Off the Water Raw: Day Two

Sarah Winckless

Sarah Winckless is an Olympic medallist, a Henley umpire and a Regatta Steward and she runs the live broadcast commentary teams providing background research, management and even commentary herself. In short there’s not much she doesn’t know about the racing and the form guide. And as a female rower who has come up through the ranks she finds the competitive pipeline that Henley provides something that really appeals.

Sarah Winckless

Explain the breadth of competition here at Henley?

We have huge depth across all of the different divisions, it’s very exciting. Just today the elite crews are starting to race but we also have the intermediate crews for the men, then for the women and the juniors we have school boys and school girls eights as well as club eights. So we can go from 14 years old at this regatta, right up to 50 years plus. 

When you were getting into rowing did you compete here as a junior?

When I was a junior I was actually a track and field athlete rather than a rower so I used to come here as a guest. I remember looking at the racing and thinking that looks terribly painful and wasn't for me but it’s amazing how wrong I was because I got to compete here at an elite level and I’m lucky enough to have four Henley medals. Now it’s really different and we’ve got young girls who are able to compete in events like the Diamond Jubilee that’s been going for a number of years now; more recently we’ve brought in the junior women’s eights which are very strong this year and what’s exciting for the young women out there is we have three new women’s events at junior, club and student level for our athletes.

We have crews - juniors and seniors - coming over from New Zealand, Australia and the USA to race which really shows the significance of the event?

I think this year particularly we’ve seen a lot of international crews wanting to be part of this. Since we’ve been putting the livestream out on Youtube they can see it, they can be part of it and think ‘yes this can be me’, and we’re seeing these international crews post-Covid coming over here.

As you say you can be a junior rower rubbing shoulders with Olympians...

Yes we have 12 Tokyo Olympic champions here at Henley this week which is really exciting and they’re walking around the boat tent like everyone else, which leads a lot of the other competing athletes to think ‘maybe that could be me one day!’ 

How does that affect the atmosphere here with such a diverse range of competitors?

I think the national and international crews we have racing here create a buzz but it’s often the schools and the young people that really lift the atmosphere. I’ve met so many parents that are just so excited to see their young athletes competing in the same event as Olympic and world champions. 

Isy Hawes

And at the top of that pathway ladder are the open events for elite athletes and the Remenham Challenge Cup for women’s eights. We spoke to Isy Hawes who rows in seat 6 for Leander as she came ashore after beating a Thames/University of California, Berkeley composite team.

Well done on the race, how are you feeling after it?

It was good, the course is really windy, and there was quite a big headwind coming off the island but we just stayed pretty internal and focused on what we were doing and the pattern that we were rowing, and had a big focus on trusting the process and knowing that we can work well in the difficult conditions.

What are your expectations for this week?

It’s the first year of it being a normal Henley for a while, even last year was still a bit irregular due to Covid, so there’s a lot of international competition coming over which is kind of an unknown for us as a crew as we haven't raced the yet this season, we’re looking forward to the challenge, the next round we’re racing the Americans which will be interesting.

Yeah you’re facing Princeton Training Center in the next round, how are you feeling about that?

Again they’re quite unknown but we’re going to do the same and stick to what we know and see. We’ve got pretty good boat speed, that race [the one just won against Thames/Berkeley] confirmed that for us, so we’re looking forward to lining up against them.

Besides Princeton, have you got your eyes on any of the other crews in the Remenham?

Well six of us are actually doubling up so we’ve got a Town 4 racing the Australians on Friday and then we also have a Pair doubling up too which are also facing high level competition so it’s been thrown at us at all angles but we’re really excited just to be racing.

Ollie Zeidler

The draw of Henley is as strong for previous winners as for first timers and Ollie Zeidler from Germany is back to see if he can add another victory to his 2019 Diamond Challenge Sculls (men’s open singles) title.

Ollie Zeidler

What are your memories of winning the Diamond Sculls in 2019? Do you like the head-to-head stadium feel of Henley? 

Winning in 2019 was pretty awesome. It is one of the nicest regatta experiences I’ve had in my short career and winning this high profile event at my first attempt was really, really good.

They say that Henley is a regatta that every rower wants to row in once - but you’re back! 

