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Saturday, May 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rowers open hearts, closets for Windermere Regatta

Seattle Times staff reporter

There will be scrambling in the Montlake Cut this morning when Washington's varsity crews try to upset Russia's best rowers.

On Friday, there was scrambling of a different sort: Coming up with dresses and shoes for Russian women rowers to wear to the annual Windermere Regatta banquet.

The Russians didn't get the word before they arrived that there would be a banquet Friday night. They wanted to look good and the UW women rowers went through their closets to help.

Some of the Russian women reportedly used the $100 Windermere Real Estate had given them for the annual guest shopping spree on banquet attire. Others used it to buy jeans and other items. Some of the Russian men used some of their money to buy fishing tackle.

There was no clothing scramble for the Russian men because Jim Ojala has a big closet. Ojala, a Seattle writer-publisher who speaks Russian and is helping with hospitality, let the visitors choose what they wanted to borrow.

"The entire team is going to be wearing my clothes and I'm going to be wearing what's left," Ojala said several hours before the banquet when the Russian men were on the water practicing.

"They look much better in the clothes than I do," he joked.

Windermere Cup Regatta


The first of 19 races begins at 10:20 a.m. on Lake Washington, finishing in the Montlake Cut. The two Windermere Cup races:

11:15 a.m. (women's varsity eight): Washington vs. Russian National Team and Central Florida.

11:25 a.m. (men's varsity eight): Washington vs. Russian National Team and Michigan.

This morning, speed replaces fashion as the No. 1 concern on this day that is a fixture on the Seattle sports calendar. The first Saturday in May is crew day in Seattle the way that the first Sunday in August is hydroplane day.

The races precede the annual yacht parade through the Montlake Cut at the edge of campus. Boosters don't hesitate to trumpet that the two events combine to make one of the biggest free public spectacles in North America.

A card of 19 races involving amateur, high-school and college crews begins at 10:20 a.m. and is highlighted by the two Windermere Cup races. Central Florida and the Huskies will try to upset the Russian women in the 11:15 a.m. Women's Windermere Cup. The Washington men and Michigan will go after the Russians in the men's Windermere Cup at 11:25 a.m.

All races are 2,000 meters and start in Lake Washington, with the final 300 meters in the Montlake Cut.

The Russians are heavily favored to win the featured events. Russia was asked to bring their under-23 teams, but arrived with their world-class national teams. UW coaches didn't seem surprised.

Russian officials were quick to point out at a midweek news conference that 10 years ago the Huskies beat their crews.

When asked if the Huskies were rowing for second place, UW men's coach Bob Ernst shot back:

"At the University of Washington, we never row for second. We always row to win."

This is the 20th year that Windermere Real Estate has sponsored the crew regatta. The emphasis is on hospitality until the races start.

The Seattle Yacht Club treated the Russian rowers to an evening cruise and the regatta hosts have taken them all over the city, including to the Space Needle.

"The city is beautiful," said rower Zarutskiy Anton.

Russian rowers wanted to touch the waters of Puget Sound because it is connected to the Pacific Ocean. They also posed for pictures next to the miniature Statue of Liberty in West Seattle.

Notes

• New collegiate-crew rankings came out at midweek and the Huskies men are ranked No. 7 and the UW women No. 10. Michigan, where men's crew is a club rather than a varsity sport, is ranked No. 14 in the men's rankings ahead of several schools where rowing is a varsity sport. The Central Florida women are ranked No. 19.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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