The Annual Brown Cup rowing dual between the University of Victoria Vikes women’s rowing eights crews and the UBC Thunderbirds is set for Mar. 30 on the Gorge Narrows in Victoria. The event will mark the first Brown Cup for Vikes head coach Barney Williams, at the tail of his first season, while Williams has previously raced in the event as a Vike.


The two crews are familiar after coming one-two at the Canadian University Rowing Championships (CURCs) in November. The Thunderbirds took gold with less than three seconds of a gap on the Vikes.

“There’s a hunger,” stated Williams about the feeling his Vikes have heading in to the weekend races. “The crews come out of (the Canadian University Rowing Championships) feeling close but not close enough. They are excited about the change to avenge that loss to UBC. The secret is length and power.”

“The team has worked hard in the weight room to improve that strength and in the water constantly trying to be longer. Piper Battersby drives that length in stroke seat and there is such tremendous support behind her in Larissa McKinlay and McKenna Simpson, both from last year’s Brown Cup winning crew, who are going to help us defend that title.”

The Vikes hold a 23-3 dominating advantage in Brown Cup victories over the past 26 seasons, while the Thunderbirds have recently shown their stripes winning two titles in the past five years (2014 and 2017).

“The sense of familiarity with the course is huge,” said Williams despite his crew spending the majority of their time training at Elk Lake throughout the year. “For us to have done our Trial Eights events down (on the Gorge Narrows) gave us a good dress rehearsal. There is a belief that it’s a neutral body of water but we feel like we will have at least a home crowd advantage.”

The 2017 Vikes crew racing through the Gorge Narrows the last time the event was in Victoria. (Photo: Kevin Light)

The varsity crew will feature first year coxswain Lily Copeland, stroke Battersby, Gillian Cattet. McKenna Simpson, Layla Balooch, team captain Larissa McKinlay, Adriana Rooker, Kirsten Edwards and rookie Danae McCulloch.

“The unique feature of our calendar is that our championship is in the fall and while that is the pinnacle race of our competitive calendar, we don’t’ have the same time to mold our crews and squad identity that we have for this event,” described Williams. “We have had nine months to lean in as a group of 25 young women to mold into this crew for Brown Cup. This is of equal billing to a CURCs race but there is also a rivalry that is much further back than CURCs. It’s hugely significant for the alumni, athletes and for the university.”

Looking across the water, the UBC Thunderbirds have no shortage of talent from their national championship-winning crew.

“There is no question our biggest challenge is UBC who will have an experienced line up trying to avenge their loss from last year,” outlined Williams. “They have an incredible athlete in their crew that has been tapped on the shoulder by Rowing Canada to be part of the run up to Toyko. Jessica Sevick was at the National Selection trials, which is a statement in itself. Throughout the bout, though, UBC has athletes with significant pedigree including some from the FISU games this summer. Their lineup is strong and deep from top to bottom.”

Photo: Kevin Light

The Vikes will also have a chance to race their reserve crew that includes coxswain Olivia Zachariah, stroke Tess Mackay-Pettyjohn, Eden Hardcastle, Maggie Hemphill, Maekala Smithers, Imogen White, Eliza-Jane Kitchen, Hayley Hubbs and Hannah Meeson.

“The neat feature of this event is that we recognize year over year there is going to be a turnover,” mentioned Williams about the Campbell-Dowd cup for the reserve crews. “One of the objectives is to identify athletes who could find themselves in varsity years to come. We have a big lightweight presence in our reserve crew and they need this experience because we are counting on them as we make a run for the banner next Fall. This crew is stroked by a first year, Tess McKay-Pettyjohn, who will ultimately lead the lightweight program with Eden Hardcastle and Sarah Craven in years to come.”

The Campbell-Dowd cup for the reserves race and the Brown Cup trophy. (Photo: Kevin Light)

The Brown Cup also symbolizes the finale of the Legends Cup event that was launched in August 2018 as the start of a head-to-head series across multiple sports. The UBC Thunderbirds will hoist the inaugural Legends Cup title for the first season, 2018-19, but the hope is to have the Brown Cup serve as the annual closing event for the Legends Cup series.

For more information visit

10:30 am – Women’s Reserve race
11:00 am – Men’s Reserve race
11:30 am – Women’s Varsity race
12:00 pm – Men’s Varsity race
1:00 pm – Awards Ceremony (Gorge Narrows Rowing Club)

In-person: Gorge Narrows Rowing Club docks, Selkirk Trestle, Bay Street Bridge
Viewing party: Delta Ocean Pointe Hotel ball room
Live streaming: via CHEK News Facebook page (varsity races only)

Cox: Lily Copeland
Stroke: Piper Battersby
7: Gillian Cattet
6: McKenna Simpson
5: Layla Balooch
4: Larissa McKinlay
3: Adriana Rooker
2: Kirsten Edwards
1: Danae McCulloch
Cox: Alexandria Birkenshaw
Stroke: Lucy Vincent-Smith
7: Caitlin Greber
6: Jessica Sevick
5: Kristina Walker
4: Allison Goodwin
3: Paula Camerson
2: Claire Brillon
1: Katie Clark
Cox: Olivia Zachariah
Stroke: Tess Mackay-Pettyjohn
7: Eden Hardcastle
6: Maggie Hemphill
5: Maekala Smithers
4: Imogen White
3: Eliza-Jane Kitchen
2: Hayley Hubbs
1: Hannah Meeson
Cox: Tina Yu
Stroke: Madi Obrovac
7: Lucy Chambers
6: Michelle Wesolowski
5: Claire Armstrong
4: Emily Dart
3: Michaela Ashlee
2: Renee LaFreniere
1: Sawera Dhaliwal