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No. 9 Duke rowing wins 5th straight Carolina Cup

Duke took part in an official competition for the first time in nearly a year this past weekend.
Duke took part in an official competition for the first time in nearly a year this past weekend.

No. 9 Duke secured its fifth consecutive Carolina Cup in an impressive victory this past Saturday on Lake Hartwell in Clemson, S.C. This marked the Blue Devils’ first multi-team competition since the last Carolina Cup almost exactly one year prior. Duke won all six events Saturday, earning 90 points and comfortably rowing away with the victory. Clemson placed second with 80 points while North Carolina followed with 70.

The 2V is too fast

Looking closer at this impressive team-wide performance, one Blue Devil boat stands out: the second varsity eight (or more commonly referred to as the 2V). Duke’s 2V won their race by one of the most sizable margins of the day, separating themselves from second-place Clemson by over 20 seconds and third-place North Carolina by over 30 seconds. 

“I think Brenna Morley and Amelia Shunk work very well together, and they did a great job leading the second varsity eight to gold,” Duke head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said. “We aim to win each race we enter, whether it’s by a few seconds or 20. Either way, the most important thing you can do is learn, especially this early into a race season.”

In addition to the 2V, Cooke Carcagno expressed her satisfaction with the second varsity 4, third varsity 8 and first varsity 8.

“I think that boat has so much potential, probably the most potential in any varsity eight we’ve had,” Cooke Carcagno said of the first varsity 8. “They are very good racers.”

Weather conditions

With boats that are designed to be as light and aerodynamic as possible, in a sport whose premium is minimizing resistance to forward momentum, wind speed and direction have an impact that cannot be overstated. 

Lake Hartwell had a cross-tail wind for this regatta. Tailwinds are generally a favorable wind, propelling the shells toward the finish line faster. Crosswinds are less favorable, as they can throw off the crew’s set by striking the boat at a 90 degree angle, making the boat fall to the opposite side. This combination of crosswind and tailwind can be tricky, and the crews who handle it best are often the ones who cross the finish line first. Although no race is perfect, Duke clearly handled it well enough this past weekend.

“We responded ok, and could always improve,” Cooke Carcagno said. “It was a classic cross-tail, just enough wind to be annoying and make it challenging. It’s good for us to embrace these conditions as we’ll likely see them again.”

Moving forward

As the Blue Devils move forward in their spring racing season following this victory, there are a few factors Cooke Carcagno indicated the team will focus on.

First, synchrony on the water. As multi-team competitions start back up again, rowers will need to continue to improve the quality of rowing in race scenarios as they gain experience. 

Second, building on the mentality and culture they have fostered. The Blue Devils went into Clemson after a hard week of training, and will look to continue to build off that hard work the remainder of the spring season.

“I’m proud of them, for having a brutal week of training and yet still racing well, but that we’ll all need to get faster from now until [the ACC Championships],” Cooke Carcagno said. “They know each week will get them ready. Heads down, humble and hungry. This team loves racing, and they can’t wait until the next chance.”

Duke’s next competition comes March 26-27 at the Virginia Invite.

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