8.30am - 12.20pm
Wind and rain welcomed the morning racers but that was the only low-pressure in Henley-on-Thames. Water off a rower’s back to most and the step up in power, precision and pressure from Wednesday, especially with entry of the Stewards’ selected crews, was obvious.
Two more pieces of Henley Royal Regatta history today with the first races in new women’s events. Race 24, the first ever in the WARGRAVE CHALLENGE CUP – the club women's eights, the equivalent of the Thames – started at 10.45. Tideway Scullers’ School ‘B’, that great Chiswick bastion of rowing, beat the equally venerable Thames Rowing Club ‘C’ by 1 ¼. Into a moderate headwind Scullers’ took an early lead, took their rating down from Remenham and took the line comfortably
Fifteen minutes later, at 11:00 (race 26), there was the first ever race in the ISLAND CHALLENGE CUP – the student women’s eights, the equivalent of the Temple. Durham Universtity beat Newcastle University by 1 ¼ lengths. Durham pulled out to an early two length lead and maintained it to Fawley. Newcastle closed the gap as the race drew to a close but were only able to reduce it by ¾ of a length.
After the debut of the JUNIOR WOMEN'S EIGHTS on Wednesday, the three new women’s events this year have all begun.
It was a great morning for Tideway Scullers’ overall. As well as one of their women’s crews marking history, earlier two of their crews did the double over Molesey boat clubs in the first 40 minutes of racing, in Race 1 (Thames) and Race 11 (Britannia).
By luck of the draw, Molesey B.C. ‘B’ in the THAMES CHALLENGE CUP, men’s club eight, had the honour of beginning the racing on both Wednesday and Thursday. But Scullers’ were a a level up. Molesey lead Tideway off the start edging away by a canvas. By Fawley, Tideway upped their strokes and edged forwards to lead by a foot. This momentum continued. By the finish, Tideway had extended their lead to over a length.
Dutch Double in the TEMPLE CHALLENGE CUP (student men's eight)
There are far fewer international entries this year, for obvious reasons, so, even more than ever those that have travelled are serious contenders. A first look at the Dutch boats in the confirmed that with Both A.S.R. Nereus (Race 10) and later U.S.R. Triton (Race 16) winning with plenty to spare. Nereus (champions in 1993) were 1:48 to Barrier (637m) and, with the weather brightening, Triton 1:50, as they both beat winners from Wednesday.
But both will have their work cut out at the end of the week as Oxford Brookes University comfortably overcame Manchester University in race 32. Brookes made a good start, and seemed to have already eased down by Barrier (1:52), where they were already 3½ lengths clear.
“We’re incredibly excited this year, obviously we’ve been building for a while as a club,” Henry Bailhache-Webb, head coach at Oxford Brookes University said. “This is the strongest entry we’ve ever had, from top-down men’s programme and women’s. We’re desperate to get out there.” Ominous stuff for the opposition.
PRINCESS ELIZABETH CHALLENGE CUP (junior men’s eights)
There was already a palpable sense of anticipation around the course as in the race before Brookes, Eton College, the holders from 2019 and national champions this season, also had their first race of the regatta at 11.30 (race 31) and were mightily impressive in beating Reading Blue Coat School. Eton were 1:52 to Barrier, Temple speeds. In the PE anything under two minutes to Barrier is good.
Six of the Eton crew have raced here before (despite the cancellation) and they will take some beating.
The loneliness of the single sculler
No race at the Regatta is ever easy, but some are less hard than others and Seb Devereux was out on his own in the DIAMOND CHALLENGE SCULLS, men's single sculls, in race 7 - perhaps on account of his opponent’s withdrawal. A Sculled over was declared at the start, and competitors are required to row the course to make it fair for their opponents the next day.
But the Diamond also provided the closest race of the morning as Tim Wilkinson (Greenbank Falmouth Rowing Club) beat W. E. Young (Cambridge ’99 Rowing Club) in a photo finish in race 36. Wilkinson was half a length behind for almost the whole course before driving just before the line.
Earlier (20), one of the favourites, Dara Alizadeh (Cambridge University), a former Cambridge president, who represented Bermuda in Tokyo, had knocked out the dangerous giantkiller, Matt Brigham (Leeds University).
There was some tight steering on the Bucks side early on – a nervous duck’s width on occasion to the booms. And in race 12, in the it was heartbreaking for Snelling & Thomson (Durham University) in the Stonor (elite women’s double sculls) as they got stuck on the booms as they came out of Temple Island.
In race 37, in the Wyfold, there was a clash of blades after Temple Island between Nottingham Rowing Club and City of Bristol Boat Club. The race was re-started and Nottingham (winners in 2012) immediately exerted their form and pulled away to a comfortable win. They were the third Nottingham crew this morning.
STONOR CHALLENGE TROPHY - women's double sculls
The first rounds of the Stonor at this year’s Regatta and friends, long-time crewmates and Olympics medallists, Katie Greves and Jessica Eddie (Wallingford Rowing Club and London Rowing Club), Olympic silver medallists in the eight at the Rio 2016 Olympics, got off to a winning start in race 21.
“I had to remind Jess (about the conditions) last night, because she’s only ever been here in an eight before. Little bit different in a small boat,” Greves said.
Eddie was beaming after on the bank. “For the first time ever, we’ve had the opportunity to scull, I’ve only ever swept here,” she said. “We were meant to do Women’s Henley, but I got Covided out of that (pinged), so we looked at the schedule and thought, ‘hold on a second’ we have another chance to row and threw hats into the ring.”
Between them your correspondents also managed to clear up that it was not Greves’s rowing commitments that forced her to move her wedding from last Saturday to Sunday, but those of her husband, Chris Boddy, the coach of Sir William Perkin’s School. “It wasn’t because of the (Regatta) qualifier (on Saturday), Greves said, “but because my part Chris is senior coach at a girl’s schools and thought he was going to be needed for qualifiers, but they qualified anyway so they didn’t actually need to - but we had already moved it by that point!”