SAN DIEGO — One of the goals of the San Diego Lowenbrau Crew Classic, as stated by the committee, is to give colleges a chance to see what the competition is like for the coming season.
This year, the San Diego Crew Classic will give some Olympic aspirants a chance to see what they're up against as well.
Approximately 2,380 rowers from 27 universities and colleges, 39 clubs, 5 high schools and 6 Elite teams (teams that have competed and won in an international or national competition) will descend on Mission Bay today at 12:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6:30 a.m. for the 15th San Diego Crew Classic.
Things to watch: Saturday morning at 10 o'clock, 30 men and 20 women from the U.S. Elite crews will be participating in races that shape up as kind of pre-Olympic time trials. Their performances here will be one criterion used in selecting the final U.S. Olympic crews. Some of the men were on the crew that won the world championship for eights in Copenhagen last fall.
But the U.S. team isn't the only international team that will participate in the San Diego Crew Classic. The Swiss and Canadian national teams are here, as well as two English teams and two West German junior teams.
On the collegiate level, Washington, Syracuse, the Naval Academy, Wisconsin, Washington State, Harvard and Yale are among the 27 colleges and universities that will compete for the Copley Cup in the men's division and the Whittier Cup in the women's division.
Last year, Harvard won the Copley Cup and Washington the Whittier Cup. Washington's women are back to defend their championship; Harvard's men have declined.
"Harvard didn't want to come this year because they have a young crew and it's a little early for them to be getting in the water," explained Norm Allenby, president of San Diego Crew Classic, Inc.
Harvard, like fellow Ivy League school Yale, did send a varsity lightweight team (160 pounds or less per rower, average of no more than 155 per rower) to compete.
"One thing to look for at the classic is the strength of the overall collegiate programs, which comes from the freshman, novice, lightweight and woman crews," said John Oliver, who has been on the San Diego Crew Classic committee for six years. "The overall points trophy (the Lowenbrau Cup) is awarded to the university which gets the most points from these races combined with the varsity races."
Locally, San Diego State, UC San Diego and the University of San Diego will have men's and women's teams competing. The local schools will be rowing for the California Cup, which goes to the California university that accumulates the most points.
The third major category for competitors this weekend is at the club level. The San Diego Rowing Club, the Mission Bay Rowing Assn. and ZLAC, a local women-only rowing club, are all entered.
People to watch: Andrew Holmes and Steven Redgrave, two rowers with the British contingent, both sign their names with the initials M.B.E. afterward. Having been cited for their rowing accomplishments by Queen Elizabeth II, they are Members of the British Empire. Holmes and Redgrave also are Olympic gold medalists.
With 2,380 rowers and Elite and collegiate teams competing, there will be plenty of individuals to watch.
"Chris Korzienowski, the technical adviser to the United States Rowing Assn., is recognized as a leader in coaching around the world," Oliver said. "He's a very hard taskmaster."
In addition to Korzienowski, Bob Ernst, who coaches both the U.S. women's Olympic team and the University of Washington men's team, also will be on hand with each of his crews.
"He's fantastic," said race committee chairman Ed Petrick of Ernst. "He's got that ability to get teams to rise above the sum of their parts."
Another nationally recognized coach is Randy Jablonic of Wisconsin's men's team.
"He's one of those people who always manages, under very difficult circumstances, to make his crews go fast," Petrick said. "They don't get a lot of water time in Wisconsin. Let's face it, the water's still frozen over there."
Jablonic solves that problem by practicing in a tank, where water is pumped past the boats.
"He was told once that his crews are not pretty," Petrick said. "He glibly replied, 'I thought pretty was coming across the line first.' "
Thanks to Gary Giles, the Canadian crew's manager, the British will be rowing a Canadian boat. Giles brought the boat from Canada for the British to borrow.
"It's like a tight family," Oliver said. "If you need help with boats or blades (oars), you ask your friends."
One person who will not be involved in the San Diego Crew Classic this spring is H. Del Beekley, who coached a Mission Bay Rowing Assn. Master's team in last year's competition. Beekley has been involved in San Diego rowing nearly all his life, and the MBRA named its boathouse the H. Del Beekley Rowing Center in his honor. Beekley, 89, finally decided it was time to hang up his oars.