The 2017 season of the world’s most famous Regatta began in earnest at 9am this morning, under moody grey skies. Not to be deterred, the racing began with a clash between City of Oxford rowing club and Thames Rowing Club ‘B’ in the aptly named Thames Challenge Cup, with the Putney-based crew prevailing by 1 ¼ lengths.
In a few short minutes, both Dutch crews in action this morning ran out winners in their respective heats. K.A.R.Z.V De Hoop, who were racing in the Wyfold Challenge Cup, defeated Fulham Reach Boat Club, before K.S.R Njord saw off stiff opposition from Oxford Brookes University ‘C’.
De Hoop’s leggings were the subject of much discussion in the press tent, and the crew were happy to shed some light on the subject. “There's this person in Amsterdam who came up with the idea of our colourful leggings when drinking wine with the crew 10 years ago. He was Scottish and always wore a kilt”.
The Thames Challenge Cup is one of the most hotly contested events at the Regatta, and a couple of crews looked particularly impressive in dispatching their opposite numbers. Mitsubishi Boat Club from Japan has made the long trip to compete in the heart of the British countryside and made their journey look every inch worthwhile as they confidently beat Vesta Rowing Club.
Cox Yohei Iwasaki said: “We’re very happy to come away with the win today. We started off quickly and got out fast to help establish a solid rhythm. The Mitsubishi club record is reaching the semi-finals and this crew hopes to go on and win the event”.
In a race just before lunch, home favourites Leander Club beat Worcester Rowing Club by 2 ½ lengths.
Several overseas crews face the daunting prospects of early flights home, as the best of the British largely reigned supreme. National Champions in their native New Zealand, Avon Rowing Club were knocked out by Cantabrigian in the Thames Challenge Cup whilst Riverside Boat Club, USA were rowed through by the Tideway Scullers School in the same competition.
There might well be some tired legs in the Shiplake College crew tomorrow morning, despite the fact that today marks the opening of competitive racing. The National Schools’ Regatta bronze medalists were drawn against rivals Westminster School, who themselves were fourth at the latter event. Shiplake were eventual winners by a margin of 2/3 of a length, but they were pushed all the way.
Steering at Henley Royal Regatta is one of the most divisive topics one can discuss on the towpath, and today has proved the merit of learning the unique nature of the course. Several crews struggled to stay on their station, with clashes and warnings keeping the umpires busy. St Neots Rowing Club even had their bow-number sliced off after colliding with Akademischer RV Westfalen, Germany.
The final section of the day’s racing saw some of the crews considered favourites in their respective events take to the water. Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ comfortably beat the University of the West of England in the Temple Challenge Cup, whilst 2011 winners University of California, Berkeley, USA were convincing in their win against United Hospitals, London. Meanwhile, St Paul’s School escaped a near-catastrophe in their heat of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup to successfully begin their assault on the premier prize in schoolboy rowing.
Coach Bobby Thatcher commented: “It was an eventful first race with someone coming off their seat. It's good to do this in earlier rounds as there is less pressure to do well. We are looking for a simple race against Pangbourne, but are taking it one day at a time”.