BOSTON, Mass. -- Where the average person sees eight men rowing, college rowing coaches see so much more, from the synchronization of the oars to the angle of the blades.
But head lightweight coach Scott Alwin didn't have to see very much to realize that something was wrong with his varsity eight in the Geiger Cup regatta, something that would cost them any chance of beating Cornell for the Cup.
"It was clear from the first 20 meters," Alwin said. "They were not rowing. There was no spark. They did not race with confidence."
Columbia had set its sights on the Big Red, suspecting that MIT would not be able to match the pace of the other two boats. And they were right up there with Cornell for a while, but it soon became apparent this was not to be the Lions' day.
"We tried a move on Cornell in the second 500 meters, but it didn't work," the coach said. "We tried another move on Cornell in the third 500. When that move did not work, we got substantially slower."
Cornell won the race easily, in 6:11.4. Columbia was second in 6:18.6, well ahead of MIT's 6:41.4.
"Their performance was not even close to the way they usually row," Alwin noted of his varsity eight, ranked seventh nationally in the latest U.S. Rowing coaches poll. "It was 100 per cent mental, zero per cent physical."
The second varsity also rowed a disappointing race, struggling for the first 1000 meters with a strong crossing headwind.
"The conditions were challenging in the first 1000," the coach noted, "and we were sloppy. We didn't perform the way we are capable of."
The freshman eight appeared well on the way to carrying the Lions' colors. Despite difficult conditions, the young Lions stayed right with the Engineers and the Big Red.
"They were just starting to move on MIT and Cornell when it happened," Alwin said.
"It" was an over-the-head crab which brought the boat to a halt at the 1000-meter mark. "They kept their poise," the coach said, "got settled, and started moving again. But they were stopped for a minute, and couldn't get back into the race."
Combine choppy water, a tough headwind, and fatigue, with a novice rower, Alwin said, "and your blade work breaks down. That causes crabs."
The lightweights have little time to straighten themselves out. They will be on the water again tomorrow, Sunday April 22, when they row Dartmouth on the Connecticut River for the Subin Cup. The first race is at 10:20 a.m.

Today's results:

The Geiger Cup
Columbia, MIT, Cornell
April 21, 2012
Charles River, Boston, Mass.

Varsity Eights

1. Cornell, 6:11.4
2. Columbia, 6:18.6
3. MIT, 6:41.4

Second Varsity Eights
1. Cornell, 6:16.9
2. Columbia, 6:24.7

Freshman Eights
1. Cornell, 6:37.8
2. MIT, 6:42.5
3. Columbia, 6:54.0*
*over-the-head boat-stopping crab at 1000 meters

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Stone Cao, cox; Daniel Kirrane, stroke; Bruno Salemme, 7; John O'Mara, 6; Curtis Kachline, 5;  John Hold, 4; James Kahmann, 3; Noah Buckley, 2; James Winford, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Erica Cunningham, cox; Blake Pinell, stroke;  Graham Pupo, 7; Roger Stone, 6; Lane Brokaw, 5; Connor Dougherty, 4; John Zucchi, 3; Anders Smedsrud, 2; Chris Hatzis, bow

Freshman Eight
Logan Pirkl, cox; Griffin Whitlock, stroke; Ben Blair, 7; Fredrik Aasaaren, 6; Matt Bellesheim, 5; Charlie Stigler, 4; Travis Simon, 3; Thabet Mahayni, 2; Max Segall, bow