Schoolgirls raced at Henley Royal Regatta for the first time today as the new Junior Women’s Quadruple Sculls got under way on a rainy, windy third morning of racing.
Nottingham RC beat Walford Anglican School of Australia in the first race and Henley Rowing Club – one of the favourites - beat Headington School by 1¾ lengths in the following heat.
"A lot of the men's crews were looking at us as if to say, 'What are girls doing here?" said 17-year old Joanna Unsworth, who rowed in the three seat for the local crew, who won Henley Women’s Regatta earlier this month.
"It was very different to any race we've done before, especially in the last 1000m with everyone supporting."
"I thought it would be scarier but it was actually quite comforting knowing there are people there on the bank."
Mike Sweeney, Chairman of the Regatta, said of the event: "We are confident that it will establish itself very quickly. We’re delighted with the 15-boat entry this year [which was reduced to eight boats by qualifying races last week] and think the quality of racing so far has been good."
Henley coach Chris Boothroyd said more girls quads have raced throughout this season as a result of the Regatta Stewards’ announcement of the new event 18 months ago.
"Having the event will raise the status of girls' sculling; it's bound to," he said.
Henley RC earlier this year received a grant from the Stewards Charitable Trust, which was established in 1988 to provide funds to support young people to row.
Boothroyd said: "The money has allowed us to employ a number of coaches to help not only at this level but to bring on our 12- and 13-year-olds so we get a bigger base and improve across the whole range."
The Junior Women’s Quadruple Sculls is the fourth event for female rowers at the Regatta. The Remenham Challenge Cup for eights saw the selected crews race for the first time today, with the U23 German eight from Dortmund proving too strong for a Great Britain development crew from Leander and Sport Imperial.
The Princess Grace Challenge Cup will feature four overseas crews tomorrow after the two British senior women’s quads were knocked out in first-round heats, Leander by the New Zealand under-23s from Waiariki RC.
The Princess Royal Challenge Cup for single sculls got under way too, with Sanita Puspure, Ireland’s entrant for the London 2012 Olympics, recording an easy win over Pippa Whittaker of Nottingham RC.
In the men’s events, Dan Ritchie and Tom Broadway – both former world silver medallists who have been unable to secure Olympic selection in the Great Britain eight – showed their weight and power in easily beating Italian lightweights Luca De Maria and Armando Dell'Aquila.
An all-British semi-final of the Diamond Challenge Sculls is in prospect after Loughborough Student Jonathan Walton upset selected American Mike Sivigny, proving more able in windy conditions, and GB under-23 sculler Graeme Thomas eased past Luke Moon of Chiswick’s Tideway Scullers’ School.
Moon’s club-mates continued their charmed life in the Wyfold Challenge Cup. The Tideway Scullers’ coxless four won despite clipping one of the wooden booms on the side of the course on Wednesday, and beat the selected London ‘A’ yesterday. This morning they had to restart their quarter-final against the Munich crew after a clash, then went a length down amid more clashes before pulling through to win.
On Saturday they will face Nottingham ‘A’ in a re-match of last year’s semi-final.
"We've done everything in this boat now. It's quite a fun boat to be in. Hopefully we can keep going," said bowman Antony Smith.
For further information contact Caroline Searle or Miranda Edwards in the Henley Royal Regatta press office on 01491 572153 or 01491 575056 firstname.lastname@example.org or 07831 755351