Off the Water Raw - Thursday


Canadian Tokyo Olympic Gold Medallist Andrea Proske

Laura – it’s impressive to see how far you’ve come, ultimately landing on an Olympic gold, how have you found it? 

Andrea - yes I qualified in the women’s double for the Olympics, and I’ve been very fortunate to move into the women’s eights. I’m an extroverted person so being in a crew especially as special as the women’s eights, and working on that project has been so rewarding. 

Laura – it’s great to see that you can come into rowing later in life and be so successful, you’re here at Henley Royal Regatta not just to walk around with a gold medal round your neck but you’re actually racing in the smallest boat you possibly can – from the biggest to the smallest, in the women’s single sculls here. Tell me about the journey.

Andrea – so this is really a love letter to the sport. I started in the singles, spent a lot of years in the singles, and to come to this amazing Regatta that has just such a rich past – longer than the Olympics – is just so special. I did Women’s Henley, Henley has a special place in my heart. In 2017 when I didn’t make my first world’s team I came here and I trained, so to be able to be here is just so exciting. 

Laura – what do you make of your opposition and indeed your chances here? 

Andrea – I try to focus on myself. The same way when we were in the Tokyo final, I can only do what I can do, and I love one-on-one racing – we have similar racing in Canada. It’s wild, somewhat akin to boxing, so I’m ready to throw down my very best race but I know there’s going to be some pretty fierce opposition. 

Shiplake College, Christa Scott, cox & Lucas Morgan, 2 seat (shiplake lost two university of London A in the temple)

Christa – I started crying at the finish, it’s such an incredible thing to be here after the year we’ve had and the challenges we’ve gone through. Honestly, these boys are such an inspiration, the hard work they did, in the first lockdown and the second one, it was inspirational. I was looking at the numbers every day, it was insane. So even though we were knocked out day two, it was the most rewarding thing ever for us. 

Laura – and we can’t overstate that missing the Regatta last year was a missed opportunity for so many. Does that make it all the more sweeter just being here now, win or lose?

Lucas – yeah just being here it makes it even better. In 2019 I was in the Shiplake boat trying to qualify for the Temple Challenge Cup. I’m now here three years later which eventually qualifying was amazing, and then being able to actually not only race but race twice for the first time Shiplakes made day 2 the Temple so it’s really good. We’ve got so many guys coming up in J16 and year 12 so I think Shiplakes has got a good year ahead of it.

Christa – yeah the year 11s in our boat, I was shocked. I’ve been coxing boys in year 13 last year and this year, and those boys that came into our boat at the start of summer, slotted in just like that. I’m so proud of those 3, they’ve showed so much determination, and I’m just so proud of them. 

Laura – Christa your voice is so hoarse by cheering the other Shiplake crews and all the action on the water today. Can you speak to the strength, depth and spirit of rowing at Shiplake?

Lucas – it is huge, and we’re a small rowing boat club, which makes it a little bit harder when picking crews, but it makes it so much better when we have accomplishments in ourselves. And it’s really a tight knit community whether you’re a J14, J15, all the way up into the first eights. Everyone chats, everyone gets along, there’s no divide. It really is a family community, and same goes for the coaches as well, they’ve brought us up to where we are. Thank you Shiplake for that!

Christa – it’s amazing, and from the girls’ side, the girls’ squad this year, as I’m sure a lot of people know, it’s insane and that bond, it’s not just the boys’ squad and the girls’ squad, or the first eight and the second eight, we’re all together. Leading up to Henley I don’t think the squad has ever been so tight knit and I really hope that is something that will go on for the rest of Shiplake’s future which I’m pretty sure will be very bright. 

Greg Searle, Olympic champion and Henley Steward 

Laura - welcome back to day number two of the Henley Royal Regatta, the afternoon session is just minutes away, and we have lots more to bring you. First of all though I’d like to welcome the rather tall – as ever here at the Regatta I’m dwarfed by most of my interviewees - Greg Searle, Olympic champion and double bronze medallist, and of course Henley Steward here. Regatta is back. How happy are you? 

