By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The Brown Cup varsity eight boat races between the University of Victoria Vikes and UBC Thunderbirds are set to return to Victoria waters this Saturday, March 26 for the 24th rendition of the prestigious competition.
The race will take place on the Gorge Waterway, beginning at the Tillicum Bridge and finishing below the Johnson St. Bridge. This year’s event sets the stage for next year’s 25th anniversary.
“The Brown Cup pushes its competitors to their limits in a 2.9-kilometre, head-to-head duel that balances between a sprint and a head race,” said Vikes men’s rowing coach Aalbert Van Schothorst. “The two styles combine to make an exciting race for everyone involved, and tactics will be very crucial as the tides and steering can dictate a crew’s performance.”
The Brown Cup alternates every season between the windy tideways of the Gorge in Victoria and the Fraser River in Vancouver but will once again be hosted by the University of Victoria for its quarter-century celebration in 2017. Both crews’ entire seasons revolve around the Brown Cup, as winning the title is the ultimate accolade for both programs.
This weekend’s competition begins on Friday with the coin toss at 4:00 p.m. PST at the St. Michaels University School/Gorge Waters Boathouse. The toss determines which station each crew races from: the Esquimalt side or the Victoria side of the waterway.
Next, crews line up at Gorge Narrows Rowing Club/St. Michaels University School Rowing Club on Saturday for the Tale of the Tape at 3:10 p.m. for the men and 3:30 p.m. for the women. The Tale of the Tape is a legendary event where crews face off on the dock before they launch. Each crew member is introduced with academic faculty, height and weight detailed. The Reserve Men officially begin the races at 4:30 p.m. and then races continue in 20-minute intervals with the Reserve Women at 4:50 p.m., the Varsity Men at 5:10 p.m. and the Varsity Women at 5:30 p.m.
The annual contest was founded in 1992 by former Vikes rowing coach Howie Campbell and UBC’s coach Joe Dowd and is modeled after the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, which celebrates its 162nd edition the day following Brown Cup at the Tideway in London, England.
In 2001, the Reserve Eight Race was created, again modeled after the Oxford-Cambridge duel, in order to showcase the depth of each university’s respective rowing program.
The Vikes men lead the all-time series 17-7 over the Thunderbirds, with last year’s event having the tightest race in the events history with a margin of .03 seconds at the finish line. Two hours of adjudicating by the umpires came close to declaring a nil result due to the number of protests of infractions during the race. Ultimately the Vikes were declared second in the race but can look back to being in the race of the decade with pride. The Vikes women have dominated their pacific rivals 21-2 and retook the title from the T-Birds in 2015 after winning by the slim margin of 0.5 seconds.
“This is a race about glory and bragging rights,” said Connor McGuigan, Vikes rowing alumni and novice rowing coach, who raced in last year’s Brown Cup for the Vikes. “There are no second-place medals and no second chances. One race, one victor.”
The Vikes men’s varsity eight recently came out on top by a full boat length in the two programs’ last meeting at the 42nd Annual Elk Lake Spring Regatta on March 6 in the open men’s 8+.
Both crews have spent the past few weeks fine tuning their speed in the build up to this weekend’s season climax, setting the stage for a high-energy clash.
This weekend’s races will be the last for a several Vikes in the blue and gold, including varsity cox, U-23 World Champion/Pan Am gold medalist and President’s Cup nominee Jacob Koudys.
Chancellor’s Award nominee Alexandra Clancy will cox her fourth reserve boat in an attempt to add one more victory to her five-year Vikes career.
Fifth year Samuel Hogman has raced in the bow in two of the past four Vikes reserve boats, winning both times, and will look to be the first across the finish line on Saturday. Lastly, engineering student Elyas Forstbauer and varsity boat member for three years will move on into his field at the completion of this event.
This year’s Brown Cup presents an exciting opportunity for spectators to follow the action live via drone that will film and stream each race live to YouTube. Spectators can head down to the Canoe Club at 450 Swift St. where the stream will be aired. Viewing boats for the event will also be provided by Eagle Wing Tours, picking alumni and guests from the Canoe Club to watch the races up close and on the water.
For all Brown Cup information, including Tale of the Tape and streaming information, visit govikesgo.com/BrownCup2016.