Huskies ready for big crowds and big competition in 31st Windermere Cup

The University of Washington rowing programs expect strong competition from the visiting Chinese rowers amid the passion and pageantry of Saturday’s Windermere Cup and the opening day of boating season in Seattle.

Michael Callahan, the University of Washington men’s coach, perhaps summed up best the significance of the annual Windermere Cup.

“It’s our Kentucky Derby,” Callahan said at a Thursday news conference. “It’s a rite of passage, the opening of spring and the boating season.”

Hours before Saturday’s famed horse race takes place in Louisville, Ky., the annual tradition of the opening day of boating season will be celebrated at Montlake, capped by the University of Washington crews taking on Shanghai men’s and women’s High-Performance Rowing teams from China.

Windermere Cup schedule

Friday

Cinco de Mayo celebration on the Montlake Cut, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It will feature live music from Spike and the Impalers, food trucks, a beer garden, and more. Tickets must be purchased online in advance at http://windermerecutparty.brownpapertickets.com.

Saturday

Races begin at 10:20 a.m. with the Windermere Cup races at 11:40 and 11:50.

With boats and spectators lining the competition course, and also looking down from the Montlake Bridge, it’s like rowing in a stadium, said UW women’s coach Yasmin Farooq.

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Stuart Sim, the coxswain on the Husky men’s national-title teams in 2014 and 2015, is back for his senior season after spending last year trying to make the Olympics for Australia. This is one of his favorite events.

“It’s crazy,” said Sim. “This is the No. 1 one-day regatta in the world — not America, the world. I remember my freshman year, they tell you that it’s going to be big, they tell you that it’s going to be loud, they tell you that everyone is going to be there, and then it’s 10 times what you are expecting —…

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