Thursday Racing Sessions

Morning Session
8.30am - 12.20pm

Wind and rain welcomed the morning racers but that was the only low-pressure in Henley-on-Thames. Water off a rower’s back to most and the step up in power, precision and pressure from Wednesday, especially with entry of the Stewards’ selected crews, was obvious.

Regatta Landmark

Two more pieces of Henley Royal Regatta history today with the first races in new women’s events. Race 24, the first ever in the WARGRAVE CHALLENGE CUP – the club women's eightsthe equivalent of the Thames – started at 10.45. Tideway Scullers’ School ‘B’, that great Chiswick bastion of rowing, beat the equally venerable Thames Rowing Club ‘C’ by 1 ¼. Into a moderate headwind Scullers’ took an early lead, took their rating down from Remenham and took the line comfortably 

Fifteen minutes later, at 11:00 (race 26), there was the first ever race in the ISLAND CHALLENGE CUP – the student women’s eights, the equivalent of the Temple. Durham Universtity beat Newcastle University by 1 ¼ lengths. Durham pulled out to an early two length lead and maintained it to Fawley. Newcastle closed the gap as the race drew to a close but were only able to reduce it by ¾ of a length.

After the debut of the JUNIOR WOMEN'S EIGHTS on Wednesday, the three new women’s events this year have all begun. 

Tideway time 

It was a great morning for Tideway Scullers’ overall. As well as one of their women’s crews marking history, earlier two of their crews did the double over Molesey boat clubs in the first 40 minutes of racing, in Race 1 (Thames) and Race 11 (Britannia).

By luck of the draw, Molesey B.C. ‘B’ in the THAMES CHALLENGE CUPmen’s club eight, had the honour of beginning the racing on both Wednesday and Thursday. But Scullers’ were a a level up. Molesey lead Tideway off the start edging away by a canvas.  By Fawley, Tideway upped their strokes and edged forwards to lead by a foot.  This momentum continued.  By the finish, Tideway had extended their lead to over a length.

Dutch Double in the TEMPLE CHALLENGE CUP (student men's eight)

There are far fewer international entries this year, for obvious reasons, so, even more than ever those that have travelled are serious contenders. A first look at the Dutch boats in the confirmed that with Both A.S.R. Nereus (Race 10) and later U.S.R. Triton (Race 16) winning with plenty to spare. Nereus (champions in 1993) were 1:48 to Barrier (637m) and, with the weather brightening, Triton 1:50, as they both beat winners from Wednesday.

But both will have their work cut out at the end of the week as Oxford Brookes University comfortably overcame Manchester University in race 32. Brookes made a good start, and seemed to have already eased down by Barrier (1:52), where they were already 3½ lengths clear. 

“We’re incredibly excited this year, obviously we’ve been building for a while as a club,” Henry Bailhache-Webb, head coach at Oxford Brookes University said. “This is the strongest entry we’ve ever had, from top-down men’s programme and women’s. We’re desperate to get out there.” Ominous stuff for the opposition.


There was already a palpable sense of anticipation around the course as in the race before Brookes, Eton College, the holders from 2019 and national champions this season, also had their first race of the regatta at 11.30 (race 31) and were mightily impressive in beating Reading Blue Coat School. Eton were 1:52 to Barrier, Temple speeds. In the PE anything under two minutes to Barrier is good. 

Six of the Eton crew have raced here before (despite the cancellation) and they will take some beating.

The loneliness of the single sculler 

No race at the Regatta is ever easy, but some are less hard than others and Seb Devereux was out on his own in the DIAMOND CHALLENGE SCULLS, men's single sculls, in race 7 - perhaps on account of his opponent’s withdrawal.  A Sculled over was declared at the start, and competitors are required to row the course to make it fair for their opponents the next day.

But the Diamond also provided the closest race of the morning as Tim Wilkinson (Greenbank Falmouth Rowing Club) beat W. E. Young (Cambridge ’99 Rowing Club) in a photo finish in race 36. Wilkinson was half a length behind for almost the whole course before driving just before the line. 

Earlier (20), one of the favourites, Dara Alizadeh (Cambridge University), a former Cambridge president, who represented Bermuda in Tokyo, had knocked out the dangerous giantkiller, Matt Brigham (Leeds University).

Steering issues 

There was some tight steering on the Bucks side early on – a nervous duck’s width on occasion to the booms. And in race 12, in the it was heartbreaking for Snelling & Thomson (Durham University) in the Stonor (elite women’s double sculls) as they got stuck on the booms as they came out of Temple Island. 

In race 37, in the Wyfold, there was a clash of blades after Temple Island between Nottingham Rowing Club and City of Bristol Boat Club. The race was re-started and Nottingham (winners in 2012) immediately exerted their form and pulled away to a comfortable win. They were the third Nottingham crew this morning. 

STONOR CHALLENGE TROPHY - women's double sculls

The first rounds of the Stonor at this year’s Regatta and friends, long-time crewmates and Olympics medallists, Katie Greves and Jessica Eddie (Wallingford Rowing Club and London Rowing Club), Olympic silver medallists in the eight at the Rio 2016 Olympics, got off to a winning start in race 21. 

“I had to remind Jess (about the conditions) last night, because she’s only ever been here in an eight before. Little bit different in a small boat,” Greves said.

