Split Seconds Decide Day Two of Henley Royal Regatta

If day one of Henley Royal Regatta was about firsts, day two was about seconds - split seconds - as the racing level ratcheted up a gear and there was a stream of head-to-head Henley side-by-sides down the gladiatorial 2,112-metre Course. The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men’s Eights) produced a series of classics on its second day, closely followed by The Visitors' Challenge Cup (Intermediate Men's Coxless Four) and The Island Challenge Cup (Student Women’s Eight).

There was drama until the very end of the day and whilst it looked like being remembered for close racing, no one knew quite how close until an Anglo-French duel got up close and personal in race 77. The Club de L’Aviron de Vichy and Cercle de L’Aviron de Lyon, France and Oxford Brookes University boats clashed spectacularly metres before the line in The Visitors' Challenge Cup (Intermediate Men's Coxless Four). 

Matthew Pinsent, the Race Umpire ordered a re-row and 50 minutes later they almost clashed again at the start. Pinsent was busy with his flag for much of the race before Brookes, the holders, held on to keep their hopes of defending their title alive. 

The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women’s Eight) promises the same tomorrow after the leading crews all laid down mightily impressive markers. In just its second year, the strength of The Prince Philip, renamed to commemorate The Duke of Edinburgh, a keen sportsman, who passed away last year, was underlined by its first day of competition.

First up and most impressive of all was the performance of Hinksey Sculling School. The emergence of Hinksey, a community rowing club in Oxford, which has a focus on junior rowing, has been one of the great rowing stories of the last two decades and of the Regatta. They shone at Henley last year, narrowly losing the Britannia Challenge Cup (Men’s Club Four) to a powerful Frankfurter Germania, rowing with an assortment of borrowed oars and a borrowed boat from Radley College. In their first appearance in the Regatta in 2019 they were knocked out in the first round of the Fawley, so their curve of improvement is astonishing. 

The sculling school had never entered the sweep events before last year and now, with just nine girls in their programme they have produced an eight to worry the best that Australia have tomorrow (Thursday). Hinksey will face St. Catherine’s School, Australia who provide half of Australia’s junior national squad and eased past Shiplake College on Wednesday morning. 

Hinksey and Ramsay turn up the heat

Hinksey made mincemeat of the headwind with the fastest start of the day. They were not the only ones cooking up a storm - celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was at the Regatta today. 

"More important for us is the speed in the middle part of the course."

In Race 6 of the day, Hinksey set a benchmark to Barrier (2:11; just past the quarter-mile, where leaders with clear water traditional ease off) as they controlled the local favourites, Shiplake College. Bodo Schulenburg, the Director of Rowing, played down expectations. “We don’t look at that too much; we’re a young, light crew, so for us it’s easier for us to get up to speed,” he said. “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.

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). 

“We don’t have the same numbers compared to other programmes, we had nine girls in the PP programme, so we have to get them to be as good as they can be. 

“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. We have tried to add the performance element.”

The strength in depth of the three women’s events (the Wargrave - Club Eights, the Island - Student Eights and the  Prince Philip - Junior Women’s Eights) was evident yesterday and Schulenburg said they were already making a huge difference to what Hinksey was planning. 

"This has been transformative for a programme like ours."

“This has been transformative for a programme like ours,” he said. “It’s great for the sport that Henley has done this. We can keep so many more rowers involved, develop them a lot more and lead them to the next level. We are a junior rowing club, so we don’t have a lot of money coming from senior members and our philosophy is that anyone who wants to row can, even if they can’t afford to pay.”

Read about all action on the water here.

Highlights include:


Notes to the editor


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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