One Olympic wedding, a crab and two crashes as the Regatta pressure mounts

After the sunshine of first day back, a headwind and rain welcomed the morning racers, but that was the only low pressure around on day two of Henley Royal Regatta. It was water off a rower’s back to most and the step up in power, precision and pressure from Wednesday, was obvious as the bigger names entered the fray.

Friends, long-time crewmates and Olympics medallists, Katie Greves and Jessica Eddie (Wallingford Rowing Club and London Rowing Club), got off to a winning start in the Stonor Challenge Trophy, the elite women’s double sculls. They have set up a clash of Olympians at different ends of their careers, one of the things that makes the Regatta fascinating later in the week.

Greves, 38 and Eddie, 36, the Olympic silver medallists in the eight at the Rio 2016 Olympics, made a late decision to enter the Regatta, but a calm victory today has set up an intriguing battle against their younger – and lighter - Great Britain team mates, Emily Craig, 28 and Imogen Grant, 25. Craig and Grant (University of London and Cambridge University) were a hair’s breadth from an Olympic medal in Tokyo, finishing fourth by an agonising 0.01 seconds in the LW2x (the lightweight women’s double sculls). Craig and Grant were given a bye today as one of the favourites in a powerful field.

“They’re going to be fast, so we’re going to relish the chance to race up against them,” Eddie said. “They’re going to be super sharp, just off the plane from Tokyo.” For Greves it is: “just get off the blocks, got nothing to lose. Excited!”

Greves and her husband, Chris Boddy, a GB rower too and coach of Sir William Perkin’s School, even moved their wedding from last Saturday to Sunday because of rowing.

She is not taking this lightly: “I had to remind Jess (about the Henley Regatta conditions) last night, because she’s only ever been here in an eight before. Little bit different in a small boat.”

Eddie was beaming on the bank. “For the first time ever, we’ve had the opportunity to scull, I’ve only ever swept here,” she said. “COVID has made people realise how much you miss being able to do this, being competitive, I don’t think we’re quite up at our Olympic level, but it’s just really lovely, we are massively competitive people and it’s great just being back out there doing something we love.

“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.”

Watch this space.

Read all the highlights of the day’s racing here

There was more history for the Regatta too as two more women’s eights events made their first appearances. The morning session saw the inaugural race of the Wargrave Challenge Cup (club women's eights)quickly followed by the Island Challenge Cup (student women’s eights). After the debut of the Junior Women’s eights on Wednesday, the three new women’s events this year have all begun.

Oxford Brookes University, Eton College and two Dutch crews Nereus and Triton flexed their form in the morning. Clashes, lost blades, disqualifications and upsets changed the temperature at the end of the afternoon session. For obvious reasons, it has been a hard decision for international crews to travel to the Regatta this year, especially from America with quarantine rules continually changing as they were planning in July, but those that have come mean business.

Craftsbury Green, USA, crash out

The first big shock of the Regatta saw Craftsbury Green Racing Project, USA go out in the first round of the Prince of Wales (men’s quadruple sculls) after they caught a crab and then clashed with Hinksey Sculling School & Exeter University at the quarter mile. The race stopped, but both were allowed to continue and Hinksey streaked away as the Craftsbury bowman tried to recover his oar. Craftsbury were 6-7 (maybe more!) boats lengths down at the halfway point of the 2,112-metre course.

However, their powerful four includes Lucas Bellows, who finished second in the M1x (single sculls) at the US Olympic Trials. Back they came remorselessly. But they ran out of track and Hinksey held to win by three lengths. It has blown the easier on paper top of the draw wide open.

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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