A tailwind in the emerging sunshine produced record-breaking conditions on day three of Henley Royal Regatta and the women’s events delivered in style. The pressure is cranking up every day and the world champions and Olympians will begin their campaigns on Friday.
Newcastle University and Durham University are looking forward to a gladiatorial grudge match on Friday in a high-powered Island Challenge Cup (Student Women's Eight competition) after both seeing off international competition.
Newcastle University ‘A'’s romantic run continues. After shocking Princeton - doubly because it was so comfortable - on Wednesday, they looked just as good beating the Dutch boat, R.S.V.U Okeanos on Thursday morning.
“It's amazing that we've actually managed to get through to this point because you never know what the Draw is going to be like"
"We’re ecstatic,” Jess Proctor-Crozier, Newcastle’s 4 seat, said, “It's amazing that we've actually managed to get through to this point because you never know what the Draw is going to be like and so you're always a bit unsure and so being able to make it into the Friday is amazing. We’d like to make it to the weekend, but we're just going to see who we're going to be racing against tomorrow, and then take it from there.”
They found out who they would meet just over an hour later when Durham University set up a winner-takes-all quarter-final against arch-rivals Newcastle, as they beat Harvard’s Radcliffe Crew ‘A’, USA in even more emphatic fashion. Durham have dominated Newcastle all year in multi-lane racing but lost the one head-to-head.
“Last year we were knocked out in our first race, so nice to turn the tables on that,” Hermione Hill, Durham’s cox said. “Tomorrow we're taking on Newcastle. So home rivals. Travelled all the way from the north just to end up racing each other again! We’re looking forward to it. The last 1 v 1 match we had was against them at Boat Race the North and they won on both our home waters. So let's see if we can stick it to them tomorrow."
On paper, Durham has the edge over Newcastle, as they were just a second slower than a record-breaking Oxford Brookes to both the Barrier and Fawley in the first part of their race but the 2,112m head-to-head Henley Course often tears up form guides.
Two races after Durham’s win, Tyne A.R.C made it another great morning for the north-east with a controlled win over London Rowing Club in the Wargrave - the Club Women's Eight and elite pathway event from the Island.
The Oxford Brookes winning formula
"We’re one team now and moving all together. It's competitive, so everyone's pushing everyone up."
Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ showed that the power of the women’s programme is matching their men’s, with new records in The Island as they beat Edinburgh University ‘A’. Brookes set new records to the Barrier and Fawley of 1:58 and 3:19 respectively. The Island was won by Brown University, USA in an all-international final last year, but Brookes looked determined, and equipped, to change that. For good measure their ‘B’ boat beat University of Pennsylvania ‘B’, USA in a thriller at the end of the afternoon session.
“It was a good first race, it really just gets the nerves out of the way,” Brenna Randall, the Canadian Brookes stroke said. “We wanted to get our start down and then just try and get a feel for the course. I think Edinburgh is a really good boat, so it's nice to have competition like them to go against in the first round.”
“We've made a lot of leaps and bounds this year”, Martha Birtles, the Brookes 7 seat, added. “I think we've made some good improvements and we're really excited to keep racing. We're a really close crew that’s done a lot of racing and every race we do, we’re getting better and better.”
Ominous words for their rivals, although no surprise given Brookes’ reputation at Henley over the last two decades.
“Ten years ago, there were around two or three women in the programme, and now we're pushing maybe sixty when we come back in September,” Hugo Gulliver, the women's head coach at Oxford Brookes, said. “Part of that is funding, part of that is trying to emulate what the guys have done at Brookes. We’re one team now and moving all together. It's competitive, so everyone's pushing everyone up. But, it's 2023, men and women when they leave the university, they're going to work in offices together. They've got to get ready for the real world after this. I think having both teams pushing each other the whole time, but then also training together, coming in from training sessions and having breakfast together, means actually your whole experience is brilliant.”
“The most expensive boat ever purchased in the UK”
Gulliver emphasised the difference funding has made in accelerating the development of the women’s programme.“Funding, you know, financially, puts more money in,” he said. “We've got the most expensive women's boat ever purchased in the UK.”
“Richard Spratley, director of rowing, has always been trying to push it (women’s rowing) and Henry (Bailhache-Webb, the head coach) as well. As a group, we’re just really, really keen (especially) now there's a prize here at Henley to go after. And we want to put our name back on the trophy that we (won) in the first year, two years ago. We’ve been national champions in the women's eight for three years running, but it's all about what happens the next few days.”
Prince Philip power
The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women’s Eight) was arguably the most competitive event of the 2022 Regatta and once again it is the international entries setting an ever faster pace.
Winter Park, USA, who have five of the eight that lost the final last year, looked formidable as they beat a strong Hinksey Sculling School. With Hinksey pushing them all the way, Winter Park, from Florida, set a new record to the Barrier of 2:05 and Fawley, 3:29, where they led by 1 ¼ lengths, and finished in a new Course record of 7:13 (beating the record set last year by a huge 8 seconds). And there is more to come because their bladework and steering might have been tidier.
One record lasted only an hour and a half as St. Catherine’s School, AUS - a different St Cats from the ones who beat Winter Park in the final last year (this one is from New South Wales not Victoria) took up the challenge as they beat Tideway Scullers’ School. St Catherine’s broke Winter Park’s record to the Barrier by a second with 2:04 and were 2 ½ lengths clear. They equalled 3:29 to Fawley before finishing in relatively relaxed fashion in 7:20 (which would have been a new record but for Winter Park’s earlier mark).
Conditions on the Henley Course change from session to session and year to year, but this was as reliable a form guide as we can get and all the remaining crews will be acutely aware of the challenge they face.
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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