Henley Royal Regatta Enjoys Day of Firsts

Tuesday was the new Wednesday as the first six-day Henley Royal Regatta began today in bright and blustery conditions. 

It was a day of firsts at Regatta, on and off the water; first Tuesday in the Regatta’s 183-year history, and first look at some of the big name overseas eights from America, Australia and the Netherlands. For many of their athletes, it was a first taste too of the gladiatorial, head-to-head knockout racing down Henley’s 2,112-metre course. 

"If you looked at the Grandstand and river banks you would have thought the Regatta had always started on a Tuesday."

“If you looked at the Grandstand and river banks you would have thought the Regatta had always started on a Tuesday,” Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management said. “And on the water it has been great to see the level of the new first day.”

One of the other unique features of Henley is the pathway it provides from schoolboy to Olympian. For Woodrow Wilson High School, U.S.A, one of the most talked about boats in The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men’s Eights), it was the first time they had ever been to the Regatta in the school’s history. 

“It was very nerve wracking, the crowd is definitely bigger and the whole way down the course, yelling at you off the sides,” Tomas Foxley, 17, part of the Woodrow Wilson eight said. “The wind is just crazy, but we like this, we’re probably more acclimatised than those that row on smaller rivers.”

“I was terrified, I’ve never steered a course like this before,” Bronwen Holmes, the 16-year-old cox said.  “I was nervous at the start, then when the race got into it, I settled into it.”

Woodrow Wilson won the Varsity Eight at the US Scholastic (SRAA) National Championship Regatta and there are claims about them being the fastest that the Washington DC area has ever produced. 

“We definitely feel strong,” Foxley said. “I don’t know so much about the strongest ever from the area,”  “Might be a bit of a stretch,” Holmes interjected.

“We personally haven’t said that about ourselves,” Foxley added, “we like to stay very humble, although others may like to blow our trumpet - but we have come to race.

And one of Henley’s Royal Regatta’s three new Stewards this year could not have been prouder. “After the coaches had given their speeches, I sort of whispered to them to “make your own history,” Aquil Abdullah, a Woodrow Wilson alumni and former Henley champion in 2000 in The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men’s Single Sculls) said. “As an alumni of the school it was very exciting to see them race and win here for the first time. It was thrilling that they were here in the crucible of Henley and handled the nerves with such grace. It’s great to see them write their own legacy.

Another newcomer was Mark Kakoma, who is on a scholarship at Radley College and is thought to be the first Zambian to row at Henley Royal Regatta. He was part of the first Radley College second eight to race in the Regatta in 18 years and it was no shame to be knocked out of the The Temple Challenge Cup (Student Men's Eight) by University of London ‘A’, one of favourites. 

"It's been absolutely amazing, it's the stuff of dreams."

“It’s been absolutely amazing, it’s the stuff of dreams,” Kakoma said. “First of all, coming into qualifiers on Friday was pretty nerve wracking for us but there were other universities and schools that didn’t make it through and then coming into the actual race is really phenomenal. The side-by-side is very intense and it’s thrilling to see how you do one-on-one against a crew.”

Read about all action on the water here.

Highlights include:


Notes to the editor


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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