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‘There’s one stadium in the world, and it’s here in Seattle’: UW Rowing embraces spectacle of Windermere Cup

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‘There’s one stadium in the world, and it’s here in Seattle’: UW Rowing embraces spectacle of Windermere Cup

Since the first Windermere Cup in 1987, when the UW drew the Soviet National Rowing Team to the shores of Montlake in the midst of the Cold War, the prestigious event has been a high profile one.

Over 30 years later, that tradition still rings true as the German National Team has made its way, over halfway around the world, to compete against the team in purple and gold.

“We wanted to bring the world’s best,” men’s head coach Michael Callahan said. “The Deutschland-Achter and the German National Team have been the strongest eights rowing nation in the world.”

Just in the past decade, the Washington rowing teams have invited national teams from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Argentina, and Brazil. Having also become a national draw over the years, Cornell, Dartmouth, Syracuse, and Miami have all raced on the Montlake Cut in the past 10 years.

This year, Washington has invited the No. 23 UCLA women’s crew and the No. 8 men’s Boston University crew.

Between the UW’s three opponents this year — Germany, UCLA, and Boston U — is a combined 8,419 miles of travel. Last year, the combined travel from Oxford Brookes, the Dutch National Team, and British Columbia exceeded 10,000 miles.

So how do Michael Callahan and Yasmin Farooq get the world’s best to compete against collegiates on the UW’s home course? German men’s head coach Peter Thiede said that he and his crew had heard of the event but came to find out more about what it was about after receiving their invitation.

Farooq had an easy pitch for what the Germans should expect when they went through on the Cut Saturday morning.

“When I think about the greatest rowing events in the world that I’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in, the three that come to mind are the Olympics, the Royal Henley Regatta in the U.K., and the Windermere Cup,” Farooq said. “The crowd at the Windermere Cup is one of the greatest in the world, you guys are going to see a sample.”

On the national level, the only struggle has been finding teams with room in their schedules to compete. Because the Windermere Cup is hosted in May, a lot of rowing clubs are preparing for their conference regatta, but there is no doubt if teams can fit it in, that they will.

“This year we had time in our schedule to come out here,” Boston U men’s coach Thomas Bohrer said. “Our guys are really excited to be here. To travel to the West Coast, be around a big rowing powerhouse like Washington, and event itself. In Boston we always boast about the Head of the Charles … the Windermere Cup seems like it’s going to match that.”

On the west coast, as soon as UCLA’s Amy Fuller Kearney got the call from Farooq, she was in, citing her experience in 2004 on the Montlake Cut.

“The opportunity that this race affords is unique to anywhere I’ve ever been,” Fuller Kearney said. “The excitement, that atmosphere, it’s an incredible opportunity.

As for the national teams, the regatta might not be the most prestigious event. German coaches cited that they had “heard” of the Windermere Cup before but didn’t really know that much about it. But UW coaches guaranteed that they would never forget their experience in Seattle.

“It’s rowing in a stadium,” Farooq said. “There’s one [rowing] stadium in the world, and it’s here in Seattle.”

Reach Sports Editor Alec Dietz at Twitter: @AlecDietz

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