Regatta draws close as crews rejoin rivalries

It might have been the first time in its 182-year history that the Draw for Henley Royal Regatta had not taken place in a packed Henley town hall, but there was no shortage of drama on Sunday as Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management, drew the numbers from the Grand Challenge Cup on livestream from Regatta headquarters.
“The Regatta will look different this year because of COVID-19 safety protocols – that is why we moved the Draw – and it is a little smaller this year, but not by much, there are 345 races this year compared to 355 in 2019,” Redgrave said. “Overseas numbers are down, but I was surprised by the numbers we do have, and the quality is there. In many of the events this will be the culmination of four to six years together and the camaraderie of school and university crews training for an extra six weeks through the summer is shining through.”
It will not be a surprise if St Joseph’s Preparatory School, USA, prove formidable opposition in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (eights). They have the pedigree and form and would not be sending a boat unless they were confident. They were drawn in St Paul’s School (2018 winners) side of the draw and the two crews could meet in the quarter-final on Friday. The holders, Eton College, are in the other half of the draw, where Radley College and Shiplake College have been drawn together in the first round for what could be one of the races to watch on Wednesday.
The strength of the Regatta was underlined, as ever, by the formidable qualifying event on Saturday at Dorney Lake. World medallists such as Charles Cousins and giantkillers such as Matt Brigham had to come through qualifying.
“The level of the competition in the qualifiers emphasises the standard required to make it into the Regatta,” Redgrave said. “Big names and past performances do not guarantee a free pass, we try to go on form. 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.”
Form is the key and The Tideway Scullers’ School were successful in qualifying in the Thames Challenge Cup (men’s club eights) and are now one of the selected boats.
But given the last eighteen months and the lack of racing, it has rarely been so hard to assess entries, and there was a late change in the Draw on Sunday evening with TBC Racing, USA, which was originally a selected boat in The Wyfold Challenge Cup (club men’s four), has now been moved into the Visitors Challenge Cup (intermediate men’s four). The boat is made up of four students racing for George Washington University this year and they will race Oxford Brookes University “B” in the first round on Thursday.
The move presents a great opportunity for Broxbourne Rowing Club, which as the fastest non-qualifying crew on Saturday, is now able to take the position of TBC Racing USA in The Wyfold Challenge Cup.
But few will have had quite as much to celebrate as Katie Greves, Olympic silver medallist at the Rio 2016 Olympics, who is in the Stonor Challenge Trophy with fellow silver medallist Jessica Eddie. Greves got married today (Sunday) after moving her wedding because of the qualifiers being moved to Saturday rather than the usual Friday before the Regatta.
Meanwhile, withdrawals included the Great Britain development crew in the women’s quadruple sculls racing for Edinburgh and Leander in the Princess Grace Challenge Cup. The Dutch crew ASR Nereus, NED, have withdrawn from the Remenham Challenge Cup (women’s elite eights). This event therefore begins with two semi-finals, and will not now race on Friday.

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. More than 300 races are staged at the Regatta, featuring Olympians and emerging stars from around the world.
Henley Royal Regatta is returning to the water after being cancelled in 2020 for the first time in its 182-year history outside of the World Wars.
Henley reawakening video

Spectator COVID-19 code of conduct video