Friday's Racing Sessions

The Morning Session

London Rowing Club raise their hands in protest as they come across the line with K.A.R.Z.V. De Hoop, NED | © Ben Rodford

The north east grudge match between Durham University and Newcastle University ‘A’ was dominated by Durham University in the quarter final of the Island Challenge Cup (Women's University Eights) | © Ben Rodford

conditions: Overcast with a headwind directly down the course.

A fascinating morning full of clashing blades, grudge matches, Olympic entries, a losing champion and difficult steering in the headwind. It was also a much tougher start to the day for Australia on the water at Henley than they faced at Lord’s. 

Despite victory in race 4 by Sydney Rowing Club, who knocked out Thames Challenge Cup holders, Molesey Boat Club, in commanding fashion to go into the semi final, three much-fancied Australian boats then went out in quick succession. 

There were two defeats in the Prince Philip (Junior Women’s Eight) at the hands of highly impressive American crews. Winter Park Crew, USA, finalists last year and record breakers on Thursday, overpowered Melbourne Girls Grammar School from start to finish and 40 minutes later Deerfield Academy, from Massachusetts, reeled in St Catherine’s School, who had broken the record to the Barrier on Thursday. 

In one of the races of the morning, Deerfield remorselessly reeled in St Cats, who had gone out like a bullet into the strong headwind. St Cats led by ¾ of a length at the Barrier but it turned out that Deerfield were not stunned in the headlights but biding their time. They made their move and seat-by-seat pulled through St Cats so that from being ¼ length down near the halfway at Fawley they were almost a length up by the Enclosures and 1 ½ lengths at the Finish. 

St Paul’s flex

In similar, but more devastating fashion, in race 21, St Paul’s School, the Princess Elizabeth holders, rowed through Brisbane Boys’ College. Many had tipped Brisbane to win after they were faster on Thursday and they were out like a rocket and were ½  a length clear at the Barrier and ⅔ up at the ¾ Mile. But St Paul’s are not champions for nothing and found an extra few gears as they went through Brisbane in a flash past Remenham and then rowed away past the Enclosures to win by two lengths. 

Durham beat northern nemesis

Durham University won their north east grudge match against Newcastle University, in their  quarter final in race 14. In only the event’s third year, the Island Challenge Cup (Student Women's Eight) has produced some brilliant racing, and Durham, now entering into the semi finals on Saturday, have found their rhythm after having been knocked out in the first round of the same event last year. 

After having lost the same encounter with Newcastle at Boat Race of the North, Durham were keen to show some new speed and were 1 ½ lengths up at the Barrier and eased away from Newcastle. 

Olympic gloves off

There was first sighting of Britain double Olympic gold medalist and the rest of GB women’s four in race 24 in The Town Challenge Cup. Glover, Heidi Long, Sam Redgrave and Rebecca Shorten, racing asLeander Club and Imperial College London, easily beat Northeastern University, USA after taking a large lead almost from the start. 

Closest races of the morning:

Race 11 - Deerfield Academy, USA reel in St Catherine’s School, Aus (see above).

Race 12 - London Rowing Club won a nailbiter on the line after a clash of blades with K.A.R.Z.V. De Hoop, NED in the closing strokes to the finish of their quarter final in The Wyfold Challenge Cup (Club Men’s Coxless Four) on Friday, June 30. De Hoop, many people’s favourites, were being warned for their steering by the umpire and London had their hands raised in protest as they came across the line together. 

Henley’s Course is famous for its 2112m gladiatorial head-to-head racing, but rowing is not supposed to be a contact sport. 

London’s four of Eduardo Marshall (23) , Zac Baxter (29), Tom Westbrook (25) and George Cowley (22) held their nerve after trailing for almost the entire race. The crew have developed a strong bond; Baxter is an NHS doctor and Marshall, Westbrook and Cowley live together above London Rowing Club. They are now favourites to lift the Wyfold Cup on Sunday. 

Race 21 - St Paul’s showed champion mettle by rowing through a much-fancied Brisbane Boys’ College (see above).

The Afternoon Session

CONDITIONS: Lashings of rain, swirling water and a headwind directly down the course.

The bull in the ring

The University of Texas’ Henley campaign in the Remenham started in emphatic fashion at the beginning of the session, sitting on Hollandia Roeiclub for the whole of the course with a length's lead. The Longhorns didn’t budge, and are primed for their time in the ring with the winner of the last race of the session, Leander ‘A’.

The cat that got the cream (not the crab)

An early lead was served to Los Gatos Rowing Club on a plate in the Fawley against Marlow Rowing Club ‘A’ who, within a minute of the start, caught a crab on the rough water, flipping the bowseat’s blade 360 degrees, sending the rest of the crew into a spin and dropping them almost three lengths back. Putting themselves back together, they were forced to race against the deficit, ultimately coming up short against Los Gatos by only ¾ of a length.

