Between July 2-6, a squad of Michigan rowers represented the Block M on the River Thames, an hour west of London. A total of 494 crews entered this year’s Regatta, comprised of 107 crews from 20 overseas countries. More than 100,000 spectators, including much of the Royal Family, will be in attendance.
The club-varsity Men’s Rowing team has won seven consecutive American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championships. Now, for the second time they’ve been invited to compete in one of the most prestigious international regattas in the world. Twenty-four out of sixty-four oarsmen on this year’s team were engineering majors. An even larger percentage of engineers, seven of twelve, are on the small squad headed to the Royal Henley Regatta.
“It’s a unique chance to race new schools and crews and to display the hard work that we’ve put in over the years. It’s a great opportunity to represent the Block M on an international stage. It’s pretty special,” explains Philippe Kirschen, who finished his Aerospace undergraduate degree in May and is one of the Henley twelve.
“What choosing engineering as your degree and choosing to row have in common is that you know they’re both going to be extremely difficult,” explains Kirschen. The team is made up of people who get a lot out of putting a lot in, but there are other aspects of rowing that appeal to Alex Crawford, biomedical engineering recent grad and member of the Henley crew. “You see the boat and you respect how much engineering went into the boat itself. It’s made of carbon fiber, super expensive, lightweight and maximized for speed. We have plenty of geeks on our team. We embrace it,” says Crawford.
Both Kirschen and Crawford agree that there is a teamwork aspect of rowing that parallels an engineering education. They liken it to their labs and senior design project experience. “Everyone has to do the same thing together. It doesn’t reward the individual as much as other sports do,” says Crawford.
“My senior design was a team project. There was too much work for any one or two people to do. You need everyone to be involved and everyone to pull their own weight,” adds Kirschen.
The team also has to pull their own weight, financially. As a club sport they have to raise all the team funds themselves. Every rower for U-M has to pay $2,600 – $2,800 in dues every year. That doesn’t include things like meals on the road. Although being invited to the Henley is a great honor, it’s also a great expense. In order to defray travel expenses for engineering students (or 2014 graduates) who will be making the trip, The College of Engineering has provided $7,000 toward the trip. “It means that fewer guys have to turn down the opportunity to go to Henley because they can’t afford it, which is pretty special,” says Kirschen.
Follow the team’s Henley experience on their blog. ROW BLUE!
The Michigan Men’s Rowing Team made a strong statement by getting past the first round of this bracket-style competition with both their 8+ and 4+ crews. Unfortunately, the second round proved itself to be much more difficult, with the 8+ losing to the University of Western Ontario and the 4+ to Oxford Brookes University in what were both hard fought races. Despite the losses, the 12 rowers and 2 coxswains (7 of whom are engineers!) should be incredibly proud of the way they represented Michigan and themselves in England. Row blue!