Henley hots up

Racing at the 175th anniversary Henley Royal Regatta took a while to hot up but just as deckchair residents settled in for their snoozes in the sun on Thursday, a series of races quickened the pulses. 

The University of London four only made it past fellow students Nereus of Amsterdam in the last 20 strokes of their heat in the Visitors’, while the University of Western Ontario became an eight-man egg whisk as they raised the rate past the progress boards to surge past the University of Michigan in the Temple.

A pair of bronze-medal crews from the National Schools Regatta were forced out of their comfort zones: Hampton School caused indigestion before lunch by having to row through Shrewsbury in the middle of the enclosures to advance in the Princess Elizabeth, then Northwich were unseated by the quad from Windsor Boys’ in the Fawley. 

But the pick of the lot was the evening race in the Visitors’ between Molesey and Seeclub Zurich. The men in black led throughout but the Swiss crew thought their late surge had done the job, one of their crew shouting “I’m a 100% sure we won” from the boat.

The Stewards disagreed, ordering a re-row on Friday, with another round in the evening the reward for the winners. At 8am on Friday morning, Zurich came through by three quarters of a length then headed home to prepare for a 7pm meeting with the US lightweights from Oklahoma City.


Redgrave four set for Henley row-past

Remember this? It’s difficult to remember a time when Great Britain weren’t used to winning Olympic gold on a regular basis but the victory in 1984 by Steve Redgrave, Andy Holmes, Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and cox Adrian Ellison was GB’s first since 1948.

On Saturday lunchtime, the surviving members of the crew will mark the 30th anniversary of the win with a Henley row-past. Subbing in for Holmes, who died in 2010, is coach Mike Spracklen, 76, now coach of the Russian national eight who has flown in from Moscow for the occasion.

The foursome still need to make a decision on equipment though as Budgett, now medical director of the International Olympic Committee, faced some logistical issues.

Cross told me: “We thought about doing the 25th but thought it was a bit too soon, then Andy Holmes died, which was a lesson for all of us: you can't wait to do these things because you never know what life brings.

“Steve and I are quite keen to use the blades we rowed with, which were presented all engraved and painted up.

“Mike's got a blade too but Budgett's blade is on the wall of his IOC office in Lausanne. He enquired into the cost of shipping it over and it would be £750 and even though he's loaded we decided even for him that was too much to bear.”


Lost in translation

Henley can be a tough experience for foreign visitors, having to deal with the culture and regulations as well as the booms and the river traffic. A tip for Canadian crews, though: make sure you read the rules of racing before your first round in order to avoid a stern glare from umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent.

German crews can provide a challenge for the commentators, who have to get their tongues around names like “Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft Germania von Achtzehn-hundert-neun-und- zechszig”. The least those crews can do is turn up at the airport with their passports. One entrant in the Thames Cup forgot and his crew were forced to bring in a junior sub. Word has it that he recalcitrant oarsman appeared on Wednesday evening to find his crew-mates voicing their preference for his replacement, although he retook his seat the following afternoon.


Henley: fact

To while away the time before the action hotted up, Twitter was set ablaze with the hashtag #HenleyRoyalRegattaFacts.

Here are a few of our favourites from the great and the good:


 Should Henley Women’s be cut down?

A new magazine, Row 360, is being handed out widely at Henley and in it there are strong words from cox Zoe de Toledo as she targets an unprecedented Olympic medal for Great Britain in the women's eight at Rio 2016.

"We need to close the gap between our international rowers and top club and university crews," says De Toledo, going on to call for a culling in the number of events at Henley Women's Regatta from the current 26 (Henley Royal has 16 for men).

"I truly believe that if Henley Women's was tougher to win, and more consistently competitive, female rowers wouldn't shy away from the pressure, but would raise their games to match the event."

One of HWR's great selling points is its inclusivity, which allows female rowers of any ability to take part. Arguably the culling is most required at the top end, though, with seven events each at the Elite and Senior levels. Would a cut in events raise the level of competition or hit opportunities to compete? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #TheRowlup.

Zoe, by the way, completed Sunday’s Henley Swim in one hour 27 minutes and has so far raised over £1,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust in the process.


Great Britain opt to go coxed for Lucerne

Great Britain’s crew reshuffling continues as we reach the business end of the season, with nine GB crews in action at Henley and in Lucerne next weekend at the third World Cup of the season.

Constantine Louloudis continues to do things on his own terms, returning to Caversham following the end of term at Oxford University and taking his place in the men’s eight. Among the resulting surprises are the moving of veteran Matt Langridge into the pair and the entry of a GB coxed pair into an international event for the first time in 10 years (H/T @fatsculler for that stat).

There are four entries at Lucerne in coxed pairs (an event in which GB are Olympic champions by dint of the fact the event was discontinued after the Searle brothers won in 1992) but no sign as yet of the US crew of Taylor Brown, Henry Hoffstot and cox Jack Carlson, who are running a crowd-sourcing campaign in order to raise the $30,000 they need to compete at the World Champs.

Alas there are no entries in the women’s lightweight quad so GB’s entry will compete with the heavyweights, and there could be a sneak preview at Henley on Saturday if they face the GB openweight crew in the Princess Grace.


Twickenham’s men in pink celebrate

Twickenham’s eight were celebrating on Wednesday after beating Marlow to reach the second round of the Thames Cup for the first time since the early 1980s.

And if you thought their six man looked familiar, that’s because he can be seen staring out from the latest Rowing & Regatta magazine, advertising his coach’s clothing range. Edward “Woody” Sandhu, who stands 6ft 8in tall, is a product of the GB Rowing Team’s Start programme, which moved in at Twickenham at the beginning of this season.

Along with the rest of his crew-mates, he was dressed in brand-new Hugga kit, thanks to Hugga's Chris Vannozzi, who also coaches the crew.

“We got sponsorship from Wilson James and made special kit – all-in-ones and warm-up tops, all made by Hugga in Britain,” said Chris. “The crew didn’t know about it until I gave it to them the night before the race.”

“People who learned to row last year through to a Thursday at Henley, which is great. Everyone at Twickenham is thrilled.”

What do you think?

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