Saturday Racing Sessions (semi-finals)

Morning Session
9.30am - 12.20pm

The first race of the day in cool overcast conditions set the tone for the morning as University of London reeled in Oxford Brookes University’s customary charge off the line in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup (student men’s coxed fours). Brookes were 2/3 of a length up at Barrier but UL began their charge and by Fawley (1,047m, 9m short of half way) only a canvas separated them. Brookes tried to responded but UL were always rating two strokes higher and making them count. They passed Brookes by the Enclosures and in the last few hundred metres pulled out win by a length. 

With the likes of the holders Harvard not travelling this year, for obvious reasons, Brookes’ started the event as favourites, having only been beaten by their own team mates this season. But it was not a complete shock as University of London have stacked their best into this event this year. 

Brookes’s aura of invincibility has been shaken in the Temple by Nereus on Friday and this result. They took the lead in both, going out hard, but were not able to break away, snap the elastic band and control the race either. 

Junior Women’s Eights

Race 4 was a fraught one between Surbiton High School and Lady Eleanor Holles School, the national champions, producing if not a complete upset, given their respective times this week, then at least surprise. Surbiton’s celebration after crossing the line 1 ¼ lengths clear made that obvious. 

Four of the Surbiton crew are former national champions in the u16 eights and having established a lead of a canvas at the 1/4mile they pulled it out to 2/3 of length around the halfway at Fawley. They were able to respond to every attack by LEH, who were edging backwards by the end. 

Forty minutes later, Headington School joined Surbiton in the final, controlling race 8 from start to finish. It was telling that there were no celebrations from Headington after the line. 

Stonor Challenge Trophy (women’s double sculls)

The Stonor field has come down to four young international crews, who look like they will play a big part in the future of international sculling. Nika Vos and Martine Veldhuis (NED), the Dutch lightweights, who both just missed out on Tokyo selection, went out like rocket and were over a length down at the ¼ mile. Even though it was expected, Jess Leyden and Georgina Brayshaw (Leander Club) must have had their concerns as they slipped two lengths behind.. 

On Friday the Leander double had started rowing through the other boat before the halfway mark. It took longer this time, but with their constant powerful rhythm they drew level and passed the Dutch in metronomic fashion. It was not over though, the Dutch responded and briefly took back the lead with 200m left. But the Great Britain heavyweights power told and they were a length clear at the finish. 

“I just kept saying, trust the boat, trust the plan,” Leyden, said. “Jess is so experienced I knew I had to trust her, she’s been the best team mate,” Brayshaw said. 

Leyden was in the British women’s quadruple sculls qualified for Tokyo, but sadly contracted COVID-19 was seriously ill and could not make the team. But she has clearly not just come to test her form. 

Diamond Challenge Sculls

Graeme Thomas (Agecroft), 4th in the double sculls in Tokyo, controlled race 6 to set up a final with Tom Wilkinson (Greenbank Falmouth Rowing Club), an open water rower, who was hoping to challenge. Thomas was 2 ¼ lengths up at the ¼ mile. He will face Seb Devereux (Leander) in the final, who was even more dominant against Dara Alizadeh, who was perhaps spent from his heroic struggle on Friday.

Doubling up 

Saturday was the day for doubling up and the challenge for those was trying to manage their races and hoping they did not have to spend everything on the water and not let team mates down. 

It was job done in the morning for Leander Club ‘A’ in the Town Challenge Cup (elite women’s coxless fours) for Alice Davies, Heidi Long, Lauren Irwin and Hope Cessford. They quickly pulled out a big lead on a combined Nottingham and Leander four in race 7 at 10.30 and controlled the race. 

Fifty minutes later, Samantha Redgrave and Susannah Dear took a little longer to assert dominance in the Hambledon Pairs Challenge Cup (elite women’s pairs) but were four lengths up around the halfway at Fawley. 

Those Leander six will join two crewmates in the Remenham Challenge Cup (elite women’s eight) at 7.10 this evening in race 44. 

It remains to be seen if the four from the Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ eight that beat Leander in the Ladies Challenge Plate (intermediate men’s eight) in race 13 at 11.30am, will have enough for their intermediate men’s coxless four against D.S.R. Laga and A.G.S.R. Gyas in the Visitors’ Challenge Plate (race 38 at 6.10pm). 

All power to the elbows of Michael Glover, Oscar Lindsay, Leonard Jenkins and Matthew Aldridge and they may need it after never being able to break the elastic band on Leander, who pressured them and forced responses all the way to line. 

It underlined Brookes’ incredible resources. This was Leander’s fastest boat, Brookes’s top eight – a completely different set of athletes - goes tomorrow in the final of the Grand

In common with other favourites, who are expecting to make the final, there were no celebrations from the Brookes crews. 

Afternoon Session
2 - 4.20pm

Emily Craig and Imogen Grant (University of London and Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club) cruised into the final of the Stonor Challenge Trophy beating GB u23s Nyland & Ferris. They look in supreme form and will not lack motivation, after finishing fourth by 0.01 seconds in the LW2x in Tokyo. It sets up a fascinating final against two GB heavyweights, Jess Leyden and Georgina Brayshaw, won just before the break. 

