UCI Wins 57th Annual Newport Regatta

Sunday, March 20th, UC Irvine Men’s Rowing participated in the 57th Annual Newport Regatta in Newport Beach.  The regatta was last held before the pandemic forced the closure of all club sports in March 2019.  

Anticipation was high for the regatta, a hotly contested event between So-Cal rowing powerhouse programs UCLA, UCSB, LMU, CSULB and host OCC.  Crews rowed north to south down the Newport Harbor 2000m racing channel in a tailing wind and against an incoming tide, often lined up six to seven boats across. Races were held in men’s Novice events, 2V (Junior Varsity), and 1V (Varsity).  UCI performed well across the board, with the novice eight taking 3rd.  

In the premier event of the day, the Varsity Eight, UCI swept the field in a time of 5 minutes and 59 seconds, coming in ahead with open water on a fast UCLA crew. The race was closely contested, but Irvine led from start to finish.  According to Coach AJ Brooks, the crew executed on their race plans, made moves where required, and never looked back.  Coxswain Carlos Dominguez-Cruz called for a power ten with 600 meters-to-go and a well-executed sprint with 250 meters-to-go that put the victory firmly in Irvine’s grasp. 

Irvine’s Team captain and six-seat in the V8, Connor Basile, said the boat was excited at the prospect of bringing home a victory to the program for the first time since 2015. 

Cameron Rakhshani, 2-seat in the Varsity boat, added:

To prepare for the regatta, my crewmates and I spent a lot of time honing-in our skill and technique in smaller boats (called the pairs). The pairs, as the name suggests, are designed to fit two oarsmen, as opposed to eight. Rowing the pair effectively requires precision, balance, and flawless technique. In addition, in the pair there is no room for loafing or “off strokes”. With only two guys in the boat, it becomes quickly obvious when one member isn’t rowing correctly or is rowing with an insufficient amount of strength and pressure. A single error has the potential to turn the boat twenty degrees or cause a significant slow down. The boat yields real time results and requires full attention and focus. If you are ever looking for a non-aquatic experience that bears resemblance, you should consider buying a unicycle. For my week in the pair, I was partnered with Phil Lechner, a 6'6” beast of an oarsman and a Chemistry PhD student at UC Irvine. Phil is a solid athlete and above all a seasoned student of the sport. Working with Phil and receiving his feedback helped me clean up my technique and improve my length through the water. Each day, I saw significant improvement and better results. During the inter-crew scrimmage at the end of the week, I rowed some of the smoothest race pieces of my rowing career.

Winning the Newport Regatta was incredibly satisfying, yet at the same time it was a humbling experience. The rowing world and the world at large has been through a lot over the past two years. Many collegiate athletes have had to hang up their trou, cleats, and gym kicks sooner than they would’ve liked to. I myself was a varsity oarsman at UCI during the 2020 season and am extremely lucky to be a part of the program today. During the 2020 season, the majority of the athletes on our varsity roster were seniors. That year, the team was looking better than it had in years. As a program we were on a peak. As you already know, that season was abruptly canceled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19. On our team, many of our guys were forced to retire without being able to capitalize on all the work put in over the entirety of their rowing career. The Newport Regatta on Sunday was not a typical race, it was an honor, and even more so it was an opportunity to represent a greater community of athletes that would’ve given anything to be on the water in their time. When our team fought and won on Sunday, it felt like we were living out the vision and dream of a community bigger than ourselves.

Shaking hands with my former teammates on the dock, I knew deep within that they were just as excited, proud, and humbled as we were. You never know what you have until it’s gone. All you are given is today. I am incredibly grateful that we were given the opportunity to give our all on the water and am appreciative of all the rowing programs and community supporters that made the event possible.

Moving forward, we will continue to pursue excellence. On the calendar this week is the opening of Spring Break, a chance for our team to dedicate full time attention to getting fast, in lieu of academics. The focus of the week is centered around technique and strength. Once again, we are spending the mornings in the pairs, with the afternoons dedicated to strategic strength conditioning (RP3, core circuits, etc.). Performing well at the Husky Open in two weeks is going to require excellence from every guy on the boat. Day by day and meter after meter, we are moving closer towards it.

Lastly a special thank you to Orange Coast College, Cam Brown, Dave Grant, and entire Orange Coast staff for keeping the history of the Newport Regatta so rich. 57 years and UC Irvine has won the Varsity 8+ only 6 times in program history.

