The Windermere Cup


This weekend offers up one of those rare occasions to see the best of the USA take on the best of Britain, Canada and the Netherlands – it’s the 32nd annual Windermere Cup.

The Windermere Cup rowing regatta got its start 32 years ago when Windermere Real Estate founder, John Jacobi, joined up with the University of Washington to create the annual rowing event. They wanted to bring the best team in the world to Seattle’s Montlake Cut, which at the time was the Soviet Union. After that, the precedent was set for what has become one of the world’s premier rowing events, and certainly a staple of Seattle’s rowing community. For more information please visit

The Windermere is one of the highlights of the Seattle sporting calendar and plays a pivotal part in the Opening Day of the Boating season. Raced over 2000 metres on the Montlake Cut on Lake Washington this year’s men’s race sees the University of Washington take on Oxford Brookes University and the University of British Columbia – so it’s the US IRA Champions against the British University Champions and the Canadian University champions. In the women’s event it’s a two boat race with the University of Washington taking on the Dutch national squad.


So, who’s going to win?

First off the men’s race….the line ups haven’t been officially released but recent races should give a good indication of who will be in the boats.

Washington have made an impressive start to the season and are undefeated so far, their most impressive performance was against the University of California in the Schoch Cup beating Cal by 3 seconds. The core of the Huskies crew are their stern pair – Bram Schwarz and Viktor Pivac. Dutchman Schwarz stroked the Netherlands U23 8 to a gold medal at the World Championships last season. He then raced in the M2X at the senior World Championships in Florida where he finished 12th. Pivac, from Serbia, has won medals at the last four U23 World Championships, including a gold in the BM2- in 2016. He also raced at the Senior World Championships in 2015 winning a bronze in the M2+.


Montlake Cut Seattle

For the race against Cal chief coach Michael Callahan made the surprising move of dropping 6 of the crew that started the season in the Varsity boat down into the 2nd Varsity all of whom have U23 international experience including team captain Arne Landboe. But the tactic clearly worked as they successfully defeated Cal. It remains to be seen which line up Coach Callahan chooses for the Windermere. Replacing those 6 are U23 international Chris Carlson along with Sam Halbert and Madison Molitor, both of whom have been invited to the US U23 Team Selection camp. Also stepping up to the Varsity boat are Sean Kelly and Elijah Maesner. It almost has the feel that Callahan is trying to make his crew as “American” as possible to take on the Brits and Canadians. It’s been a long time since there have been this many US athletes in the Huskies varsity boat.

For Oxford Brookes, the opportunity to race one of the top US IRA crews on their home water was too good to miss. They had planned to race at the Head of the Charles last year, but a clash with the Senior GB Rowing Championships (which was mandatory for those seeking national team selection) meant they had to decline (a decision made all the more galling when the championships were cancelled due to bad weather). They have a stated ambition to become the number one Rowing University in the World. It’s a bold ambition and a victory over Washington at the weekend will be a step in the right direction.


Brookes cox Harry Brightmore and chief coach Henry Bailhache-Webb

Chief Coach Henry Baillache-Webb has built an outstanding group of athletes, comparable to any in the US. They have made an excellent start to the season, beating both the Oxford and Cambridge Blue Boats and then running Leander Club to a dead heat at the Head of the River Race (a Leander crew full of senior International oarsmen). Six of the likely line-up for Saturday were in the crew that won the Ladies Plate at Henley last season and seven of them have U23 International representative honours. It’s going to be an especially interesting race for Sam Nunn who spent his Freshman year at Washington. There are rumours that this crew is very, very fast. If these rumours are to be believed then the crew produced a sub-4 minute 1500m piece whilst training at the GB training base at Caversham.

But, the race isn’t just about UW and Brookes, there’s a third crew involved as well, The University of British Columbia. They received the invite as the reigning Canadian University Champions. They raced at the San Diego Crew Classic in March finishing 2nd in the Grand Final to Temple. I have a feeling the Thunderbirds may find the pace of Brookes and the Huskies a bit too hot.

So, who do I think will win? I’ve a feeling it’s going to be very, very close. UW have the advantage of being on home water and will have a huge following, but Brookes are an outstanding unit and will be hugely focussed on trying to take the scalp of the IRA champions. But, I think UW will just take the victory but I reckon Brookes will be within half a length with UBC a couple of lengths back.


The Women’s race is a little more straightforward, it’s the University of Washington against the Netherlands National squad. Washington have won the last 11 Windermere Cups but this year’s opponents are probably the toughest they’ve faced in a long time. The Dutch are brining 7 of the crew that finished 6th at last year’s World Championships along with another who raced in the W2X, six of those athletes raced at the Rio Olympics. Whichever way you look at it it’s a formidable line up. Washington are the no.1 ranked team in the US this season and have a crew that includes the outstanding young Greek rower Sofia Asoumanaki (4th in the W2X at the Rio Olympics) along with 5 other athletes who have raced internationally at U23 level, including 4 who have won medals.


Sofia Asoumanaki of Greece and Washington

Like their male counterparts they were victorious against Cal a couple of weeks ago posting a very fast time of 6:05 and are unbeaten so far this season. Just as in the men’s race, the Women’s Windermere Cup promises to be very close. The challenge for the visitors is dealing with the jet-lag, racing in a borrowed boat and on unfamiliar water, plus, for any international crew a race like the Windermere is more of a “sideshow” event – their focus will be later in the year with the World Cups and the World Championships. Consequently, if they aren’t careful they could suffer a defeat at the hands of the Americans. But, in their favour, the Dutch are pretty much an established unit and have been rowing together for a number of years. I think the visitors will hand the Huskies their first defeat of the season, but there won’t be a huge amount in it.

It certainly promises to be some excellent races…I can’t wait.