REPORTER LAURA WINTER SPOKE TO SIR STEVE REDGRAVE BEFORE RACING ON FINALS DAY
Laura – it’s day five and it’s the finals here at Henley Royal Regatta. The sun is shining, nerves are high and we’re ready to bring you the 26 races. I’m joined by Sir Steve Redgrave, tell me, how are you feeling?
Steve – fantastic, the first 4 days have gone quickly and it feels like we’ve never been away. It was very tough making the decision to not stage the Regatta for last year, but it was the right call. It was raining earlier but the sun is now shining and people are getting ready to win some medals in a few minutes’ time.
Laura – how challenging has it been to put this Regatta on given the current circumstances?
Steve – I don’t think people realise there are bigger things going on in the world than staging events, obviously it’s what we’re passionate about, our event, and trying to do that, but trying to get guidance on what we can and can’t do was challenging. So four weeks ago, was the last step of the road out of lockdown and we still haven’t been told how many people we can have in enclosures. Three weeks ago it was 4,000, we’ve had well more than that obviously as there’s no limit now. But it wasn’t from the research of the major events programme, none of that research has been put down, so it was saying was you choose what you feel comfortable for your event, and we’ll tell you if you got it wrong.
Laura – a lot of pressure then. We have seen the Regatta adapt of course, with the boating enclosure now over at Fawley Meadows. We’ve also seen it adapt in good ways, seen it modernise. We’ve got three new Women’s Eights events here. Just talk about the impact of that on indeed students’ junior, women’s clubs.
Steve – we’re really pleased for the events we’ve bought in – the student women’s eights is long overdue. We’ve had student men racing here for a very long time, and so that’s the first student women’s event at university level to come in, that was supposed to be introduced last year which for obvious reasons wasn’t. Then the junior women’s eights will build the strength of junior rowing not just here in this country but around the world. And then the clubs’ eights to round it around, to give the same opportunities to women as the men’s clubs.
Laura – despite the challenges in travelling, we’ve had overseas entries here as well. How reassuring is that to see, that the allure, the attraction of the Regatta is still so strong?
Steve – that’s one of the lucky things we have, we’re honoured to be one of the unique events, best in the world that people want to be part of at least once in their rowing career. We’ve got the Irish lightweight double, Olympic champions, the first Irish gold medallist rowing at the Olympics. They have come before, the two brothers when they were together, and didn’t win. I think they’ll probably win today in the new combination they’re in. We’ve had a lot more overseas entries than I thought – everyone wants to race at Henley t some point, and why not this year with the sun shining?