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UCI Men’s Crew Gears up for Spring Racing

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The UC Irvine Men’s Crew team is looking forward to its first spring race in the 41st annual Parker Cup on Saturday, Feb. 11. While races earlier in the fall provided a good baseline, all boats now aim to prove themselves in the spring.

The men’s varsity crew, led by coach Mike Sullivan, is focused on application. Most of the autumn and early winter were spent by the team in small boats, focusing on accountability and the technique for each member in crew. Now, members are being asked to apply what they have practiced in larger boats of four and eight to race in.

Sullivan spoke to the crew in an almost reverential tone about “the perfect stroke.” He believes that it is an individual journey for each rower to be fully connected with the water from the catch to the finish. When it can be found, Davids can fell Goliaths.

For this year’s boat to compete, the technique will be necessary for the physical size of the crew, precipitously dropping from a year ago. While sporting two twin towers, senior Lucas Woodruff and sophomore Gavin Dunn, the boat’s average height of about 6-foot-4 last year has dropped to about 6-foot-1. With less mass to move the boat, this year will be about efficiency and cohesion rather than raw strength and drive.

UCI men’s novice crew finds themselves in a different position than the varsity, attempting to balance the physical and technical. Rowing is a physically demanding sport that engages almost every muscle in the body for hours during practices, and pushes each body part to the brink during a race.  The subtle nuances in every stroke radically change how much power is behind the oar.

This is where novice men’s assistant coach Carlos Dominguez comes in with a mix of flexibility and rigidity. The novices are given days off  and are told to focus on school work, keeping up their GPA and social lives, but in return, they must be ready to give 110% on the water. 

With this strategy, Dominguez hopes to acclimatize the novices to the rigors of the sport without overwhelming them. Intensity is asked when and where it is needed. Dominguez hopes this will keep his crew engaged and on track to continue improving for the long haul.

The start of the racing season is some time away, but the outlook and morale of the crews are high. The UCI men’s and women’s crews will compete for the Parker Cup at Newport Harbor on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Benjamin Hendricks is a Sports Staff Writer for the winter 2023 quarter. He can be reached at