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Boat Christenings: Celebrating Our Legacy

The Washington Rowing program celebrated twice on Saturday, Feb. 25, with the launching of a new Empacher Men’s 8—dubbed the “Grand Challenger” after the iconic Henley victories in 1977—and the christening of a new state-of-the-art coach’s launch, “The Spirit of ’66.”

On hand were members of the 1977 Henley Visitor’s Cup and Grand Challenge Champions, and members of the 1966 and 1967 teams, to officially launch these latest additions to the fleet at Washington.  “This is a time-honored tradition at Washington,” said Michael Callahan, “to celebrate our past while at the same time building for the future. “

Both boats were christened with the traditional finish-line water from the Montlake Cut.  As the “Spirit of ’66” was inaugurated, the men said “We worked hard together out on the water… some days it was so hard we felt like our bodies would fall apart. But the experience we had together, the bonds that we share, they are with us forever.”

The “Grand Challenger” was then launched for the first time into Lake Washington, and was rowed through the Conibear opening by the Washington team.  “At Henley we were given an Empacher to row in, and from the first day it was magic,” said John Stillings, the coxswain of the ‘77 team. “My hope is that the “Grand Challenger” carries that same magic to the men who row for Washington today.”

Mike Hess, stroke of the ’77 Henley team, concluded with this: “The stars aligned for us over there. It was great to represent Washington and come together as a team.  But now to look back and see what we have been a part of here at Washington… it is humbling.  These teams that came after us, these amazing athletes that have come through this program, it is just wonderful to be a part of it all.”

Christening the state-of-the-art, double hulled, wakeless launch the “Spirit of ’66.”