweight pairs bracket.

There was no shortage of drama for the lightweight fours. The women advanced through the semi-finals after their opponent, the U.K.’s Molesey Boat Club, were disqualified for crashing their boat into the Queen’s craft. In the final, McWatters said the course markings at Henley cost Queen’s the gold.

“We were definitely ahead off the start and it was shaping up to be a really good race,” she said. “In Henley there aren’t just lane ropes or markers—the whole side of the course is wooden booms all the way down. So within the tight course, we ended up hitting the wooden boom and that stopped our race for a little bit. We picked it back up but it wasn’t enough.”

McWatters said the women were pleased with their second-place finish, but they were hoping to bring home the title.

“We were hoping to come out on top,” McWatters said. “I think we would have if we hadn’t had that small inconsistency.”

Head coach John Armitage said the impressive finish resulted of the hard work the women had put in as a part of their training.

“I’m very proud of them,” Armitage said. “In women’s rowing, when representing your country internationally, it is the most prestigious international race. Our girls entered the toughest calibre, the elite division, whereas they probably could’ve entered an easier division.”

The Henley course had many features new to the Gaels, Armitage said. They competed on a 1,400-metre course, as opposed to a North American 2,000 metre course.

“Being 1,400 meters, it’s a highly intense anaerobic event,” Armitage said. “It’s a very painful event. Normally, we don’t train for a race of that intense sprinting that early in the year, so the girls follow their basic training program until they get on the water and then you really go into your intensity mode. It’s more intensity training that we do for a six-lane OUA final.”

The other difference was the use of a head-to-head format against a single opponent, Armitage said. OUA races use the six-lane Olympic format.

“There’s so much difference in psychology. You want to be able to get ahead of your competitor at the beginning so you can see them and get that psychological advantage.”

The regatta marks another example of the recent accomplishments of the Queen’s women’s lightweight program. The team has won seven of the last eight OUA titles and three straight national championships.

“Without a question, we’re the dominant lightweight women’s rowing program in Canada,” Armitage said.

The Gaels will begin the defence of their men’s and women’s OUA championships in the fall.

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