Craig and Grant decided the race between the ¼ mile and Barrier and will conserved more energy than their rivals. But neither will lack motivation with different Olympic trials and tribulations. 

Double Sculls Challenge Cup 

Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy (Skibbereen Rowing Club and University College, Cork, Ireland), who won gold in the lightweight men’s doubles sculls in Tokyo, did what they needed to do again to make the final beating Jamie Copus and Quentin Antognelli (Oxford Brookes University). McCarthy is doubling up tomorrow, so energy conservation is factor. 

But the Brookes double that was brought together for this Regatta were impressive. Jamie Copus, a lightweight, missed out on qualifying for Tokyo for GB in the LM2x. It was surprising there was so little between the crews for so long but the Irish double always looked comfortable and reeled them in past Fawley. It looked (and they have proved it before) that they had more gears if they had needed them. But they were only a length clear at the end. 

In the top half, a composite crew of Meijer & Haywood (The Tideway Scullers’ School and Nottingham Rowing Club), are also heavily fancied. Both rowers look like central parts of Great Britain’s sculling future. 

They look like they will need a few of those gears tomorrow against some heavyweights, a composite crew of Matthew Haywood and Samuel Meijer (The Tideway Scullers’ School and Nottingham Rowing Club) who had a much more relaxing semi-final. 

In the Princess Royal Challenge Cup, Lola Anderson (Leander Club) underlined her pre-Regatta status as one of the favourites and made it a great day for her old school, Surbiton High, as she powered into the final. Anderson was a silver medallist at the Junior World Championships in 2016 and an u23 World Champion in the quad in 2019. She won a bronze at WC3 in the W1x.

Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup

Westminster powered off their station, but St Paul’s had far too much and set up a third consecutive final with Eton College, who had looked equally smooth against St Edward’s before the break. 

Temple Challenge Cup 

Amsterdam triumphed over Utrecht in the not to be missed all-Dutch semi-final of the Temple in race 26. Amsterdamsche Studenten Roeivereeniging Nereus, Netherlands (champions in 2015) with international pedigree throughout their eight held off a Utrechtsche Studenten Roeivereeniging Triton, Netherlands eight in blistering form. 

Nereus started powerfully and had pulled a length clear by Barrier but they must have been wondering what was coming as they failed to break the elastic. 

Where do you win a race? Well if you are Triton it is in the middle and in the space of 100m they seemed to take back half a boat. It was shades of their quarter-final race yesterday, when they chased down, cracked and knocked out Oxford Brookes University, who have won four of the last six titles in the Temple

But unlike Brookes, Nereus responded with 400m to go and edged the lead back to 2/3 of a length, it was nearly a length by the end. 

They will face Imperial ‘A’ in the final, who had earlier controlled a University of London ‘A’ with surprising ease.

Evening Session 
5.20 – 7.40pm

Lauren Henry, the 19-year-old from Leicestershire who shocked the Olympic gold medallist on Friday, showed it was no one-scull-wonder by beating Margaret Fellows (Long Beach Junior Crew, USA)  in the semi-final of the Princess Royal Challenge Cup. 

Fellows, who did not lack motivation after finishing fourth in the US trials and just missing out on Tokyo, could find no way past Henry (Leicester Rowing Club), a Great Britain u23 rower. Henry led from the start, was over a length up at the halfway mark at Fawley and looked composed and controlled as she extended away without spending too much. 

Henry will have her work cut out tomorrow against Lola Anderson though (see afternoon session). 

Doubling up (see morning session)

Michael Glover, Oscar Lindsay, Leonard Jenkins and Matthew Aldridge, four of the Oxford Brookes University eight who raced this morning, somehow found enough to overhaul a powerful Dutch quad from D.S.R. Laga and A.G.S.R. Gyas [NED] in the Visitors’ Challenge Plate (men’s coxless four, race 38 at 6.10pm). 

In one of those great Regatta races with the extra 112 metres extending to infinity, Brookes’ clawed back a ¾ length deficit at Fawley finding the arms, legs and lungs to take the lead and then, just, hold off a late Dutch drive to win by a canvas.

But how much have they spent for their two finals tomorrow? 

An hour later, the Leander 6 doubling up in the Remenham Challenge Cup (elite women’s eight) had an easier time of it, getting an early lead of a length at Fawley and though Molesey (with one Leander crewmate!) attacked they were still half a length down at the end. 

It was an Evening Session bathed in sunshine and bejewelled by nip and tuck racing. The Dutch crews that have come this year mean business and Hollandia Roeiclub, NED broke Leander hearts in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup, the men’s coxless four. They were level off the start and ¼ mile but Leander could never get ahead and a canvas at Fawley gradually extended and they were broken past the mile. But otherwise it was one of those great days for Leander with finalists throughout the events. 

Hollandia Roeiclub did not have it all their own way and two races later, in race 37, in the Remenham (elite women’s eight), were reeled in by Oxford Brookes University & Queen’s University, Belfast. A canvas behind at Barrier, the Brookes / Queen’s boat too them seat by seat and were rating lower throughout and it felt like they had bigger gears if needed. Those Leander double ups will need all their energy.