The men vs men, head-to-head is pretty awesome and really unique, especially for an international rower that’s usually racing in a big field. Now you only have one guy to handle and it’s really nice. And with the crowd very close to you it makes it very, very special to race here.

What’s the magic of Henley? 

Henley is a crazy event: powerful, colourful, a bit crazy, I really enjoy it. It’s so different - as i said it’s the best regatta experience I’ve had yet and I really like to be here and be back here and i’m looking forward to racing. 

Where does Henley fit into an international rower’s preparation?

Well it is very close to the World Cup which is the general test event for international rowers. So that’s why I think there may not be that many big names (here). I'm feeling strong, fit I think, I can handle both of them. The next two weeks will be very tough for me but now it’s just about enjoying it and having fun out here on the water.

Pablo Matan

Some races are easy, sometimes they are a fight right to the end. And when that fight is with a rival university from the same country it adds a layer of delight for the winner and disappointment for the loser. We spoke to Pablo Matan in the University of Washington 4 seat right after they had beaten Yale by just half a length in the Temple for student men’s eights.

That was a fantastic race, how are you feeling after it?

Yeah it was a super hard and fast race, we had to respond to everything they gave. They (Yale) are a really great lightweight crew and they’ve dominated all season for the lightweights, so we knew going into it it was going to be a hard race and I think we’re all pretty happy with how we responded.

Is this your first Henley Royal Regatta? And what’s it like racing in this environment?

It is yeah! It’s pretty crazy, you watch it every year on YouTube, watch so many videos of the Henley races, and then the first time rowing on to the course is just like ‘wow’! It was everything and it’s just so awesome lining up on this iconic course. With college racing in the US we do do quite a bit of one-on-one racing so we do have a lot of practice with it, but it’s amazing to be here.

How confident are you as a club - you’ve sent a number of crews over for this regatta?

I think we’re feeling very confident as a club. We know how we can race, we know know our style of racing, and we know we can take on just about anyone here, so yeah we’re really excited, and going into every race knowing we can do it.

Are you watching any other crews in particular? Do you have your eyes on any other crews as competition in the Temple?

I think we’re just looking towards the next race every time, we’re not looking at anyone specifically, just want to take on whoever we get drawn against next and take it all the way.

Bodo Schulenburg

The rowers do the hard graft but coaches and team managers have a major part to play in picking and preparing teams to gel together and perform in competition. We spoke to Bodo Schulenburg, the Hinksey Sculling School Director of Rowing. Hinksey won a bronze medal at the 2022 national championships and reached a semifinal in the Henley Women’s Regatta. And today a Hinksey crew set the fastest time to the Barrier in the Prince Philip Challenge Cup for junior women’s eights.

Prince Philip | Hinksey Sculling School | ©

Tell us about the setup of Hinksey…

We are a junior rowing club, so we don’t have a lot of money coming from seniors members and our philosophy is that anyone who wants to row can, even if they can’t afford to pay. We have a bursary set up and we rely on fundraising if we need a new boat or part of one. 

Rowing charities are traditionally very good at getting people through the door, especially from non-traditional rowing backgrounds, and showing them the life-changing effect rowing can have on young people’s lives. 

Talk about how you have been developing as a club…

Hinksey have always had a lot of good J14s and J15s but when with the new team we’ve tried to work out how we can add the performance part. We tried to look at what was holding Hinksey back with the amount of kids we have. It’s been really good to achieve what we have. 

How have the new women’s events introduced in the last couple of years impacted Hinksey?

This has been transformative for a programme like ours. We can keep so many more rowers involved, develop them a lot more and lead them to the next level. And it will make a big difference because we only had nine girls this year, so we couldn’t run a quad. 

How significant is your fastest time to Barrier in the PP?

We don’t look at that too much at that, we’re a light crew, so for us it’s easier for us to get up to speed. More important for us is the speed in the middle part of the course. We’re definitely happy, but there’s a lot that can happen. 

What are your aspirations at Henley this year?

(Here at Henley) we have to see now how we hold up against the Australians. We haven’t swept at all before last year. We aimed to see if we can make a Henley final this year, so we didn’t focus too much on results in the early part of the season, but then we got a bronze in the Nationals and then a semi-final in the Henley Women’s (Regatta).