Today at Henley
Semi-finals day at Henley Royal Regatta is special. There’s a unique atmosphere, a sense of waiting on the edge of glory. For eighty crews who began the day with dreams intact, this could be the penultimate step on the road to victory. The only event to make its 2016 debut on Saturday was the Ladies Challenge Plate with an entry of four crews from Leander Club, A.S.R. Nereus, the University of California, Berkeley and East India Club & Martys Boat Club.
Jubilation in the Jubilee
The first race of the day pitted together two of the fastest schoolgirl crews in the country as Headington, winners of championship girl’s eights at the National Schools’ Regatta, now changing boat category to line up against Warrington Rowing club, who won the quad at the same Regatta in May. Many expected Warrington, a boat with plenty of form and a Henley Women’s double scull victory under their belt, to progress in a stern cross-head wind. But it was the crew from Oxfordshire who stole the early initiative and never relinquished it, pushing out to a length around the halfway point and maintaining a safe distance between themselves and Warrington. The crew said: “We're so pumped for the final. It's gusty out there but everyone is dealing with the same conditions so it comes down to who copes with them best. That was our toughest race of the regatta so far.” For the third year in a row, it will be Gloucester Rowing Club who take the other station in Sunday’s final.
One of the races of the day came in the morning session, with Cook and McBrierty of Great Britain lining up against Demey & Jonville of France in the Silver Goblets and Nickalls Challenge Cup. The French moved out to an early lead and maintained their margin all the way down the course, despite intense pressure from the British pairing. As the crews reached the enclosures, Cook and McBrierty raised their rate in a desperate attempt to overcome the French. TV angles on the finish appeared to show the shells crossing together, with the finish judges adjudicating that Demey & Jonville had triumphed by two feet – one of the tightest margins the Regatta has witnessed this year.
They will go head to head with the Dutch national pair of Braas and Steenman who won their semi-final with a not rowed out verdict after the German crew suffered equipment failure.
After two consecutive finals, many thought it high time that The Tideway Scullers School successfully claimed the Wyfold Challenge Cup. Unfortunately for the men from London, Grasshopper Club of Switzerland had other ideas. The semi-final between the two crews was ferocious, with Grasshopper stretching out to ¾ of a length but never managing to break clear. Despite repeated pushes from the Scullers’ boat, the Swiss crew ran out winners by two-thirds of a length. Upper Thames take the second station in the final after victory over Sport Imperial Boat Club.
The first race post the lunch break was the first semi-final of The Temple Challenge Cup, which saw Harvard University take on fellow American’s and 2011 winners University of California, Berkeley. Harvard led from the start and built a commanding lead to win by one length.
Harvard bowman Sam Meijer, will be hoping to reverse his fortunes in tomorrow’s final. He was a losing crew member for Westminster in last year’s Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup against St Paul’s.
The second semi-final was between 2014 winners Oxford Brookes and American team, Yale University. It was the British team who progressed to the final with a superb win, with Brookes looking to recapture the title they won in 2014.
Defending champions, St Paul’s School, made smooth progression through to the final with victory over Melbourne Grammar School despite being three quarters of a length down at the end of the Island. However Eton, having already upset Westminster’s hopes of the Triple, will make for tough opposition and an exciting final tomorrow.
The first of the two semi-finals in The Grand Challenge Cup pitted Nautilus Rowing Club – effectively a British U23 crew – against Team Italia, the Italian national eight and it was the British youngsters who showed their future potential having only been together for just a few weeks. Team Italia took an early lead but Nautilus clawed it back claiming a two-length victory.
The Nautilus Coach said: “That was very exciting for a new and U23 crew to come in and get the better of the Italian national team! It’s an opportunity for the youngsters; they took it and seized it. Now we’ve just got to go out there and see what we can do in the final tomorrow.”
Nautilus will face the Dutch national eight, Team Hollandia, in tomorrow’s final. Hollandia beat New York AC and California RC in the other semi-final.
Record still on course…
In the Diamond Challenge Sculls New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale remains on course to equal Stuart MacKenzie’s record of six Diamond Challenge Scull wins with victory over Dane Sverri Nielsen. He will face Hannes Obreno of Belgium.
In the first semi-final of The Visitors' Challenge Cup Oxford Brookes University & Proteus clashed with University of California, Berkeley just after the Island. The Umpire stopped the race and restarted it with Berkeley claiming victory on the second attempt by 2 1/2 lengths.
There was more drama in the second semi-final with De Amstel & Proteus-Eretes of Holland colliding with the boom early in the race, and they recovered well to challenge Thames Rowing club. But it was Thames who booked their place in the final beating a crew that contained two Olympians.
GB at the double
Promising GB double of Nick Middleton and Jack Beaumont continued their superb progress through the field with a win over the Dutch double of Klomp and Wiersma.
The Slovak / Israeli pairing of Fistravec and Fridman beat the Belgium double to secure the final berth.
Middleton said: “We’re feeling confident going into the final. It’s our home turf so we always want to win here. We’ll go out and give it our best race. The plan here is always for our races to get better and better as we progress through the Regatta.”
There was more GB success on semi-finals day with Reading and Leander comprising a composite GB make up of Jess Leyden, Holly Nixon, Matilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Mel Wilson beating the Leander crew in the Princess Grace Challenge Cup.
In the other semi-final, Polish crew AZS Warszawa and Wisca Grudziadz put in a polished performance to win over American crew Schuylkill Navy HPC.
King’s College London Boat Club won the Wyfold Challenge Cup in the first post-war Henley Royal Regatta. Today saw one member of that crew performing a lunchtime row past the Stewards' Enclosure. 92-year-old Dr Francis de Marneffe was in the crew in 1946, and had been training weekly for the last year in preparation for the row-past which was performed in an eight and contained crew members from KCLBC past and present.
When asked afterwards if he’d enjoyed the exertion, he laughed. “No, I didn’t! I haven’t rowed an eight for 69 years, but I have been training for it.” He was watched by the only other surviving member of the crew, Thomas Christie, who rowed at the 1948 Olympics and twice won the Silver Goblets at Henley Royal Regatta.