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Originally published May 2, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Page modified May 4, 2013 at 9:36 AM

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Viewer's guide to Saturday's Windermere Cup and opening of boating season

Tips for viewing the crew races and the boat parade along the Montlake Cut.

Opening Day staging area

Click to see an enlarged version of the graphic.

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Viewer's guide to the 27th Windermere Cup

Crowd estimates for Opening Day, the start of boating season, are around 40,000. The big draw? Other than parking ($10 to $15), it's a free day in the fresh air. A few tips for optimal viewing:

Beat the Bridge, Windermere Cup-style

To create a pedestrian-friendly party scene, Montlake Bridge will be closed to traffic from 9:20 a.m. until 3 p.m. Arrive early if you're approaching the Cut via 520.

Come equipped

Possible bring-alongs: sunscreen (forecast calls for temperatures in the 70s), shades, a hat, water bottle, snacks, folding furniture, leashes for pets, cowbells to spur rowers late in races. No joke. Any tiring rower will tell you, "I gotta have more cowbell."

Where to watch

• Montlake Bridge is the best vantage point to see the complete 2,000-meter races, which start in Lake Washington and finish at the west end of the Cut.

• North or south banks of the Cut near the finish line. The north side has some bleachers, the south side has the UW band.

• Canoe House below Montlake Bridge (a former Navy hangar and past UW shellhouse, 1920-49), 600 meters from the finish, a point where crews often begin their sprints.

• Anywhere along a footpath on the north side of the Cut.

What to see

Before the first race ornate dragon boats make a traditional first pass down the Cut, carrying 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steerperson.

Boat Parade

After the men's varsity eight race (11:45 a.m.), all the boats that have collected into Portage Bay paddle back through the Cut and past the few hundred boats tied up to the log boom in Lake Washington. Note to boat-traveling spectators: You must tie off on the log boom no later than 8 a.m. Saturday.

The details

What: The 27th annual Windermere Cup.

Where: Montlake Cut.

When: Saturday. The first race is scheduled for 9:55 a.m. There are 25 races scheduled, featuring more than 800 rowers. The women's and men's Windermere Cup races, matching Washington against Cornell and Dartmouth, are at 11:35 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.

Parking/traffic: Parking in UW lots is priced at $10 and $15. For more details, go to www.gohuskies.com.

After the races: Fans are invited to stay for the awards ceremony and presentation of the Windermere Cup trophy at the Conibear Shellhouse.

About Saturday's Cup races

• This is the first Windermere Cup with no international crew. Cornell has twice before sent boats to Opening Day (2005 and 1991). Dartmouth sent its men's varsity in 1993. Both Cornell and Dartmouth are racing varsity and second varsity men's and women's crews.

• Can the UW men be stopped? "On paper you'd say they're pretty unbeatable," said Cornell men's coach Todd Kennett, who recalled it was "incredibly loud" on the Cut in 1991 when he rowed here for Cornell. "I would like to think that I'm bringing a crew here that's going to be competitive. I pray that we make them sweat, and if they stumble, we're all over it. They're pretty fierce on paper, but that's why we race."

• The Washington women, ranked No. 4 in the latest NCAA poll after upsetting second-ranked California last week, will race against 17th-ranked Cornell and a Dartmouth crew listed in the also-receiving-votes section.

Terry Wood

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