Windermere Cup Regatta: Celebration of rowing in Seattle

SPU rowers compete amongst top teams from around region in one of largest rowing events held annually

Dante Buell, staff writer

The Seattle Pacific Varsity 4+ rows under the Montlake Bridge during the Opening Day Regatta on Saturday, May 6, 2023. The SPU V4+ was second in the Womens Colligate Varsity 4 race. (Rio Giancarlo)

The Windermere Cup Regatta is one of the most exciting and anticipated annual events in the world of rowing, attracting thousands of spectators from around the Seattle community and beyond. Held on the picturesque Montlake Cut, the event is a celebration of the sport, bringing together some of the best rowing teams from around the world for a day of intense competition and camaraderie.

The event attracts top collegiate and international crews from around the world and includes races in several categories, such as men’s and women’s eights, fours and pairs. One of the most anticipated races is the Windermere Cup, where a top collegiate or international crew competes against the University of Washington men’s or women’s varsity eight. This year’s Windermere Cup regatta will feature Australia’s national team.

For Seattle Pacific University’s rowing team, the Windermere Cup is not just another race but a chance to showcase their talent and compete against some of the top teams in the world. While the ultimate goal for the team is to qualify for the NCAA championships, the Windermere Cup is a key stepping stone, providing an opportunity for the athletes to gain valuable race experience and hone their skills.

Head coach Caitlin McClain knows just how important the Windermere Cup is for her team.

“Preparing them physically and mentally is more about really getting them ready for their conference championships and getting another chance to go out there and execute their race plan,” McClain said. “The Windermere Cup is a nice opportunity for training.”

But the event is more than just a race for the Seattle community. It is a celebration of the sport and a chance for the city to come together and cheer on their local teams.

“It brings the Seattle community together,” McClain said. “It’s something I look forward to every year. It’s one thing to spectate, but to be spectated is so special. It means a lot to be a part of that for athletes who have never done it.”

Senior Kalais Samuelson emphasizes the importance of staying focused during the race.

“We focus a lot on internal focus,” she said. “Keep your head in the boat, and when you’re rowing through the cut for the Windermere Cup, there’s people on both sides, there’s people on the bridges; it can get really loud. It’s just a really exciting time for everybody.”

Megan Popielak, a junior on the team, sees the event as a chance to have fun and compete against teams they don’t normally face.

“In the whole scheme of things, the Windermere Cup maybe isn’t as important for champs for us, so this is more of like a reset, a fun race with the opportunity to race different people that we usually wouldn’t be able to,” Popielak said.

As for senior coxswain Moxie McCandless, she sees the Windermere Cup as a unique opportunity to race against some of the best teams in the world and take in the experience.

“Not everyone comes to Windermere, so to be able to see the Australian team row in person is a really unique thing,” McCandless said. “Usually it’s really good weather, so that puts everyone in a really good mood. And after COVID, it’s coming to life a little bit more.”

The Windermere Cup is not just another race, but a chance for rowers from all over the world showcase their talent, have fun and take in the unique atmosphere of the event. And for the Seattle community, it’s a chance to come together and celebrate the sport of rowing in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.

For the rowers on the SPU team, the Windermere Cup is an experience they will never forget.

“It really is the greatest setting,” freshman Gem Gatmaytan said. “Not many courses that you’ll get to race in or watch have spectators on both sides for the whole sprint. Being able to come into your last 500 meters with people screaming at you from both sides, hearing the band and people yelling from yachts on the log boom – that’s an amazing experience not many rowers get.”