Written by: Christina Basile & Cameron Rakhshani
Thank you Rod Cohen for promoting the crew on FOX 11 SPORTSWRAP
Race Results
Berg Cup 2022 Recap


The UCI women's team finished the winter quarter racing against our most challenging rivals at the end of finals week. Hosted by Orange Coast College the Berg Cup. UCSB, OCC, UCI, Arizona St, and Long Beach State in Newport Harbor Saturday morning on a calm morning.

Because of finals exams, both UCI and UCSB had absent oarsmen and lineups were scrambled in the Novice boats all through the week. But the racing was good and the rowing was steady and hard.

It should be pointed out that we made a daring and aggressive decision this year to commit to a varsity eight.  On our team, only one athlete is not novice eligible, that's Hannah DeBray who rowed two years at Arizona State before she came here to UCI for her PHD. Only one other athlete in our boats today, Michaela Lewis, has ever rowed a 2k race. She rowed 4 years at Oakland Strokes but because this is her first collegiate season, is novice eligible. In contrast, UCSB has 12 varsity athletes, some of whom raced in their 2019 national championship eight. So the rest of our eight is filled out with first year novices except for Lily Hasley, who rowed half a year in her novice year in 2020 but never got a race. Both ASU and OCC have loaded their novice boats with experienced novices and aren't racing a varsity. Therefore, in our novice race, we are essentially racing our SECOND best novice eight against what amounts to their best eight.

In our Novice 8+ race, we had a terrible first 20, unprepared for the quick start and pointed askew.  (Coach Sullivan takes the blame on this). We settled to 32 and rowed well hanging in close to ASU and OCC in the first 500 and putting a half length on UCSB. At 500 we executed a really hard power 10 which moved us back into overlap with OCC and ASU, but we haven't learned to sustain that power through the 2k. We did learn we can move in the middle and showed courage doing so.

We battled and sustained good rowing until the last 400 where we scrambled a bit trying to climb back into the race with the top boats.  It was fun and rewarding beating UCSB who beat us in the Newport Chase and again in our joint workout in February. I won't draw conclusions that we have truly overtaken them yet, as I know UCSB emphasizes a great deal of land and erg work over the winter because of their boathouse commute,  and the novice crews have always developed slowly and come on strong in the Spring.  

They have good athletes and will be right back into us I'm sure. Our ace in the hole is we're still racing at 30-32 and have a lot of room to grow.

In the V8+, simply a duel with UCSB, we also suffered from a scrambled unprepared start, and gave up seats to them we shouldn't have. We approached the race with a strategy of a good start and simply row the boat with timing, low rate, and relaxed pacing for the first 500 and row our best technical piece we could. The Gauchos are very disciplined and maintain a controlled even rate and have extreme confidence in their ability to crush the last half of a 2k. In our joint workout in February, they understroked us in our pieces and went through us at the end of every piece. That's what good varsity crews can do!

We are learning, though. At the 500 we were bow to stern, took our ten and moved back 1/2 a boat so we dug into them deeply. While we didn't sustain the ratio we hoped at that middle 1000. We rowed solid and maintained overlap with them until the last 500.  

We scrambled in the last 500 trying to bring the rate up,  we simply haven't learned it...yet.

The takeaway was really positive, they beat us by a lot, almost a length open at the finish, but we were engaged in the hunt for 1600 meters. The team pulled together and trusted each other, and trust that we'll get better and better. There is a huge risk in racing up as we are, novices develop best in slow steps in races with similar opponents.   The confidence is built brick by brick with the rowing skills and fitness and there is a lot of room to make mistakes. I worry that we are putting some young novices in over their heads, but mitigate it by rotating our best novices into the varsity seats and into the novice boat from one race to another. In that way they can one day be trying to keep up with the more experienced athletes, and another day be trying to make that boat go from the driver's seat.  So for example, we had Brynn Bedal  who had raced in the varsity eight at the California Challenge Cup in the 3 seat trying to learn to row hard all the way while trying not to disturb the more experienced athletes with still-learning slide control was this week pushing the boat out ahead of UCSB from the 7 seat.

UCSB varsity should buy us all a breakfast,  if not for us they'd have no races this spring!!

 I'm hoping that we come back next year with more than a dozen athletes who were in our varsity eight the year before...  

The men's team came out and gave us a rousing cheer both at launch time at our dock and cheering on the shore with 400 meters to go.


Coach Sullivan
Women’s Head Coach

Up next:

Women's Varsity travels to Stanford for the Big Row April 2nd

Men's Varsity travels to Seattle for the Husky Open April 2nd
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