Coxswain Seamus Labrum and the University of Washington men's varsity-eight crew should be able to do some serious scouting before racing at the Henley Royal Regatta in England in early July
The undefeated Washington crew, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association champion, is in a field of just three boats in the Grand Challenge Cup, Henley's top division for eight-boats. But both opponents should be outstanding.
The Henley Royal Regatta, now in its 174th year, takes place from July 3-7 on the Thames River in Henley-On-Thames in Oxfordshire, England, and is considered one of the most prestigious regattas in the world.
Labrum, 22, of Cape May Court House, is a graduated senior from Washington and a former Holy Spirit High School coxswain.
The Northeasten University men's varsity eight, with Egg Harbor Township graduate Kyle Erlandson, will row in the Ladies Plate Challenge Cup, a category with good university crews and clubs.
"We expected the field to be a bit lighter this year, but not this few," the 5-foot-6 Labrum said. "The field is smaller but the caliber is high. The teams in the Grand Challenge Cup are usually National Teams rowing under a club banner."
Two clubs can combine to make one team in the Grand Challenge Cup. Washington will meet either a combined team from England or a combined team from Poland.
"I think we'll be able to see them on the webcast," Labrum said. "We'll watch the films, just like in other sports. We'll look at their splits. We'll gauge what kind of moves they make, and where. We'll look at what they're doing and match that up to us."
Labrum and the eight rowers have all been to Henley before. Labrum was the coxswain of the unbeaten University of Washington freshman eight that won the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley in 2010. Also in that boat were current varsity-eight teammates Alexander Bunkers, Ryan Schroeder, Sam Dommer and Mijo Rudelj.
Labrum's parents, Bill and Tracey, were there watching at Henley in 2010. They'll be there again, along with daughter Onora, a 16-year-old Holy Spirit High School coxswain this spring.
"It's very amazing to be at the Steward's Enclosure by the finish line at Henley, where the fans watch the race," Tracey Labrum said. "Everyone dresses formally. It's like a Kentucky Derby atmosphere. Girls all wear dresses below the knee and the men all wear jackets. Princess Anne came there on her own boat to watch (in 2010)."
The Washington crew left for England on Tuesday, but the rest of the Labrum family won't make the trip until July 2.
Seamus Labrum was the Huskies' varsity-four coxswain his sophomore and junior years, and the crew won two IRA titles.
Moving up to the two-time defending IRA champion varsity eight this year, Labrum took over a spot left vacant by the graduation of Sam Ojserkis of Mainland Regional High School.
The Washington crew won the Pac-12 title and the IRA titles, both in Sacramento, Calif. Labrum was also chosen the Pac-12 Men's Rowing Scholar Athlete of the Year this spring.
"We saw Seamus at the Pac-12, the IRA and at his graduation, and I got a chance to go out on the launch with the coach to see them row," Bill Labrum said. "The guys have got it together. They had a nice long practice and did a number of drills and then a long piece (practice row). It was pretty impressive to see their power."
The Northeastern varsity eight, with Erlandson in 3-seat, lost only to Harvard this spring in dual meets, while finishing fourth in the IRA and third at the Eastern Sprints. The boat has many rising juniors, including Erlandson. His parents, Craig and Lisa, and brother Matthew, a high school coxswain, will be there at Henley to watch.
"I've never even been to Europe before, so it should be interesting," said Erlandson, a 20-year-old EHT resident. "Our training has been going well and we're confident. Harvard won the Ladies Plate last year, so it's generally crews of our caliber."
The University of Washington men's second eight, unbeaten this year, will also compete in the Ladies Plate Challenge Cup division. The Ladies Plate has eight boats.
"We've been training with the second eight, and they're great sparring partners for us," Seamus Labrum said. "They can row with most varsity eights in America. A lot of them are seniors. It's good for us to go against each other, because Henley is all dual races."
A fundraiser to help offset Seamus Labrum's expenses on the Henley trip will be held at the Irish Pub's Patio Terrace from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday at St. James Place in Atlantic City. The fee is $20. The event will be a buffet and beer, and will have a cash bar and raffles. Call Bill Labrum at 609-780-3113.
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