Hollywood Hinksey

To turn Henley into Hollywood, there’s one tried and tested method: a row-through past the Enclosures, and in Race 53, Hinksey pitched a blockbuster. They were led by their opponents from Sydney Rowing Club by a length down the swirling Course. Coming up to the Mile, Hinksey started to press and in the growing roar of the crowds and the heel-snapping from the Oxford-based club, Sydney veered off course. Hinksey went for the overtake coming past the progress boards, and with the bowman seemingly unsatisfied with the level of drama, caught a crab on the line and let go of his blades, whilst simultaneously leading his crew over line to win by half a length. 

Explosive Teddies 

This race saw a schoolboy head-to-head between St Edward’s School and Eton College. Based on their encounter at National Schools Regatta, Teddies would arguably be favourites, but with fingers pointed at their absence on the recent domestic circuit (Met and Marlow), rumours of a slowing Henley campaign started to circulate. It seemed to be Teddies’ race plan, therefore, to put this to bed as soon as possible. As such, they blasted out the blocks to lose contact with Eton before the PE weekend veterans even had time to respond. At the Barrier, St Edwards led by a length and squeezed on to take the race by nearly two lengths. Their impressive Barrier time was inconsistent with other events which slowed considerably in the blustering headwind, so we will see whether the more favourable conditions over the coming weekend will aid in their 24-year hunt for the trophy.

Los Gatos taking the win after an unfortunate crab for Marlow Rowing Club broke the local club’s flow in The Fawley Challenge Cup on Friday of Henley Royal Regatta © HRR Photo

University of Texas prove too bullish for Hollandia Roeiclub, NED, in The Remenham Challenge Cup on Friday of Henley Royal Regatta © HRR Photo

The Evening Session

In an all Thames affair, their ‘B’ boat defeated their ‘C’ boat in the Wargrave Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta on Friday, 30 June 2023 © Ben Rodford

Tyne A.R.C. come through from behind to beat Christiania Roklub, NOR, making it to the weekend of the Wargrave Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta on Friday, 30 June 2023 © HRR Photo

conditions: A headwind directly down the course with swirling waters but brightening skies.

Question: How do you guarantee yourself a place in the final from the quarter-finals. Answer: qualify four boats, see them all end up in one half of the Draw and keep winning. 

The bottom half of today’s Draw in the Wargrave (Club Women’s Eight) was all Thames Rowing Club and the holders are guaranteed to be able to defend their title on Sunday as their ‘A’ and ‘B’ boat went through to semi-final Saturday. Thames ‘C’ gave the ‘B’ boat a run for their money in a great race 63. 

Thames Rowing Club started Friday with 12 crews and 77 athletes still in the Regatta and have been to club racing what Oxford Brookes have been to the university events. So it was fitting that it was Thames who closed the day’s racing with an impressive victory in the Brit (Club Men's Four) over close rivals - in all ways - London Rowing Club. 

Olympic eights 

After Great Britain’s women’s eight had booked their semi-final in style before tea, The Canada women’s eight, racing as Maple Bay Rowing Club, were equally composed in the other half of the Remenham Draw. 

Maple Bay with four Tokyo Olympic gold medalists, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys, Kristen Kit (cox) were three lengths up by halfway and controlled from there. 

Rugby fans will have noted the presence of Stephane Pienaar, son of South Africa’s 1995  rugby world cup winner, François Piennar, in the Princeton four that comfortably beat a strong Cambridge University in the Visitors’ (Intermediate Men's Coxless Four). 

Closest races of the evening:

Race 67 - Tyne set-up a repeat of their 2021 semi-final against Leander in the Wargrave, by rowing through Christiania Roklub, Norway, through a roaring Enclosures. Tyne led at the start, were passed by Christiana by Fawley but Tyne held them to ¼ of a length and then found a Grandstand finish. 

Race 73 - After a good morning for Sydney Rowing Club, the day only got tougher. After Hinksey rowed through them in the Enclosures in the Fawley before tea, Molesey doubled the heartbreak in the evening by repeating the Enclosures row through. Sydney led off the start, were a length up at the Barrier but Molesey began pulling back gradually around halfway at Fawley. They were only two feet behind at the Mile and led by the time they were coming passed the Enclosures the final few hundred metres, winning by ½ length with Sydney broken and unable to respond. 

Race 76 - Nereus led off the start but Syracuse looked comfortable and were a canvas ahead at Fawley. Nereus, Temple perennials, could not find a way back and Syracuse booked a semi-final tomorrow against Oxford Brookes ‘B’, with Brookes ‘A’ possibly awaiting them on Sunday if they beat University of Washington in the other semi-final.