Henley Royal Regatta proves big Draw for overseas elite

The Draw for Henley Royal Regatta on Saturday in Henley Town Hall underlined the strength and depth across the 26 events, with firm domestic favourites listening intently to where rivals in the record overseas entry from 16 nations had ended up. 

"Across the board, the depth in quality is immense."

“Across the board, the depth in quality is immense,” Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management, said. “We’ve got some old and new home favourites and a huge top quality international entry, which always adds tension to the Draw. 

“You don’t know who is going to win, but what you do know is that you’re not going to travel all the way around the world unless you think you’re going to be reasonably quick - but we’re not sure what reasonably quick means yet.”

The field of 419 crews for the first six-day Regatta in its 183-year history includes 12 Olympic gold medallists from Tokyo, five from New Zealand, four from Australia - the top two nations at the Tokyo Olympics - and three from China. 

The strong New Zealand entry includes Kerri Williams (née Gowler) and Grace Prendergast, (racing as Waiariki Rowing Club), who won the women’s pair in Tokyo. They are favourites for the The Hambleden Pairs Challenge Cup (Women's Pair). Williams and Prendergast won silver too as part of the eight in Tokyo, but will not be doubling up at Henley. The withdrawal of Kirstyn Goodger and Jackie Gowler (Williams’s sister and also part of the silver medal winning eight) has removed the probability of an all-Waiariki final. 

Emma Twigg (racing as Waiariki Rowing Club), New Zealand’s Olympic gold medal in the women’s single sculls in Tokyo and favourite for the The Princess Royal Challenge Cup, was drawn in the same half as perhaps her strongest challenger (if fully fit), Magdalena Lobnig of Austria (racing as  Völkermarkter Sport- und Turnverein 1868), who won Olympic bronze in Tokyo. Twigg won The Princess Royal in 2009 and 2019. 

The men’s and women’s quads from China will take some stopping. In The Princess Grace Challenge Cup (Women's Quad Sculls),  Leander Club, the holders, will face a formidable challenge against the favourites, the Chinese National Rowing Team, who won Henley 2019 (the first Chinese winners at the Regatta) and include three of the quad that won gold in Tokyo. As a measure of the challenge facing the champions from 2021, Leander has to get past Brown University (USA) first.

In the The Queen Mother Challenge Cup (Men's Quad Sculls), the rebuilding British quad have drawn the Chinese National Rowing Team - winners of the first and second World Cups this season. 

Olli Zeidler, the German sculler and World and European champion, is an even bigger favourite for The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men's Single Sculls) after the withdrawal of Britain’s Graeme Thomas, Henley’s defending champion.

The Ukraine entry

Dmytro Mikhay (Leander Club), Ukraine’s former world champion in the men’s quadruple sculls, will have been relieved to have been drawn in the opposite half to Zeidler.

It was a good draw for the Polish / Ukraine entry in the Stonor Challenge Trophy (Women’s Double Sculls);  Poland’s Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska, a silver medallist in the women’s quadruple sculls in Tokyo, and former European champion Olena Buriak (racing as Ukrainian Rowing Federation, Ukraine and Akademicki Zwiazek Sportowy Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego Warszawa, Poland). They avoided the strong New Zealand double and the outside bet from France. 

Great Britain boats

There is a strong Great Britain entry in the Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup (Men’s Pair), with the promise of another GB - New Zealand showdown. Britain’s top pair, Ollie Wynne-Griffith and Tom George, are on the opposite side of the draw to Matt Macdonald and Tom Mackintosh, racing as Waiariki Rowing Club, who were part of NZ’s Olympic gold medal-winning eight from Tokyo. 

Great Britain’s new men’s eight, racing as Oxford Brookes and Leander Club, are favourites to win The Grand Challenge Cup (Men's Eight), but they will have to do it the hard way by beating the crews from Australia and USA. 

Schools - The Australian question

In the The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women's Eight), the favourites, Henley Rowing Club may be thankful that they are in the opposite side of the draw to two leading Australian schools, Melbourne Girls’ Grammar and St. Catherines. 

Meanwhile, in The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men's Eight), Eton College, the holders, strong favourites and winners of four of the past seven editions are in the other side of the draw from their biggest unknown - The King’s School Parramatta, Australia, said to be fastest schoolboy eight in Australia. 

Qualifying strength

The strength of the 2022 Regatta was underlined by the Qualifying Races yesterday (Friday, 24 June), where 387 crews competed in a time-trial format over the 2,112-metre Course for just 88 places - the toughest in percentage terms in Regatta history. Some big names were required to qualify and some did not make it, including the Cambridge University four in The Town Challenge Cup (Women's Coxless Four), which included four members of the eight that won the 2022 Women’s Boat Race. 

"Big names and past performances do not guarantee entry to the Regatta."

“The level of the competition in the qualifiers emphasised the standard required to make it into the Regatta,” Sir Steve Redgrave said. “Big names and past performances do not guarantee entry to the Regatta. 

“Traditionally we have 'selected' certain crews in the Draw for a number of the events. The purpose of this is to achieve the fairest and most satisfactory racing programme. Crews may be 'selected' because we believe them to be the fastest in their event, or because we wish to keep apart overseas crews from the same Club or Country or for other similar reasons.”


Notes to the editor


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.  Nearly 400 races are staged at the Regatta, featuring Olympians and emerging stars from around the world.

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