Semi-Finals Day at Henley Royal Regatta on Saturday set an international standard, from America’s schoolgirl sweepers, to Poland’s elite scullers and Britain’s world-beating pair, four and quads. Under bright skies with a slight cross-headwind the two halves of the Draw were confirmed over the gladiatorial 2,112-metre Course at Henley-on-Thames.
Henry at home in quad
Great Britain’s women’s quad, one of standout hopes for Paris 2024, were dominant in beating D.S.R Laga & A.S.R Nereus, the Dutch champions. They will be joined in the final by the Canada quad who beat the Netherlands under-23 development boat, Hollandia Roeiclub.
Lauren Henry, a 21-year-old from Lutterworth, Leicestershire, in the bow seat for GB (racing as Leicester R.C. & Leander Club), announced herself to the world at Henley two years ago beating Canada's Andrea Proske, who had just returned from Tokyo after winning Olympic gold, to the absolute surprise of the crowds. She went on to lose in the final of that competition by three feet in a race against Lola Anderson who now is Henry’s crewmate, sitting at the three seat in the quad.
Henry, who thought that she was terrible at rowing when she started aged 11, is going from strength to strength in the national squad (Lauren Henry, Hannah Scott, Lola Anderson and Georgie Brayshaw) and will be looking for a medal at the Paris Olympics next year.
The GB quad set a new British record of 6:09.3 in the process at the Varese World Cup a fortnight ago, taking silver just 0.5 seconds behind the Olympic and world champions, China.
The big sisters
“My first Henley Regatta was when I was 19 to the final where I raced Lola, who is now in my crew with me today, and she beat me by three feet in a very, very close race,” Henry said. “So, yes, it's nice now to be in a boat with her since I've joined the national team this year. It would mean a lot (to win this year), especially after 2021.”
“We do tease each other about it. And this time I have crossed the line first because I'm at bow and she's at three. So, I am crossing the line before her, but yes, it would mean a lot. And it would be lovely to do it with her because she obviously beat me last time, and she's always been really lovely to me.
“It would mean a lot to do it with Lola and Hannah and Georgie. They've all been really lovely to me since I joined the team in April. They're all like my big sisters, and they all look after me and show me the way. So, it'd be really lovely to do it with them.”
Zeeman doubles up
"I've been to the Head of the Charles and I've been to the Olympics, but there's something so different here …I'm loving it"
Canada’s very new quad, based around Carling Zeeman, the stroke, were ninth at the Varese World Cup. Because of a late withdrawal, Zeeman, is doubling up and having never been to Henley before, will be trying to make her second final in the Stonor (Women's Double Sculls) in Race 40 at 19:00 on Saturday.
“We’re a very fresh crew,” Zeeman said. “It's a great regatta to get some competitive experience. Pretty much our full senior team is here. This is my first time here. The energy is incomparable. I've been to the Head of the Charles and I've been to the Olympics, but there's something so different here …I'm loving it, it's really quaint. It's my first time in the UK. It's a lot of new things.”
For Zeeman the gladiatorial nature of the Course is the attraction. “I love it, if rowing could be a contact sport, I would sign up, you know?” Zeeman said. “I love the strategy, I love the head games. I came from more strategic sports, I used to speed skate too, so this is totally up my alley.”
All-international Junior Women’s Eight
The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women’s Eight) was arguably the most competitive event of the 2022 Regatta and its world-class nature was underlined with an all-international final for the second consecutive year.
Greenwich Crew from Connecticut, USA, had too much for Britain’s best, Headington School, the 2021 champions, who have beaten all before them this year, winning the Women’s Head, the National Schools’ Regatta, and a fortnight ago, Henley Women’s Regatta.
They will face Deerfield Academy from Massachusetts, who knocked out last year’s finalists, Winter Park from Florida, who had smashed the Course record on Thursday and five from the 2022 boats returning. But there was to be no Disney ending, Deerfield were clearly writing the script.
Spain at the Double
"We’ve been watching this Regatta since we were very young, it’s a trophy that will be very important for us to take home.”
The Spanish double who won silver at the 2022 World Championships, Aleix Garcia Pujolar and Rodrigo Conde Romero, comfortably beat Ellery And Kleshnev from Great Britain in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup (Men's Double Sculls).
They will take on Britain’s Aidan Thompson and John Collins. Victory for Pujolar and Romero would mean a first ever Henley Royal Regatta win for Spain, but they will have to contend with some serious Henley experience, as Collins has won the Double Sculls Challenge Cup in 2012, 2015, and 2019.
“It’s a dream for us to be here and preparation for next week when we go to the third world cup in Lucerne,” Pujolar said. "We’ve been watching this Regatta since we were very young, it’s a trophy that will be very important for us to take home.”
Poland flex Quads
Poland’s world-beating men’s quad easily beat Canada in the The Queen Mother Challenge Cup to set up a final against Great Britain. Poland, racing as Akademicki Zwiazek Sportowy Torun and Wloclawskie Towarzystwo Wioslarskie with Fabian Baranski, Miroslaw Zietarski, Mateusz Biskup and Dominik Czaja are the reigning world and European champions and one of the most impressive crews in world rowing.
Czaja and Baranski were in the quad that finished fourth in Tokyo. The Polish quad won gold at the Varese World Cup a fortnight ago in 5:35.5, just three seconds off the world record and without favourable conditions.
Poland has won the Queen Mother at Henley four times and are favourites to make it five.
St Paul’s and St Edward’s in the PE
St. Pauls, looking to retain their 2022 The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men's Eight) title, produced one of the races of the afternoon, holding off a gutsy Shiplake crew who had knocked out three different American crews to reach Semi-Finals Day.
In the second semi-final, lightning was not to strike twice for Radley College after their barnstorming comeback against Eton last year, giving national champions St. Edward’s an opportunity to lift the Princess Elizabeth cup for the first time in 24 years.
Leander’s Open secret
Leander showed their power with victories through the morning and afternoon, including GB’s women’s four (including Helen Glover, the double Olympic gold medalist) The Town Challenge Cup.
Brookes Semi serenity
Oxford Brookes ensured there will be a strong line of burgundy through Finals Day as their three ‘A’ boats won their semis serenely.
The Thames family
For Brookes in the university events read Thames in the club events. Thames Rowing Club ‘A’ beat Sydney Rowing Club’s last remaining crew in The Thames Challenge Cup. “We faced Sydney two weeks ago, at Marlow Regatta and just pipped them,” Dan Boddington, in the three seat, said. “We knew they were going to be an incredibly tough competition. They're very, very fast. They're very aggressive.”
Boddington first took part at Henley in 2009 and is looking for his first silverware with Thames and explained - tearfully - one of the reasons the club has been so successful in recent seasons. “I think in the 15-20 years I've been around rowing, I've never experienced the level of support I have for the Thames team,” he said. “I’m sorry but it's making me quite emotional. Every single one of them. There's just a volume of support not just from the coaches, not just from people who are racing this week, not just from people who may have been knocked out early in the week, but also people who've been in the club 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. Every single one of them is supporting us the whole way down. It's just a phenomenal experience.”
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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