By Richard Johnston ’15
This past summer four members of the Ivy Club and Princeton’s Heavyweight Men’s Crew team banded together to race in a coxless four at the Henley Royal Regatta in the historic town of Henley-on-Thames, England. Though the Ivy Club has had a tradition of competing at the event dating back to 1955, this was the first time in more than 20 years that Ivy had representation at the Regatta.
The boat consisted of graduated seniors Alex Taaffe (three seat and House Manager from Sarasota, Florida) and Allan Amico (bow seat and the Club’s very own weather man from Buffalo, New York). Rising juniors Tharald Fongaard (two seat from Oslo, Norway) and Richard Johnston (stroke seat from Chicago, Illinois) rounded out the crew. It was a life-changing experience for the four rowers as they competed at one of the most storied racing venues in the sport. The oarsmen had the unique opportunity to represent the Ivy Club at a highly competitive international level, enhancing the experience even further.
Once the crew’s entry was verified, preparations were made. Stylish green and gold blazers were designed to account for Henley’s mandatory jacketand-tie dress code, unisuits were designed for race day, a boat was borrowed from Oxford University, and the oars were freshly painted to show Ivy Club pride. Soon after their Princeton rowing season, the oarsmen travelled to Oslo, Norway to train with the Norwegian Under-23 team and acclimate to the European differences in preparation for the race. A week before the competition, the draw was posted and the Ivy Club would be racing Harvard University. Apparently, the Regatta Committee didn’t think that the crews had raced enough during the normal school year.
On race day, as the Ivy four launched from the boat tents, the crew went through their standard warm up, trying not to lose focus to the cheers of the thousands of spectators. Eventually, both the Ivy Club and Harvard were aligned and locked-in at the famous Bucks and Berks station, and the race was off. The start was dead even between the two boats. Three hundred meters into the race, bow seat Allan Amico roared in attempt to push the crew to surge ever slightly away from the Crimson. He knew that the crew was going to need a very strong first half as most races are decided in the first 500 meters at Henley. It worked, and the Ivy Club was up by a very narrow margin. Unfortunately, the Crimson were able to retaliate and took their infamous push at the Barrier (marking the first quarter of the race). Harvard took a commanding lead and were able to hold it for the remainder of the race. The Harvard boat eventually made their way into the final of the event.
Although this was not the result the Ivy Club had hoped for, it was an experience of a lifetime that was made possible by the support and generous donations of Ivy’s graduate members. The opportunity given to the rowers by the Club shows Ivy to be more than the average eating club as it affords unique international experiences to members. The four rowers will never forget the experience that they had and hope that this legacy continues.