The shells start on Lake Washington against the backdrop of the snow-covered Cascade Mountains 50 miles to the east, and then enter the Cut for the last 750 meters. From the bridge, they appear to be exquisitely wrought toys.
Cal, the lighter crew, got off to its usual fast start, rowing 40 strokes a minute for the first 500 meters. Entering the Cut, at 1,250 meters, Washington was five seats down. Approaching the bridge, with Cal barely ahead, Washington cox John Stillings suddenly seemed to go berserk, calling out, " Sprint now...up two...open it up...pull the cork...," all in rapid succession. As the Huskies emerged from under the bridge they had taken the lead, by a foot or so. Stillings let them know, yelling, "Half a seat...a seat...half a seat...a seat," subtracting a little from the actual lead, afraid his crew might let up, even for an instant. Washington crossed the line four feet and [3/10] of a second ahead of Cal and eight seconds in front of Oregon State. Mike Hess gasped, "Did we win?" "Yes," Stillings replied, and Hess fell backwards. He spent most of the next 20 minutes there, holding a wet towel to his head. "Everything was hurting," he said later. "I was never so close to running on empty."
Washington Coach Dick Erickson, who is being called the Admiral these days, was puffing his ubiquitous pipe, drinking his endless stream of coffee and saying, "I'm under a lot of strain. When you're on top, you've got to keep picking winning boats."
In July he will take his men back to England's Henley Royal Regatta, where the Huskies are defending champions. California will go to next month's IRA in Syracuse, which it won in 1976. Wisconsin, which almost beat Harvard in the qualifying heats of the Eastern Sprints, could be tough there, too. As Erickson is fond of saying, "You never know in this sport. You just never know."