Henley sees International Semi-Final Surge

The record international entry dominated much of Semi-Finals Day at Henley Royal Regatta - from the schoolgirl sweepers to the elite scullers. 

There were 12 of the 17 nations who entered the Regatta still represented at the semi-final stage; with crews from Australia, Azerbaijan, China, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Poland, Ukraine and USA. After five days of racing, 419 entries will have become just 52 finalists racing for the 26 Regatta trophies on Sunday. 

In the morning, The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women's Eight) produced an Australian-USA final as the two domestic favourites were knocked out.

The world-class nature of the Prince Philip in just the second year of the event, has been phenomenal. The Course record was broken three times in succession at the quarter-final stage on Thursday and though Saturday, with the strong cross-headwind, was not a day for records, both semi-finals produced classic races. 

All-international Prince Philip final

St Catherine’s School, Australia, the national champions, led a tight race from start to finish against last year’s finalists, Surbiton High School, snuffing out any chance of a comeback with a huge push at the start of the Enclosures, 500 metres from the finish. 

"The addition of the three women's eights is so exciting for women's rowing internationally."

“I think that’s great for the schools and junior crews to be able to come here to see what the pathway is like,” Sarah Cook, Australia’s former Olympian and World Champion and now a Henley Steward and commentator, said. “The addition of the three women’s eights is so exciting for women’s rowing internationally, the calibre of those events so far has just been extraordinary. Obviously St Catherine’s (AUS) taking the win over Surbiton in the semi-final was an absolute thrill for me. To see those girls from Melbourne competing on the world’s biggest stage is huge.

"We have a record number of entries from the United States with 66 crews and also from Australia with 37 crews."

“We have a record number of entries from the United States with 66 crews and also from Australia with 37 crews. It’s the only regatta where you see crews that are the best school crews, the best university crews, as well as the best Olympic and international crews. There’s no other regatta where you’re all out there on the same course throughout the week. And it’s a chance as well to see if you’re the very best; not just of your own country but internationally.”

Henley’s early Winter 

Later in the morning session, Winter Park Crew, USA  were more dominant in beating Henley Rowing Club, many people’s favourite for the Regatta after sweeping all before them domestically this year. Winter Park, from Florida, had to come through Qualifying Races on Friday and have been flying ever since. 

"We've remained undefeated all season and we're hoping to keep it that way."

“It’s crazy! We’ve remained undefeated all season and we’re hoping to keep it that way,” Delaney Gardener, the Winter Park cox said. “Back in February we really started making some big moves and it’s incredible to be here, it’s still blowing my mind.”

For Riley Harris, the Winter Park 6 seat, it is a dream come true. “At the beginning of the season we did discuss the idea but it seemed like an almost distant dream, like we never really expected it to happen,” Riley said. “I can’t believe that as a sophomore in high school I’ve had the opportunity to come over here and compete. I’ve never done the one-on-one style of racing and it’s much different than having multiple crews out there with you, so a lot to focus on.”

Poland / Ukraine double bows out

Australia’s success continued as  Anneka Reardon and Lucy Coleman (Rowing Australia) - the mighty lighties - knocked out another heavyweight crew in the shape of the Poland/Ukraine double of Olena Buriak and Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska  in The Stonor Challenge Trophy (Women’s Double Sculls).

Bulldogs, Bears and Huskies

In the evening session the big American colleges -  the “Bulldogs” from Yale University, the “Huskies” from University of Washington and the “Bears” from University of California, Berkeley, missing from the Regatta since 2019 - flexed their muscles. The Island Challenge Cup (Student Women’s Eight), also in its second year, has similarly felt like a world championship. Yale produced a stunning second half to beat University of London ‘A’. 

Aquil Abdullah is a previous winner of the Diamond Sculls and now a Henley Steward with a particular interest in the progress of the American teams.

“There’s a strong number of entries from the US this year, but it’s a tough path to get here,” he said. “Every entry that makes it here has proven their metal to be here. 

“I think to be able to come to this regatta as a junior, and race against Olympians is huge. Some get to talk to them and get a sense of how they’ve got to where they are - I can’t even describe it in words. When I raced as a schoolboy here it really gave me the motivation.” 

Chinese quads 

China have arrived with two formidable international quads, and the men’s crew followed their women into the finals as they beat the Great Britain quad, racing as Leander Club and The Tideway Scullers, in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup (Men’s Quadruple Sculls). 

The Great Britain quad, which included two Olympic silver medallists, shouldn’t be too unhappy. They have had a difficult start to the year, have shuffled a rebuilding boat before this Regatta and pushed a Chinese quad that dominated World Cup I and II in the last two months. This Chinese quad could become the first Chinese men’s crew to win at Henley ever - following the women’s quad, who won in 2019. 

That Chinese women’s quad, featuring three Tokyo gold medallists, gave another masterclass in The Princess Grace Challenge Cup (Women's Quad Sculls) beating the Waiariki Rowing Club, New Zealand.

“Today’s race was very aggressive, particularly at the beginning,” Yang Lyu said. “In the middle of the race we began leading more and more and I’m happy we continued right to the end.

"Henley is huge opportunity to learn more, not just about racing but about the rowing culture too."

“Henley is a huge opportunity to learn more, not just about racing but about the rowing culture too and so it’s important to take that opportunity, push hard and do better.”

Shock of the Regatta: Radley knockout Eton  

In a rare all-British semi-final, Radley College produced the shock of the Regatta by defeating the apparently unbeatable Eton College crew. Eton were heavy favourites to win The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men’s Eight) for a third year in succession. 

A capacity crowd in the Enclosures roared the Radley comeback home as they rowed through Eton in stunning fashion in the penultimate race of the session (Race 29). Eton were still ⅔ length up past the halfway at Fawley, but Radley began to climb the ladder. It seemed like Eton must respond, but Radley came through under the Grandstand to win by ¼ length. 

The question now is can Radley, who last won the PE in 1998, do it twice against St Paul’s in the final?

Spitfire semi-finals

The Luncheon Interval provided an opportunity for an historic flypast: at precisely 13:26 local time a Spitfire MK356 flew over the course; the 356 was used for RAF instruction up until 1951 and was used as a static airframe in the epic Battle of Britain film of 1968.

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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