Buchan wins Henley comeback classic as Lions tame the Tigers

The second day of Henley Royal Regatta saw the introduction of the small boats and an instant comeback classic as Cameron Buchan reeled in Matt Brigham in the closing metres of the first race in The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men’s Single Sculls) to win by half a canvas in an event usually decided by lengths.

Among a packed timetable, Wednesday also saw a fantastic first day of racing in The Island Challenge Cup (Student Women's Eight) where Newcastle University’s surprise win over Princeton University, USA capped a great morning for the north-east and showed the depth in quality that has come with the women’s entry to Henley doubling since 2019.

But the race of the morning saw Scottish rowing Youtuber Buchan, whose hometown is Dunipace in the Falkirk District, pace his comeback to perfection to pass Brigham. Brigham had led by 1 1⁄4 lengths at the Barrier but never broke the elastic and it turned out that Buchan, who had never progressed from the first round in the single sculls at Henley, really was keeping his powder dry. He lit the fuse as they entered the Enclosures with 400m to go and it was a slow burner that he timed just right. 

"I heard the buzzer just but didn’t know if I’d won."

Both men have been Great Britain development rowers and Brigham is famous at Henley for knocking out New Zealand’s double Olympic champion and six-time Diamond Challenge Sculls Winner, Mahé Drysdale, in 2019 whilst a student at University of Leeds. Brigham has had various nicknames since, including “giantslayer” - but Buchan, who is 6ft 9½in proved just too big.

See the full race here

“I was going into the last 500m and I could just see in the corner of my eye that Matt was getting closer,” Buchan said. “And then I saw there was a big, big wave coming in, and then heard him take a duff stroke. I had to go through him a little bit more, half a length or so; arms started to go, started to use the biceps, and I heard the buzzer just but didn’t know if I’d won.

My goal for this season was to get further in Henley than I've ever done before in a single - so I'm excited to see the rest of the week.”

Lions tame the Tigers 

It was a great morning for the northeast as Newcastle University (mascot, the lion) surprised the fancied Princeton University, USA (known as the Tigers) and won in some style from the front. Newcastle made a strong start, were ⅔ of a length at the Barrier and extended with clear water. 

The spotlight has been on the big USA presence at the Regatta and Princeton has 42 athletes across the events, but although the Island was an all-American final in 2022 (Brown University beat Yale), Newcastle and others have shown it might be different this year. 

Tyne after Tyne (after Tyne)

Before Newcastle’s win Tyne A.R.C, who row on the River Tyne at Newburn, about 7 miles west of Newcastle city centre, continued their excellent Regatta winning two races in just over half an hour in the morning and third in the afternoon. The first, in The Wargrave Challenge Cup (Club Women’s Eight), was again at the expense of Lea Rowing Club after beating them in the Wyfold on Tuesday.

A mixed Australian morning

Before a ball had even been bowled at Lord’s, Australia had a very mixed morning on the water at Henley with Melbourne University travelling halfway around the world only to be disqualified for poor steering and a clash after 200m on the Course before Brisbane Boys’ College (PE) and Sydney Rowing Club (Thames) registered confident wins. 

Melbourne steered across the water into Harvard water in The Visitors' Challenge Cup (Intermediate Men's Coxless Four), clashing blades after 12 strokes. After three clashes, and the Harvard bowman’s blade spinning 360 degrees, the umpire stopped the race after 40 seconds just clear of the Island. 

Brisbane Boys’ brought Llandaff Rowing Club’s romantic run in the Regatta to an end in emphatic style underlying their status as one of the favourites for The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men’s Eight). They were a length up by the Barrier (1:53) and pulled calmly away. 

“We had a good strong third 500. You know, just brought it down a little bit towards the end. Very comfortable,” Beau Palmer, the Brisbane Boys’ cox said. It is the 30th anniversary of Brisbane’s win in the PE, but Palmer made clear that is not why they are here. 

“The Henley atmosphere's great, The water's pretty good most of the time. I just love being here. I've watched these races for so long so it's pretty cool to finally be here.”

“It has been 30 years, but that's not the only reason. We're hoping to win it this year. We've won our Head of the River in 2021, 2022 and we're just getting ready for this year. We came second at national schools, so we thought we had a pretty good chance here shooting out with the big leagues from the UK and the US, so pretty keen to get here.

“The Henley atmosphere's great, The water's pretty good most of the time. I just love being here. I've watched these races for so long so it's pretty cool to finally be here.”

Brookes power 

Oxford Brookes University has arguably the best university programme in the world and all three of their boats won in the morning to underline the depth of their talent. 

Brookes are one of the favourites for the Island.  It’s never a surprise to see them winning but for their ‘C’ boat to beat (an albeit underpowered) Syracuse University, USA boat was a show of real strength in the first Island race of the Regatta. Given Brookes ‘C’ came through Qualifying on Friday it ranked as an upset, except drawing Brookes in any shape must always feel like a test. 

Triple Dutch and Double De Hoop

The timetable in the afternoon set up three back-to-back races, each showcasing formidable Dutch crews, two of which were from K.A.R.Z.V. De Hoop and the other from G.S.R. Aegir.  They won all three,  in the Wyfold, the Prince Albert and the Thames respectively.


Notes to the editor

About Henley Royal Regatta:

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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