Crew is a longstanding tradition in Seattle and especially at the University of Washington. The Husky men’s team has now won the National Title for the last six years, at the IRA Championship last year they came close to the world record and this past summer team member Conlin McCabe won an Olympic Silver Medal in the Canadian Men’s Eight. There is so much hard work put into the sport. Countless hours are spent out on the water in cold and raining conditions in the pursuit of perfection. The team rows until their backs want to break, and the simple truth is that some of their backs really do break. The sport is not painful, it is excruciating. If a person were to look at the hands of a rower, they would see thick calluses, deep areas of cracked skin. The men are not GQ models with perfectly balanced proportions and sleek, smooth muscles—their bodies ripple in response to an intended purpose, and form to the action of the sport.
The boats, which hold eight rowers and one coxswain, race for 2,000 meters, which takes about five and a half minutes. But the teams row countless kilometers for their training, even one day rowing from the boathouse by the Husky Stadium out and around Mercer Island and back. But all this training, all the agony is masked in an old world charm. Although crew is typically seen as an East Coast and European sport, it has deep roots in Seattle—the team was established in 1903, raced as an Olympic Team in 1936, and has had numerous Olympians as team members.
The very first intercollegiate rowing race was between Berkeley and Washington in 1904; the teams would travel via steamship up and down the West Coast each year to race. Without any research, the vintage photographs alone are a testament to how long this sport has been here in Seattle. There is something so classic about crew sweaters, handcrafted wooden shells, and the hard serious faced rowers. Although the sport is much more high-tech now, the charm is not lost from the sport. At the annual Royal Henley Regatta at England’s Thames River, rowers mill about with high society, wearing their smart blazers and accepting the prizes of large silver cups. Seattle holds a prestigious annual regatta as well: the Windermere Cup. Each year to celebrate the opening of boating season, the racecourse is lined in yachts as the owners and their friends watch the boats go down the course. Various junior and master crews race, but the UW boats are the main attraction. Different teams are brought in from across the world to go against the huskies. This Saturday, May 4, the Huskies will race Dartmouth College and Cornell University as the ritzy onlookers watch a meeting of the two sides of the U.S. in the 27th Annual Windermere Cup.
The race really is a spectacle more than anything—it is a libido builder for the UW team, which very nearly always wins without much effort. Afterwards many of the now victorious athletes are asked to go on-board of the luxury yachts and party with their admirers and benefactors. The whole event is swanky and fashionable. Classy sports and style always mix well. Especially in Seattle, where little can be labeled “swanky,” it is exhilarating to experience such a display of raw athletic ability mixed with often outrageous wealth.
There is nothing that is better suited to wear on a yacht than classic stripes. A striped shirt or even jacket with slim tailored pants and even a hat is usually a look for men that in this town, can have them labeled as pompous, but on a race day this pseudo-themed look is more than allowed, it is embraced. For women, there is the possibility to look truly fabulous and classic but still modern.
For this spring, Chanel’s ready-to-wear collection was filled with high striped platforms that would be perfectly at home on the deck of a sleek white boat. Michael Kors showed striped looks as well; they are fun and youthful and reference the same nautical aspects. While maybe impractical for a boat race, Oscar de la Renta presented a real showstopper of a gown, completely striped, and completely gorgeous. Even though this look is too elegant for a sporting event, it is definitely something that can be looked to as inspiration; a black and white maxi dress and jean jacket is a played down version of the glamorous look. Stripes are fresh, flattering and always make one feel like they are wearing a bit of summer—after all, Coco Chanel herself started wearing striped shirts after a trip to the beaches of Southern France.
But if heels and a full-fledged striped ensemble feels a bit showy for you—which really it isn’t—there is always an easy way to tone down the stripes. A pair of distressed denim, leather loafers and a striped soft cotton shirt would be an ideal outfit for the occasion; especially for those that watch from the grassy finish line of Montlake Cut. After the races, and particularly if the weather is good, people have a wonderful time meeting back at the Conibear Boathouse for the awards ceremony, where the spectators are able to witness the impressive rowers up close.
The Windermere Cup is May 4. Races begin at 9:55 am with the cup races beginning at 11:15 am. The finish line is at the Opening of the Montlake Cut to Portage Bay.