Women’s Champ Eights

Scullers Once Again Dominate Sweepers

By Emily McCarthy Published on October 19, 2014

On Saturday, they were eight scullers from eight different countries who journeyed to the 50th Head Of The Charles Regatta to compete in championship singles and doubles events.

But Sunday, they were the women’s Great Eight, and stood as one as they were presented with the Governor’s Trophy after dominating the championship eights race, blowing out the US Rowing crew by almost 20 seconds and defeating the fastest collegiate boat by an additional 12.

“As the course went on we just kept building momentum and kept getting better, and then the last half a mile it just felt fantastic,” said Gevvie Stone, who sat stroke seat for the Great Eight after winning the championship singles race on Saturday.

“I think the sculling thing for me— more than racing twice— it’s the fact we normally race with two oars,” Stone said. “It’s fun to get together, practice twice, and prove that we can go fast.”

The Great Eight, who raced out of Cambridge Boat Club, won the Governor’s Trophy in 15:44.80. US Rowing came in at 16:04.65.

In addition to Stone, who is from Newton, Mass., the Great Eight was comprised of Kim Crow of Australia, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic, Carling Zeeman of Canada, Chantal Achterberg of the Netherlands, Sanita Puspere of Ireland, Magdalena Lobnig of Austria and Donata Vistartaite of Lithuania.

The Great Eight was coxed by Harvard graduate Erin Driscoll.

“It is a dream come true,” Driscoll said. “I was telling them this morning, that five years ago I stood in line to get a postcard autographed by the Great Eight. And now here I am in the boat with them.”

Driscoll, a native of Needham, Mass., has over eight years of experience on the Charles after coxing at Harvard and coxing in high school at Winsor.

“I would say that all my years on the Charles made the difference for me this Regatta,” she said. “It’s really nice to not have to think so much about the steering. I’m really used to it. They just made it even better.”

Stone praised Erin’s steering, joking that she would have a guaranteed spot in the boat for decades to come.

“Erin steered a perfect course,” Stone said. “She nailed every single turn. The power behind me in the boat was just extraordinary. When Erin asked for something, the boat did it.”

This year marked the second straight Head Of The Charles the Great Eight lived up to its namesake and claimed the Governor’s Trophy. The crew staged a dramatic come-from-behind victory over US Rowing in 2013.

Knapkova was a member of both winning Great Eight crews. She also raced in this year’s championship doubles event with Vistartaite, finishing second.

“I like to compete in eights because for me it’s something different from singles and I feel like a part of the team,” Knapkova said. “Especially because the team is from scullers and from the girls I usually compete against, it’s something special. I think for us it’s to prove our quality, that we are good scullers and we can make it in a team in eights.”

The University of Virginia also earned a repeat victory, winning the Pierson Trophy as the top collegiate eight for the second year in a row. UVA crossed the finish line third overall in 16:18.61.

“It’s just a huge festival of rowing, and this is where rowing is really celebrated, so to win it is huge for us,” said Erin Briggs, who sat three seat for UVA.

“I think it’s just awesome to be able to get out there and just keep on doing something the crews before us that have come to Virginia have done,” said UVA’s Georgia Ratcliff. “It’s just awesome and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

The next closest college crew was Oxford University, finishing fourth overall in 16:28.20. The third college crew, the University of Michigan, finished fifth overall in 16:36.92.

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