Today at Henley
The Friday of Henley Royal Regatta saw the open categories begin in earnest as the sun began to finally impose itself upon the event. The Grand, Stewards’, Queen Mother, Remenham and Princess Royal Challenge Cups all started on Friday, whilst the club, student and junior events rolled on into the quarter finals. Holland, Italy and Spain’s men’s eights all saw action whilst selected crews were introduced into the fold in the double and pair events. Meanwhile, a two-minute silence was beautifully observed across the regatta in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
When Tim Brys and Niels van Zandweghe crossed the line at the final Olympic qualification regatta to win the lightweight double sculls, you’d be forgiven for thinking that moment would be the crowning moment in a season which has seen them go from strength to strength. However, the young Belgian duo were on the receiving end of some technicalities, which meant that despite winning their event as stipulated in Olympic qualification rules, they were denied a place at the 2016 Rio Games. The disappointment was palpable, but the double have put this behind them in their quest for silverware at Henley Royal Regatta. They raced this morning in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup, defeating a crew from The Tideway Scullers School and Bexhill Amateur Rowing Club. Brys said: “The start is very important at Henley and we feel like we got that spot on today. We loved the clapping as we came into the enclosures – it's certainly the most exciting regatta we've raced at.”
Lightweight Gear Change
The Queen Mother received a record entry this year with a total of eight entries. The British lightweight quad matched up against a Danish combination from Danske S.R. & Roforeningen in a race which provided a fascinating comparison between the virtues of heavyweight and lightweight sculling. It was British interest which prevailed in the end; the Leander Club & Oxford Brookes University crew changed gears to draw away from a Danish quad who had stolen the early initiative. “Racing on the Friday in the Queen Mother is a huge honour,” explained Jamie Copus. “It was a well-measured race from the Danes to manage the middle of the course, but we knew we had the extra speed in the bank.”
One side of the Temple Challenge Cup draw will see an all-American semi-final as junior varsity champions Harvard take on a resurgent California crew in what promises to be one of the races of the Regatta. Harvard saw off the University of London whilst California, Berkeley, were consummate in their win over Imperial College London. Coach Patrick Schulkers said the crew were looking forward to racing at the weekend. “There’s no greater place to row in front of family and friends, so we are looking forward to representing the Bears at the highest level.”
Hollandia Roeiclub turned on the style to see off the close attentions of a Canadian U23 crew, whose journey to Tokyo 2020 begins at Henley Royal Regatta. The Italian national eight, racing as Team Italia, came from behind to beat Crefelder & Dorsten. Nautilus Rowing Club, comprising several top-end British student athletes, beat the Spanish senior eight in the first race after the tea break. The Grand Challenge Cup received seven entries from seven countries this year; New York A.C. & California Rowing Club, USA were given a bye to Saturday’s racing.
Late Drama in the Visitors'
Adelaide Rowing Club of Australia were disqualified in the penultimate race of the day, having just crossed the line ahead of a composite crew from Oxford Brookes University & Proteus of the Netherlands. The Australians finished 4 feet up on the composite crew, with former British Olympian Alex Partridge onboard, but were disqualified for refusing to return to their station despite a warning from the umpire. Brookes & Proteus will now face the University of California, Berkeley, in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Saturday’s racing promises to be some of the tightest and most competitive in recent history, with a number of phenomenal clashes lined up. Harvard and California, Berkeley, face each other in a blockbuster Temple Challenge Cup contest whilst the prospective British U23 women’s eight faces Ivy League Championship winners Princeton University. Domestic interest has been slimmed in the Thames Challenge Cup, with Molesey Boat Club the sole surviving British crew. They face Roeivereeniging Willem III of Holland. The Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup pits championship girl’s quad winners Warrington against the dominant force in junior women’s eights, Headington. The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, which often draws the most ardent crowds along the 2112m stretch, will see strong foreign interest from a powerful Melbourne Grammar School outfit face up against holders, St Paul’s School. The top two from the National Schools’ Regatta, Westminster School and Eton College, meet in the other semi-final.