International quality shows powerful draw of Henley Royal Regatta

The Draw for the 184th Henley Royal Regatta today (Saturday) in Henley Town Hall has set up some fascinating contests across the 26 events.

The field of 420 crews from 17 nations competing in the six-day Regatta includes a host of Olympic and world championship medalists and some exceptionally strong international boats, particularly in the junior events. 

"There is no such thing as an easy draw at Henley"

“There is no such thing as an easy draw at Henley,” Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management, said. “The depth in quality is immense and the crews will feel the increase in pressure every day they stay in the Regatta.”

“Traditionally, we have 'selected' certain crews in the draw for a number of the events. The purpose of this is to achieve the fairest and most satisfactory racing programme. Crews may be 'selected' because we believe them to be the fastest in their event, or because we wish to keep apart overseas crews from the same Club or Country, or for other similar reasons.”

"You don't know who is going to win, but what you do know is that crews are not going to travel all the way around the world unless they believe they are going to be pretty quick."

“You don’t know who is going to win, but what you do know is that crews are not going to travel all the way around the world unless they believe they are going to be pretty quick - we’re just not sure what pretty quick means yet.”

Great Britain’s boats

Fresh from finishing top of the medal table at the World Rowing Cup II event in Varese, Italy, last weekend, Great Britain will be well represented in most of the open events and the draw threw up some fascinating contests - particularly for later in the week. It will be a last chance to see the crews together at Henley with the Paris 2024 Olympics just over a year away.

In The Queen Mother Challenge Cup (Men's Quad Sculls), Great Britain’s boat has the easier draw on paper with world champions, Poland, having to get past the Canadian quad.

The Remenham Challenge Cup, the elite women’s eights event, looks competitive with the Great Britain boat (Marlow R.C. & Leander Club)  on the same side of the draw as Canada’s Maple Bay Rowing Club. Hollandia Roeiclub, Netherlands, boasting a wealth of Under-23 talent are the standout in the top half, although Princeton, third in USA’s national college championships, will not bow out without a fight. 

Britain’s top pair and childhood friends, Ollie Wynne-Griffith and Tom George, who won gold in Varese, start favourites in the Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup (Men’s Pair). It would be a first Henley victory for Wynne-Griffith, but there is enough international competition to make it far from certain. 

Many eyes will be on The Town Challenge Cup (Women's Coxless Fours), where Helen Glover, Britain’s double Olympic champion, and Heidi Long, Sam Redgrave and Rebecca Shorten (Leander Club and Imperial College London) are hot favourites. They just took silver in Varese and have been drawn in the other half from their most serious challengers, a Leander Club boat full of U23 talent. 

Schools - Henley’s gravitational pull

Even with so much Olympic talent on display, it is the junior events this year which promise six epic days. A rule change in The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men's Eights) means that for the first-time clubs, as well as schools, have been allowed to enter and a USA club could be the champion by Sunday. 

There is an extra frisson as St Edward’s School won the national championships a month ago to put St Paul’s School, Eton College and Radley College noses out of joint. But they will have more than domestic rivals in mind with Greenwich Crew, USA - who are not a selected boat, but could be peaking - in their half. Although St Edward’s will have to get past Eton, the 2021 champions, first. 

In the other half, St Paul’s, the 2022 Henley champions, have been drawn with Brisbane Boys’ College, Australia and perhaps more significantly Marin Rowing Association, USA, a San Francisco Bay club who come with fast times and a big reputation. The Seattle-based club, Green Lake, are unselected but will be hunting in those waters too.

Prince Philip Challenge

Perhaps even more than the PE, The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women's Eights) looks stronger than last year and still harder for the domestic crews, none of whom could make the 2022 final.

Headington School will be confident of repeating their 2021 - the inaugural win of this trophy having swept all before them this season including the Women’s Head, the National Schools Regatta, and Henley Women’s Regatta last Sunday (June 18). 

They are likely to face Henley Rowing Club, who pushed them much harder in the final at Henley Women’s Regatta than earlier in the season, and beyond that Greenwich Crew, USA, who arrive as one of the best boats in the USA this year.

The bottom half of the draw is packed with international talent, including Winter Park, USA, the runners-up last year, who have five of the eight that got so close last year. The four selected boats in the bottom half are two USA and two Australian boats, but St Catherine’s School are not returning champions from last year, this St Cats is from New South Wales not Victoria.

Spanish heavyweights

Spanish heavyweight men’s double, Aleix Garcia Pujolar & Rodrigo Conde Romero – silver medallists at both the 2022 World and European championships (though fifth in the 2023 Euros at the end of May) - are favourites in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup (Men's Double Sculls). Their most likely challengers are Britain’s mix of youth and experience, Aidan Thompson and John Collins (racing as Twickenham Rowing Club & Leander Club), who were drawn in the other half. 

German-Ukraine eight

The combined German-Ukraine eight from Deutscher Ruder-Club von 1884 e.V. Hannover are ones to watch in The Thames Challenge Cup (Club Men's Eights). They were drawn against qualifiers Leeds Rowing Club. But with such a large and high-quality field Hannover will have to produce something incredible to make it to the weekend. 

Qualifying strength

No one should take qualifiers lightly. The strength of the 2023 Regatta was underlined by the Qualifying Races yesterday (Friday, 23 June), where 440 crews competed in a time-trial format over the 2,112-metre Course for just 130 places.

The Zeidler effect
The name of Brigham always brings a certain excitement to the draw, not just because of his feat alone, but what it represents. However, it would be more than lightning striking twice if Matt Brigham, the Leeds University student, who knocked out New Zealand’s double Olympic champion and six-time Diamond Challenge Sculls Winner Mahé Drysdale in 2019, was to beat Germany’s Oliver Zeidler. Brigham was drawn on the same side as the 26-year-old Zeidler, who is the men’s single sculls world champion and the winner of The Diamonds at Henley last year. Zeidler is favourite for a third title.


Notes to the editor

About Henley Royal Regatta:

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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