HENLEY-ON-THAMES, United Kingdom -- It was the ultimate summer road trip for Orange Coast College men's crew, as a successful 2018 season was capped up with a two-week trip to England for the 179th Henley Royal Regatta.
Returning to this prestigious regatta for the first time since 1996, the Pirates made the trek to the U.K. for just the 11th time in the program's history (1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996). Orange Coast College is the only community college to have ever participated in the 179-year history of the event.
"It was a great trip for the crew and the program as a whole," OCC head coach Cam Brown said. "It was a once in a lifetime experience for the athletes and I could sense throughout the trip that as they were experiencing all of the events, it was sinking in to them, the magnitude of what they were experiencing."
After making the trek over, the Pirates began racing on June 29 as they prepared to qualify for the Henley Regatta. Needing to place in the top 12 out of 32 boats, the Pirates put forth their best effort and managed to advance! "The process of qualifying was nerveracking, the first competition for these athletes on international waters and the stakes were very high - potentially this would be the end of the regatta if it didn't go well," Brown said. "We had to place top 12 out of 32 boats. Once they announced our name as having qualified it was certainly memorable moment - we had officially qualified and earned out way to compete in the Henley Royal Regatta."
Following a week of preparing for the regatta and some sightseeing, the Pirates took on Shrewsbury College in the opening round on July 4. After a sluggish start to the race, OCC finished strong one of the top U.K. programs and won the race by two lengths with a time of 6 minutes, 44 seconds.
"Racing (on July 4) was quite memorable," Brown said. "So much thought, planning and preparing had gone into getting to the start line, many months worth of planning and the culmination of the season for the athletes. It was us or them - a strong high school program that had also qualified to compete. We were confident in our ability to win the race, but that only added to the nerves. We had to execute. After a rocky start, we found our rhythm and gradually pulled ahead throughout the race to win by several boatlengths. We had won our first race at Henley. Not many athletes get to compete at Henley, and due to the format even less get to win a race. It was a sensational achievement for the athletes involved and the program of Coast Crew."
With the win, OCC advanced to the next round, but next on the schedule was a powerhouse crew from the University of Washington. Coast battled as hard as possible, but the Huskies managed to top the Pirates and would go on to win the entire Henley Regatta with a new record-setting time.
"We knew this would be a formidable opponent, and sure enough ... we were correct with that assumption," Brown said. "To finish our season and have our final race against UW was fitting. OCC has competed at Henley a total of 12 times, this trip was about more than the squad of 2018. Our alumni have a strong connection with the Henley regatta as well. Likewise, Coast Crew has a strong history with UW also - many of our athletes transferring to the program in the past and many great races between the two programs. They were too strong for us this time, but a good sight to see OCC and UW at the start line.
"It has been 16 years since Coast Crew raced at Henley, 12 times in our 65 year history - and it felt right to see OCC there this year," Brown continued. "We had a successful crew that won many races this year and their performance at the regatta showed we deserved to be there. It is special. I think in future we will plan on attending every 3-5 years - but there will always be a caveat that we must be fast. Our speed will ultimately determine when we next make the trip - I am confident it won't be too long."
Coxswain: Cambria Stirrat (First Year)
Stroke: Caleb O'Neil (Second Year)
7 Seat: Daniel Amado (Second Year)
6 Seat: Axel Witt (First Year)
5 Seat: Ken Ponchak (Second Year)
4 Seat: Cole uild (First Year)
3 Seat: James Kerrigan (Second Year)
2 Seat: Tanner Godfrey (Second Year)
Bow Seat: Jordan Teisan (Second Year)
Spare: Andrew Garrow (Second Year)