Greg – Regatta is back, and I’m delighted, so happy for all the athletes. Just speaking to people, particularly the juniors, the students who train so hard, they look forward to the Henley Royal Regatta. And they might have missed it, either in the lower sixth, or year 11, now they’re getting to race on the Henley course and they’re loving it, and we’re loving putting the event on and seeing so many people engaging with that. 

Laura – in 2019 we saw the Regatta modernising. We’re seeing now post/during the pandemic, the Regatta adapting to those challenges as well. How are you seeing that from the inside?

Greg – I’m seeing it from the inside, and I’m sometimes seeing it from the launches as well going along the course.  It’s lovely seeing the athletes together on the other side, on the Fawley Meadows side. It’s a different experience for the athletes there but I’m hoping that’s something they’re enjoying, rubbing shoulders with each other in a different way. Then you come to this side of the course, and obviously the area that used to be the boat tent enclosure is the spectator area. Big screen set up, there was a lot of fun on the picnic tables yesterday, people enjoying the atmosphere in a different kind of way. In a more relaxed kind of way. Less jackets and ties, and seeing Henley as learning and growing off the water as well as what’s happening on the water with the events and so on. 

Laura – well yes we spoke to AnnaMarie Phelps about those new events yesterday. Three new women’s  eights. How important is that for the Regatta?

Greg – I think it’s vital for the Regatta. We want to see rowing developing, we want to see young girls, students, and young women getting an opportunity to row, and seeing a real target to go for, alongside the other targets there they have of course the Henley women’s and so on. But to actually say, yeah, race at Henley Royal Regatta, totally equal platform, and it’s fantastic to see that coming through. They’re creating memories for a lifetime. Because these are memories for a lifetime that people could have missed out on had we not put the Regatta on. So you know, it’s such a special opportunity to race here and I think people will get that now. It’s brilliant. 

Laura – we’re just in front of the launches and indeed the press box just over my shoulder. Greg you’ve been doing commentary here too. How is that, how are you enjoying your commentary? 

Greg – the commentary is fantastic because you get to have the best view in the house. Sat there, the commentary box looks straight down the course, all 2,112 metres. Then we’ve got the screens in front of us, it’s just fantastic you feel like you’re inside the boats. And for the races we’ve had plenty of thrills and spills,  sometimes it surprises, when the crews are coming together. We had that close finish in the morning with the singles, and that three foot between the crews. We get to see that up close and we really enjoy trying to bring it to people’s homes. We know we’ve got people tuning in from the United States, crews come over here who have actually made the trip, they’ve made it happen, and we love bringing this to life for them. So I’m looking forward to getting into the commentary boxes and talking about it. 

Laura – and I’m finding some of the shots that we’re seeing – the drone and the hoist, absolutely jaw dropping. It’s stunning isn’t it. 

Greg – yes it is. And you get to see some of the nuances, some of the intricacies of rowing with that drone shot over head, all those real closeups, and you can actually see what’s making a difference. You can see this is why that crews going faster, and not just that it is going faster. You can see the angles, you can see the movements, you can see the shoulders, the kind of looks on their faces, even people talking. And hopefully people get more of a feeling of what makes the boat goes fast. 

Laura – and for those just tuning into Henley for perhaps the first time, and indeed an Olympic rower like yourself, this kind of match racing head-to-head, one crew vs another, so different to six-lane Regatta racing. 

Greg – yes, it’s a gladiatorial race. You can get in front and try and finish the others off, get out of sight. Maybe once you get out of sight you get a little bit further up, maybe you can be a little bit pushing it with the rudder, letting the boat drift out, letting the waves come out there, making it a little bit harder for the other crew once you’re ahead. They just feel the wash, you can’t get your paddles in front of them, but you can feel the wash. You’re just out of sight, so it’s a real mental game in a Henley race, to actually stay in it. So if you’re in a crew and think you have a chance, you’ve got to out as hard as you can. The problem is if both crews do that, you both go as hard as possibly can to try and get in front, and then you’ve still got half the course to go, and they’re still beside you. And those are those kind of special moments you train for. Where you’re just rowing along, and there’s a crew side by side with you, and you’ve already given what you think is all you’ve got, but you imagine they’ve given all what they’ve got and that’s when it gets really interesting. And I hope that’s what we’re going to have some of this afternoon, where you’ve got crews side by side, toughing it out, trying to keep the technique together, trying to keep mentally strong and then dig as deep as they can physically. It’s those three things – that technique, the mental side and the physical side, and bringing those together as a team is what gets you through these races. 

