Exhibition 2010

“Pride! Pride! . . .” 
 Let’s go back in time and watch a particularly exciting crew race. It’s 11:40 a.m., Sunday, March 28, 2010, and we’re at Mission Bay, in Southern California. The upcoming two-boat duel is a 2,000-meter exhibition match race capping off the San Diego Crew Classic, one of the largest regattas in the world.

In lane 2: the University of California-Berkeley crew, which has just won the Copley Cup, the Crew Classic’s premiere event. (Cal’s rowing program has dominated the entire regatta, sweeping all five Grand Finals.) In lane 1: rowers from the US Men’s Team, training at the nearby Olympic facility in Chula Vista. Racing under the Old Glory banner, the US boat includes both relative newcomers and former Olympians.

Aside from featuring some of the finest rowers in the world, this race is distinguished by several attributes. The camera coverage is some of the best you will ever see, and Team USA’s coxswain, Marcus McElhenney — a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — is wired for sound. You will hear him in full command of his boat, spurring on his rowers, making corrections, and adjusting strategies on the way to the finish line as the roar of the crowd begins to swell. All of this adds up to a revealing experience for viewers.

Oh, and if you’re thinking that a team from the Olympic Training Center should necessarily have an advantage over a collegiate crew, keep in mind two things. The Cal varsity eight would go on to win the 2010 national championship in what the website called “the race of the year,” while the rowers in the USA boat, who train mostly in smaller craft, had never rowed together in an eight before. This is their shakedown cruise.

So the results of this particular race are hardly a foregone conclusion. All we know for sure is that we are about to witness some world-class rowing. And now, as the announcer says — “Buckle your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen . . .”