Wednesday's Racing Sessions

The Morning Session

C.J.L. Buchan overtook M. Brigham on a very close race in The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men's Single Sculls) © Ben Rodford

C.J.L. Buchan overtook M. Brigham on a very close race in The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men's Single Sculls) © Ben Rodford

conditions: Overcast with light headwinds dropping towards the end of the session.

Race 15 was the race of the morning as Scottish rowing Youtuber Cameron Buchan (Monkton Combe School) paced his comeback to perfection to pass Matt Brigham (Twickenham Rowing Club) metres from the line in the first race in The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men’s Single Sculls) to win by half a canvas in an event usually decided by lengths. Both men have been Great Britain development rowers and Brigham is famous at Henley for knocking out New Zealand’s double Olympic champion and six-time Diamond Challenge Sculls Winner Mahé Drysdale in 2019. Brigham has had various nicknames since, including “giantslayer” - but Buchan, who is 6ft 9½in proved just too big!

A mixed Australian morning

Before a ball had been bowled at Lord’s, Australia had a very mixed morning on the water at Henley Royal Regatta with Melbourne University travelling halfway around the world only to be disqualified for poor steering and a clash after 200m on the Course before Brisbane Boys College (PE) and Sydney Rowing Club (Thames) registered confident wins. 

Melbourne steered across the water into Harvard water in The Visitors' Challenge Cup (Intermediate Men's Coxless Four), clashing blades after 12 strokes. After three clashes, and the Harvard bow blade spinning 360 degrees, the umpire stopped the race after 40 seconds just clear of the Island. 

Brisbane Boys brought Llandaff Rowing Club’s romantic run in the Regatta to an end in emphatic fashion underlying their status as one of the favourites for the The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (Junior Men’s Eight). They were a length up by the Barrier (1:53) and pulled calmly away. 

Brookes power 

Oxford Brookes University has arguably the best university programme in the world and all three of their boats won in the morning to underline the depth of their talent. 

Closest races of the morning

Race 4 - It’s never a surprise to see Oxford Brookes winning but for their ‘C’ boat to beat (an under-powered) Syracuse University, USA boat was a show of real strength in the first Island Challenge Cup (Student Women's Eight) race of the Regatta. Given Brookes ‘C’ came through Qualifying on Friday it ranked as an upset, except drawing Brookes in any shape must always feel like a test. 

Race 14 - Tyne A.R.C were pushed all the way to the line by Molesey B.C  in the The Wyfold Challenge Cup (Club Men’s Coxless Four). Molesey had the better start and were almost clear at the Barrier, but Tyne, at a consistently lower rate reeled them in and passed them just after the Mile and by the roar of the Enclosures pulled away to win by ¾ of a length.

Race 15 - Buchan by half a canvas over Brigham

The Afternoon Session

CONDITIONS:  Sunny spells broken by patchy clouds and a light headwind

Forget double Dutch… Make it a triple

Early in the afternoon session, the timetable set up three back-to-back races, each showcasing formidable Dutch crews, two of which were from K.A.R.Z.V. De Hoop and the other from G.S.R. Aegir.

The first of these races, pitting Thames Rowing Club ‘B’ against De Hoop in the Wyfold Challenge Cup, set the Dutch tone for their fellow countrymen over the next two races. De Hoop took Thames by a length at the Barrier, and with the Dutch crew comfortably in front, Thames were under pressure to reply, but unfortunately clipped the booms at Remenham, only further extending the Dutch crews lead.

The next of these races was a Prince Albert Challenge Cup contest between the slick and powerful outfit of G.S.R. Aegir and Colgate University from the US. From the start of this race, the Aegir boat were able to sit in front of the Colgate crew and did not give anything from their 1 length lead established at the ¼ mile. This Dutch crew is definitely one to follow through the week.

The final of this Dutch three-piece came in the Thames Challenge Cup heat in which London Rowing Club were met by De Hoop. In an almost metre-by-metre repeat of the Prince Albert race which came before it, the De Hoop eight exploded out the blocks, taking a length by the ¼ mile and sitting there, drawing out almost two lengths by the finish line. If these crews replicate one another's success like they have today, then we can expect to see them deep into this week.

Best racing of the afternoon

Race 36 - This match up really pulled its weight as the crews of Princeton University ‘A’ and Cambridge University, both of which are composed of lightweight rowers, came head-to-head in the Temple. With both boats in the same slight headwind, it was a level playing field, and by the Barrier the crews were separated by just a single foot, with Princeton eking out a ¾ length lead by the Mile which they were able to hold to the finish.

Race 45 - To compliment the Dutch triple earlier in the session, U.S.R. Triton from the Netherlands turned over another British crew in the form of Edinburgh University who had fielded their top four athletes in this Prince Albert Challenge Cup. A close race decided by just a length at the end showed the Triton crew can stand the attrition of side-by-side racing.

Race 46 - In quick succession there was another match up in the Prince Albert between the mighty Oxford Brookes University and Newcastle University. This race demonstrated the speed of this Brookes unit, posting one of the fastest times of the afternoon to the Barrier in this event, and then taking the rate down from Rememham for a comfortable win. 

Race 48 - In this Wyfold Challenge Cup race a late oversteer led to an even later overtake from Neusser Ruderverein from Germany. It seemed unlikely given that their opponents from Nottingham Rowing Club held a lead over the German club for the majority of the race (albeit not in a perfectly straight line), but when under the pressure of the Enclosures arrived, the Nottingham crew veered dramatically leaving the door open for the Neusser Ruderverein to take the win.

G.S.R. Aegir, NED, proved commanding in their race with Colgate University, USA, winning by nearly 3 lengths © HRR Photo

Neusser Ruderverein, GER secure a late overtake in The Wyfold Challenge Cup (Club Men's Coxless Four) to beat Nottingham R.C. © HRR Photos

The Evening Session

D.R.C. Hannover, GER, the German-Ukraine combination boat after beating Leeds University in the Thames on Wednesday 28 2023 © James Finlay

Upper Thames R.C. ‘B’ staging a late comeback sending the local supporters into frenzy ©HRR Photo

conditions: Overcast, short showers, and the wind has dropped.

A grandstand finish 

A great evening’s racing in changing conditions, with rain threatening and delivering (a bit) midway through. The final session showcased the international nature of the Henley rowing community. 

After a huge send-off by the boat tents from the other German teams at the Regatta, D.R.C. Hannover, Germany, the combined German-Ukraine eight, produced a composed first round to beat Leeds Rowing Club in The Thames Challenge Cup (Club Men's Eight). Hannover - with five Germans, including the cox, and four Ukranians, came together in December 2022 - were leading by 2 lengths at the Barrier and controlled the race calmly from there. 

Stephen Cox (Rowing Association of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe), only the second ever athlete representing Zimbabwe to compete at Henley, was equally dominant in beating Damien Schroder (Melbourne University) in The Diamond Challenge Sculls  (Men’s Single Sculls). Schroder is an U23 lightweight looking to compete for Australia, and Cox is on an IOC Olympic Solidarity grant, designed to improve diversity in the single scull and aid athletes in their training.

Cox led by 1 ½ lengths at the Barrier, controlled from the front and the result never looked in doubt. 

Closest races of the evening

Race 63 - A great race. A Cambridge University boat with four of  the 2023 Boat Race winners held off a strong German four - R.C. Allemannia, Hamburg & Hamburge - in the The Visitors' Challenge Cup (Intermediate Men's Coxless Four). Hamburg took an early lead and  were half a length up the Barrier, but a consistently lower rating Cambridge took that down to a canvas just before halfway at Fawley. 

Race 66 - After a head-to-head all the way down the Course, Shrewsbury had the legs at the end and began to pull clear only in the last 200m under the Stewards’ Enclosure in the best race of the Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women's Eight).

Race 70 - This encounter in the Temple produced one of the most dramatic and lengthy post-race reviews witnessed on the Henley Course. After being led by Cornell University by a third of a length for the majority of the race, Durham University launched a final spirited attack on the American crew through the Enclosures, causing the cox of the Big Red crew to steer towards the Durham boat before taking the win by three feet. A pulsating race which saw one of the favourite domestic crews fall at the hands of another powerful American club.

Race 71 - Shiplake showed their level heads in a Princess Elizabeth heat (Junior Men's Eight) this evening when drawn against an exciting crew from Deerfield, USA. The crew from America went out hard, looking to break Shiplake’s spirits and claimed a ½ length lead by the ¼ mile. The local schoolboys were able to reel them in however, remaining calm and trusting their speed. They pulled the trigger at Remenham, pulling level, and willed on by the roar of the Enclosures, went on to take the win by a length.

Race 81 - Showing off the best of club rowing, Upper Thames Rowing Club ‘B’ pushed Nottingham Rowing Club all the way down the Course in the penultimate race of the day in the Wargrave Challenge Cup (Club Women's Eight). Nottingham were maintaining a  ¾ of a length lead over Upper Thames, before the local crew began pulling back seat-by-seat at the ¾ Mile until they were alongside Nottingham. Driven on by their saxboard-slapping cox and home support in the Enclosures and Grandstand, they were able to find another gear, and drove through the deficit to take the heat by half a length.