9am – 12.20pm
You could feel the tension rising with the headwind as day 3 began and the Diamond Challenge Sculls (men’s single sculls) and Junior Women’s Eights produced some Regatta classics.
The early races suggested there might be some of the steering problems of the Thursday’s evening session, but things settled down quickly.
Graeme Thomas, from Preston and rowing for Agecroft in Salford Quays in Greater Manchester, had a good workout in his first race back since his fourth-placed finish with John Collins in the lightweight men’s double sculls in Tokyo. Back in the single sculls he was pushed all the way to the line in race 15 by u23 GB rower, George Bourne (The Tideway Scullers’ School). Thomas is favourite for the DIAMOND CHALLENGE SCULLS, in which was runner-up in 2012.
“George is an up-and-coming star, it definitely was not going to be easy and I had heard a lot about his strength in the first 1000 metres,” Thomas said. “I had to use gears early on in that race just to wrestle control of it, trying to do a few little pushes and eke out a safety margin as we all know at Henley anything can happen. It was a great race. There were crabs yesterday and plenty of pleasure boats out there so you never know when a rogue wave’s going to come out of nowhere and make you lose a bit of time.
“The Diamonds is something that has eluded me. Peter Lambert, my colleague and friend in the quadruple sculls beat me in that final in 2012, so it’s one that’s always slipped away from me and I’m coming here to win. But I’m also on the back of a massive peak.
“When I saw Henley on the calendar…previously my rowing has been laser-focussed, especially with COVID restrictions. I’ve basically lived like a hermit for the last 18 months, and to get out there and just to put the fun back into rowing – see other crews, have a laugh out on the water, it’s been great. I’ve absolutely loved my mornings, just chatting to crews, seeing people on the bank. It’s bringing my love for the sport back, not that it was ever in doubt but an event like this is fantastic. It has so much prestige and heritage, it’s a great day out. When it moved I just thought, I’ve got to be part of that.”
It gave Agecroft something to celebrate too after their eight was disqualified for veering and causing a clash of blades near the start of their race in the Thames Challenge Cup (men’s club eight) on Thursday.
The Diamond has a powerful field and we had one of the races of the regatta half an hour later with an epic gladiatorial scull between two experienced internationals in race 22.
There is a brutal simplicity to the sculls; two rowers, 2112 metres – and today into a headwind. There are not many places at Henley Royal Regatta that you can be on your own, the sculls are one of them.
Simone Martini (Associazione Sportiva Dilettantistica Canottieri Padova, Italy)
who qualified for Tokyo in 2019 and then lost his place for 2021, led Dara Alizadeh (Cambridge University) but never by more than half a length – almost nothing in an agile single scull – for nearly the whole of the race.
Alizadeh, a former Cambridge president who has been training alongside the eight this season, represented Bermuda in Tokyo and is force to be reckoned with. Sometimes a leader is sitting on opponent, sometimes that opponent is biding their time. Alizadeh pounced past the mile, passed a couple of hundred metres from the finish and won by a length at the end.
Alizadeh will meet Seb Devereux in semi-final tomorrow. In race 25, Devereux (Leander), an u23 world champion in the double sculls, a Regatta winner in the Prince of Wales (men’s quad) and fourth in the GB Olympic trials was mighty impressive. He had a rowover yesterday, and took this one against by the scuff of the neck from the start against one of the favourites Tom Graves (Long Beach Junior Crew, USA), who won silver at the US Rowing National Championships in 2019 and was a runner-up in the Diamond in 2018. He has competed at Henley Royal Regatta 14 times (2021 is 20-year anniversary from his first competitive appearance).
JUNIOR WOMEN'S EIGHTS – New
The inaugural Junior Women’s Eights already looks like an established Henley Royal Regatta event that has people running out of the enclosures to the river bank. Race 22 produced a classic Regatta finish with underdogs Shrewsbury School finishing less than canvas behind national champions, Lady Eleanor Holles School (LEH).
LEH took an early lead, but could never just sit on Shrewsbury, who kept hunting all the way and it was clear at the finish that both crews had given absolutely everything.
Shrewsbury have only recently to come together as an eight by combining the quad and four, and with the headwind picking up and making it a longer harder race for the crews, it perhaps favoured their strengths. Headington College, who won race 4 comfortably, will have been watching with interests. They were not at the national championships but are many people’s favourites after winning by a margin at the Henley Women’s Regatta in June and the British Rowing Junior Championships in July.
Nereus, Netherlands closed the session in classy fashion, controlling the race from start to finish against a powerful Edinburgh eight in the TEMPLE CHALLENGE CUP (student men’s eights).