Eddie was beaming after on the bank. “For the first time ever, we’ve had the opportunity to scull, I’ve only ever swept here,” she said. “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.”

Between them your correspondents also managed to clear up that it was not Greves’s rowing commitments that forced her to move her wedding from last Saturday to Sunday, but those of her husband, Chris Boddy, the coach of Sir William Perkin’s School. “It wasn’t because of the (Regatta) qualifier (on Saturday), Greves said, “but because my part Chris is senior coach at a girl’s schools and thought he was going to be needed for qualifiers, but they qualified anyway so they didn’t actually need to - but we had already moved it by that point!”

Afternoon Session
2 - 4.20pm

The afternoon session was full of clashes and upsets as two favourites were dumped out towards the end. 

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 of race 57. 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. 

There was a collector’s item to open the Afternoon Session which started in overcast conditions  In the first race after lunch (41), in the VISITORS' CHALLENGE CUP, the men’s four, Oxford Brookes University ‘B’ hit the booms not once but twice as they struggled in defeat against a wildcard American crew, TBC Racing, USA. 

TBC are a group of University of Washington Athletes not allowed to enter a club event so they were bumped up from the Wyfold Challenge Cup into the Visitors’. The Visitors’ - an intermediate event – is for those just below international standard.

TBC led at Barrier by three feet. It was side-by-side racing and the TBC stroke was looking across continually at Brookes. It might have been nerves, but TBC were not the ones that cracked. Level until around the mile mark, Brookes, on the Berks station, clipped the boom with their oars, bringing them to a near standstill. They fought back, but, overcorrecting on their steering, struck the booms again just before the Enclosures and with a few hundred metres to the finish, TBC eased home by 2 ½ lengths.

Then all was calm for 90 minutes. It was overcast but the favourites won cleanly. 

“It’s been a building head breeze, both days actually getting a bit stronger throughout the day,” Greg Searle, the Olympic gold medallist and Henley Steward, said. “At the moment, I don’t think it’s bad, I don’t think it’s going to cause people too many problems. If anything, it might make things harder physically, but not necessarily technically. 

“With the headwind things almost move a bit slower, a bit easier. The tail wind almost blows you off your feet and you need your technique needs to be stronger. In this head wind it’s more of a physical challenge, the race goes on a bit longer, you need to be a bit stronger and sit up a bit taller. So, at the moment these aren’t bad conditions, times won’t be particularly slow, I think everyone who’s here will be able to handle them really well.” 

Race 54 saw the first appearance in the Regatta of St Paul’s School, one of Eton College’s biggest rivals in the PRINCESS ELIZABETH CHALLENGE CUP (junior men’s eights). St Paul’s were 1:53 to Barrier, a second slower than Eton in the morning, but far too much for Dulwich College, who were 2½ lengths behind. 

From then on it was all drama. 

In Race 56, the Thames Challenge Cup was suspended before the barrier due to a clash.  Agecroft 'A' drifted towards the London R.C. 'A' team leading to a heavy clash of oars. This event, in conjunction with two previous warnings for steering, led to Agecroft’s disqualification after a brief review by the umpire, Richard Stanhope.

Then came Craftsbury.

Evening Session
5.30 - 7.20pm

Two of the races of the day opened the evening session. The much-fancied St Joseph’s Preparatory School had their first race of the Regatta in the PRINCESS ELIZABETH CHALLENGE CUP (junior men's eight) and their first fright. They arrive as US National champions and with a big reputation, but they have a tough draw, have been in quarantine and it was not entirely a surprise that Shiplake College almost sent them on what would have felt like a long journey back to Philadelphia. 

Things looked like they were going as scheduled from the start. But although St Joseph’s led by 1½ lengths at Barrier they will not be pleased with their time of 1:56. And then it all started to go wrong. On a tough day for steering, even for crews familiar with this stretch of the Thames, they were warned five times for poor steering and looked increasingly rattled after Fawley (nine metres short of halfway). Shiplake had held on and now they attacked. St Joseph’s responded well but Shiplake came again and were only half a length down at the finish. Shiplake appealed to no avail.

“It’s the goal of every boy’s at St Joseph’s Prep - they dream of coming here to Henley Royal Regatta,” John Fife, head coach of St Joseph’s said. “It’s the Super Bowl of rowing, there is nothing bigger than this outside of the Olympics. It is a personal experience when you race just one crew. COVID has been a challenge and keeping 11 young boys focused in quarantine. We are up against St. Pauls tomorrow.”

He is right. But the fright may have done them a power of good. Eton College will be watching. 

The next race, 67, was rollicking bowball to bowball classic between local rivals Henley Rowing Club and Sir Williams Borlase’s Grammar School in the Fawley (junior men’s quad). They were often level or only a canvas apart and only in closing stages did Henley pull away to secure their victory. 

After that everyone, bar the racing crews, was able to catch a breath. Hartpury College Boat Club looked controlled in race 77, as they eased gradually away from The Tideway Scullers’ School in the DIAMOND JUBILEE CHALLENGE CUP(junior women’s quads). And Lauren Henry, who won a bronze for Great Britain in the u23 World Rowing Championship, made an impressive start in the PRINCESS ROYAL CHALLENGE CUP (women’s single sculls) winning race 82 by five lengths.