The Michigan Men’s Rowing team won their 9th consecutive national championship in Gainesville, Georgia, with four EECS students rowing in their toughest category. Their succesful season qualified the team to compete abroad in the Henley Royal Regatta, the most prestigious boat race series in the world, which takes place annually on the River Thames in England.
On Thursday, May 26, the team travelled to Gainesville to race at the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA)’s National Championships, where they pulled off top-three finishes in nearly every category. They saw the most success in the competition’s hottest category, the Varsity eight-man boat races. Both of their Varsity 8 boats finished in first place, making this Michigan’s fourth consecutive Varsity 8 title.
These wins helped secure Michigan’s ninth consecutive Men’s Team Points Trophy, with the team finishing over 100 points ahead of second placemen UCSB. Despite not having any women entered, the squad also placed second in the Overall Team Points Trophy.
The following month, the Varsity 8 and Second Varsity 8 boats departed for their big race abroad, the Henley Royal Regatta’s Temple Challenge Cup. This competition began with a pool of 73 teams, including Michigan’s two boats. Their First boat was given an automatic bid to compete based on its performance throughout the season, while its Second was one of 11 (out of 50!) to qualify based on a timed race.
Ultimately, both teams were eliminated from the bracket-style competition against world-class teams. The First Varsity boat was matched up with Harvard, who would go on to place second overall, while the Second Varsity won their first matchup against Liverpool University before a loss against Imperial College London. The team took pride in the fact that they matched the best showing Michigan had at the Royal Regatta by making it to the competition’s second day, especially as a Second Varsity team, and a crew that had to qualify the week before.
Benjamin Rebertus, Ian McGraw, Alex Brown, and Mitchell Tyson represented EECS on the team this season, and all of them competed on the Varsity 8 boats. This was Alex’s second chance to compete in the Royal Regatta – the team made this same trip in 2014, with a smaller group.
The Regatta is a major event for rowing fans, drawing over 100,000 spectators annually. The Michigan rowers put massive effort into their prep for the race, pulling 4-5 hours a day on the water. That’s a big time commitment for the already busy engineers.
Race prep does give the team a chance to flex some of their engineering muscles as well. Team member placement in the boats is fine tuned to account for different strengths and builds, taking into account precise performance data. Using oars designed by a career engineer with a rowing interest, the team uses a pressure sensor in the shaft to model the force being exerted at different parts of the boat to determine weak spots and who can fill it.
This becomes especially important in 8-man boats, considered the biggest event because of the challenging amount of coordination they demand.
Win or lose, the team made an impressive showing and many fond memories abroad. Read about their travels in their blog of the competition, and catch videos of their races.