Emotional returns as Henley Royal Regatta celebrates in the sun

At 9am on Wednesday morning, Henley Royal Regatta returned to the water in near perfect conditions and from the first race of the day showed what it means to the crews competing after an absence of over two years.
Tyne Amateur Rowing Club knew they were not the fastest eight in their race, let alone the Regatta, but facing Molesey Boat Club “B” was their final. It may be a cliché, but tell that to Ian Shipley, the bowman, bouncing back from having “a medium to large tumour removed in November 2020 after a 12-hour craniotomy and several days in the ICU,” Shipley said. “I’d like to thank my surgeon, John Crossman and all the team for getting me to the start line - particularly the nurses in intensive care.
Their seven man, David Squirrell, is also coming back from spending five days in hospital with a heart arrhythmia in April – “I’ve only been able to row again since July,” Squirrell said. “It's my best excuse for getting out of the IV and back in the VIII since breaking my leg playing frisbee in 2019.”
For Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management for the Regatta, it was another reminder of what having the event back means to people. “The first day of the Regatta is always special, but 2021 is particularly so after the cancellation last year and stories like Tyne’s keep motivating everyone,” he said.  
“Everyone who comes to the Regatta is on a different part of their own curve of learning. Jack Beaumont, a silver medallist in Tokyo, was here today and will be racing on Sunday. He honed his skills as a junior at the Regatta and imagine how inspirational that was for the boys from his school, Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School (Marlow) racing in front of him this afternoon.”
Beaumont, the 27-year-old local hero, won silver in the men’s quadruple sculls in Tokyo, and will be racing with two of that crew, Harry Leask, Tom Barras and a teammate from Leander in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup (Men’s Quad) on Sunday.
“It’s been so exciting to come back here,” Beaumont and. “It’s something I dreamed about when I was learning to row in Maidenhead. I think I’ve been back to Henley 12 times now. I’ll be particularly keeping an eye out for how my school is doing. When I saw that the Regatta was moving to the middle of August, I knew I could come back from Tokyo and race here.”
History was made with race 31 in the morning session as Enniskillen Royal Boat Club and Shrewsbury School contested the first race of the inaugural Junior Women’s Eights (JW8) – one of the three new events this year – all women’s and all eights.
Shrewsbury, who have barely been seen as an eight this year are definitely one to watch, they smoothly took control, changing gear at the top the island and were two lengths clear at Barrier. Technique and power.
That is a combination of words that will be applied many times this week to Oxford Brookes University boats as they line up what they hope will be a historically successful Regatta.
Their “B” boats look formidable and in the 35th and last race of the session In the Prince Albert (men’s coxed fours) the Oxford Brookes “B” boat dominated Aberdeen University from the start, went nearly two lengths clear by Barrier and won by three.
Earlier, in race 16, the Brookes “A” quad had unsurprisingly swept aside Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club.
The Tideway Scullers’ School also flexed the depth of their club with their “B” crew in race 20 as they beat Hampton School in the Fawley Challenge Cup (Junior men’s quad). Hampton normally focus on the eight, but look to have stacked the four this season, and they chased Tideway to the line but defeat may have been a bit of a blow.
The headwind picked up in the afternoon and the racing became longer, more tactical and closer. In the race of the day George Watson’s College held on by less than a canvas to beat Hereford Cathedral School in the Fawley (junior men’s quad). Beaumont would have been pleased that his old school’s quad won their heat comfortably after the eight had lost in the morning.
Henley Royal Regatta, founded in 1839, is the best-known rowing regatta in the world, renowned for its match-racing.  It is one of the highlights of the summer sporting and social calendar in the UK, as well as the rowing calendar internationally. More than 300 races are staged at the Regatta, featuring Olympians and emerging stars from around the world.
Henley Royal Regatta is returning to the water after being cancelled in 2020 for the first time in its 182-year history outside of the World Wars.


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