Laura – and they are those memories that we love watching both from the television and spectators from the bank. As a gust of wind almost took my hair right across the camera shot there, how challenging are these conditions? We’ve got quite a strong head breeze.

Greg -  yes it’s been a building head breeze, both days actually getting a bit stronger throughout the day. At the moment, I don’t think it’s bad, I don’t think its going to cause people too many problems. If anything, it might make things harder physically, but not necessarily technically. With the headwind things almost move a bit slower, a bit easier. The tail wind almost blows you off your feet and you need your technique needs to be stronger. In this head wind it’s more of a physical challenge, the race goes on a bit longer, you need to be a bit stronger and sit up a bit taller. So at the moment these aren’t bad conditions, times won’t be particularly slow, I think everyone who’s here will be able to handle them really well. 


Laura - you’ve had an incredible entry this year at Henley Royal Regatta, we could see Oxford Brookes crews racing Oxford Brookes crews come Sunday, what do you make of it?

Henry - incredibly excited this year, obviously we’ve been building for a while as a club.

You’re right, it's the strongest entry we’ve ever had, all the way top-down the men’s and women’s men’s programme. We’re desperate to get out there, and we’ve only really just arrived with some of our boats from training from Wallingford, so hopefully a few crews out to watch for now from us. 

Laura - you have many crews on the water now, where do you see your strongest chances? 

Henry - our strongest boat is in the Grand Challenge Cup on the men’s side. On the women’s side we’ve got the Remenham Challenge Cup eights, and the Island Challenge Cup Eights, which we are desperate to try and get our hands on in the first year.  

In that group I think we’ve got a really strong chance with the Island Challenge Cup eights. 

In the Grand Challenge Cup we are racing some of our old boys. Not quite the competition we were hoping for, we were hoping to race one of the international eights from either of the Olympics that didn’t qualify. But you can only race who turns up, and it may be that we’ve scared off a few people off from racing that event!

We’ve tried to feel from the top down this year, and to go as high up as we think we can stretch ourselves as much as possible with some crews even doubling up. 

Katie Greves & Jess Eddie(Wallingford Rowing Club & london rowing club) - stonnor challenge trophy - Women double scull's (Race n°21 WINNErs)

Laura - I’m joined now by newly-married Katie Greves and Jess Eddie, racing in the Stonor Challenge Trophy, with the verdict easy for the win.

Katie – married on Sunday, I moved the wedding not because of the qualifier, but because my partner Chris is senior coach at a girl’s school and thought he was going to be needed for qualifiers, but they qualified anyway so they didn’t actually need to, but we had already moved it by that point. 

Getting married, Libby’s birthday (celebrating first birthday) A lot going on!

Laura – how was it?

Jess –  today was bumpy! You can’t see it from the bank, but it’s one of the joys of Henley, there’s boats on the side, crews at the start, rivers flowing against you, some tricky collision but it adds to the drama. Hard work. 

Katie – I had to remind Jess of that last night, because she’s only ever been here in an eight before. Little bit different in a small boat!

Laura – how did this come about, you’re Rio Silver Medallists 2016. And now you’re racing in Henley in a double sculls.

Jess – for the first time ever we’ve had the opportunity to scull, I’ve only ever swept here. We were meant to do women’s Henley, but I got Covided out of that, so we looked at the schedule and thought, ‘hold on a second’, we have another chance to row and threw our hats into the ring.

Jess – Covid has made people realise how much you miss being able to do this, being competitive, I don’t think we’re quite up at our Olympic level, but it’s just really lovely, we are massively competitive people and it’s great just being back out there doing something we love. 

Laura – it’s so nice to see Olympians racing here, I think it’s what draws so many people to Henley. Quick word on tomorrow, you’ll be racing against Emily Craig and Imogen Grant, who came 4th  by a 100th of a second in the Olympic lightweight double sculls. 

Jess – they’re going to be fast, so we are going to relish the chance to race up against them. They’re going to be super sharp, just off the plane from Tokyo.

Katie – just get off the blocks, got nothing to lose. We’re excited!