Tales From The Tents

The Eagle has Landed: American Crews taking on The Prince Phillip Challenge Trophy

In its short four-year history, The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy has already cemented a reputation for attracting the top international crews. Over the past two years, the trophy has been won by St. Catherine’s School and Greenwich Crew from Australia and the USA respectively, in finals entirely made up of overseas clubs and schools. The challenge of matching the very best that the world has to offer now falls at the feet of a fleet of domestic entrants, including newly-minted national champions, Hinksey Sculling School, and Henley Women’s Regatta winners, Headington School. 

On Thursday morning, Newport Aquatic Center, USA, made a lasting impression with their 4 ¼-length victory over Marlow Rowing Club in their first outing at Henley Royal Regatta. Weston Cole, girls head coach at Newport, described the moment when he began to consider the possibility of making the journey to Henley. “At Youth Nationals [in 2023], we were very close to Greenwich, who then came on to win the Regatta,” he said. “So, when the team won the San Diego Crew Classic earlier this year, that was when we really made the push to be here.” 

“There’s a lot going on” at Newport Aquatic Center, where a number of watersports are offered, but it is rowing that has been growing and building over the last couple of years. Cole isn’t afraid to admit the privilege Newport holds with regards to the affluence of the area and the impact of this on the resources at the club’s disposal. “It helps with getting better coaching, boats, and equipment,” he commented. “After all, it was corporate sponsorship that opened the door for the crew to travel overseas for the Regatta.”

From Cole’s point of view, the drive to reach the speed of other top crews is something that sets American rowers apart from the rest. He explained the response to the RowAmerica Rye dominance at the US Youth Nationals, who are also competing at Henley Royal Regatta. “We’ve got to step our game up, but in a sustainable way,” he said. “ I really just let them go out and have fun and try to be as low stress as possible. We are here to take it one race at a time.” 

It's undeniable that Cole’s attitude has led to success; his crew won silver at the USRowing Youth National Championships and entered The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy as a seeded crew. When it comes to the one-on-one racing that only Henley offers, Cole said: “As the Americans who are less familiar with the course and river rowing in general, we want to try and get as good of a start as possible. I’m not a coach who’s going to tell them [the crew] what to do every metre down the course. I really trust our coxswain to make the calls in a duel-style race as needed.” 

This is certainly an approach that paid dividends in today’s heat when Newport Aquatic Center faced St. Edward’s School, silver medal winners at the National Schools’ Regatta. In a superb tussle, Teddies led for much of the course, only for the resilient Americans to overturn their margin, passing through the Enclosures and set up a tantalising Semi Final with Headington School.

With international entries on the rise, almost a third of qualifying crews in the category this year were from the USA or Australia, and triumphing over domestic teams has made their journey worthwhile. This afternoon’s quarter finals each comprised a domestic and an international crew. Racing promises to be exciting, but will the international crews continue to command victory or have the British finally found the missing puzzle piece to secure victory?



Henley Royal Regatta Press Team – hrr@thephagroup.com

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