There are few days in the British sporting calendar with as much at stake for so many as the Qualifying Races for Henley Royal Regatta. There were 2,323 athletes in 440 crews competing on the famous stretch of water at Henley-on Thames on Friday, with only 772 in 130 crews going through to join those pre-qualified for Regatta week in the Draw tomorrow (Saturday). That means 1,551 - more than two-thirds - whose journey ends today.
“Some go home happier than others, but for many Qualifying Race day at Henley is the biggest race of their lives”
“Some go home happier than others, but for many Qualifying Race day at Henley is the biggest race of their lives,” Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management said. “Some of our athletes tell us that this is their final, which gives an idea of the stakes.
“We’ve had a record number of domestic Entries this year and with the women’s Entry doubling since 2019 we can see the increased standard and pressure in those events, particularly the Prince Philip (Junior Women’s Eights), the Island (Student Women’s Eights) and the Wargrave (Club Women’s Eights) in 2021.”
At least one family thrived on that pressure, as the Cassidy sisters both qualified in their respective boats in the afternoon; elder sister, Isabella, in The Hambleden Pairs Challenge Cup (Women’s Pairs) and Olivia in The Wargrave Challenge Cup (Club Women's Eights). They have a strong rowing heritage as the daughters of Adrian (former Great Britain rower) and Siobhan Cassidy (Stroke for Cambridge in the 1995 Boat Race).
Unlike the head-to-head contests on the 2,112-metre Course in Regatta week, Qualifying is all about A-to-B speed, with crews racing in a time-trial format (with 45 seconds between eights and 30 seconds between the smaller boats).
Qualifying can give an indication of form and that of Agecroft Rowing Club’s looks healthier than ever after their ‘B’ boat came through in The Thames Challenge Cup (Club Men’s Eights). The ‘A’ boat for Agecroft, from Salford Quays, Manchester, had been pre-qualified in the Thames and they had a first women’s eight in The Wargrave Challenge Cup (Club Women's Eights), helping make this the largest ever number of athletes to compete at Henley Royal Regatta since the Club was founded in 1861.
“It’s a huge step forward for the Club,” James Harris, the Agecroft Rowing Club captain said. “There’s been a growing momentum towards Henley this year in the women’s eight, with a change of coach and crew, and a big change of mentality.
“This is about the success overall for the Club. The men and women have been training together this year and it’s the biggest number of rowers we’ve ever had in the main draw for Henley. Agecroft has been described as the Northern Powerhouse and we wear that proudly.”
At the other end of the scale, the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Norway - - founded 26 years ago - made their twentieth appearance at the Qualifying Races without making it through to The Draw.
“We keep coming back because of the quality of the competition, the professionalism of the umpires and the chance to row this course.”
“This is a final for us, and we always try our hardest to win it,” Eilif Jakobsen, the Norwegian School coach said. “We keep coming back because of the quality of the competition, the professionalism of the umpires and the chance to row this Course. Rowing in Norway at university level is a bit different to the UK, but we always give our best.”
Notes to the editor
About Henley Royal Regatta:
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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