HENLEY WINNERS, LUCERNE WORLD CUP, LEA’S ROW TO HENLEY July 10 2014
There may never have been a more exciting finals day at the 175th anniversary Henley Royal Regatta, but the closeness of the racing throughout the week was also breath-taking. Here’s our run-down of who won what.
We’ve also been asking for your favourite memory from the regatta on Twitter this week. There’s still time to let us know yours using the hashtag #HenleyHighlight
Grand Challenge Cup (M8+): Great Britain’s 1½-length margin of victory over France may not have been resounding but the win was never in doubt for Leander and University of London, with Olympic stroke man Constantine Louloudis, Matt Gotrel and Paul Bennett all added to the line-up since their last outing.
The big question afterwards, though, had to be: Just what was Tom Ransley (second from left in pic above) wearing at the presentation ceremony? Ransley’s York RC blazer is garish enough but this year he opted for what one crew-mate described as “his gran’s curtains”.
Stewards' Challenge Cup (M4-): The new-look GB four, comprising Andy Hodge, George Nash, Mo Sbihi and Alex Gregory did the hard work on Saturday, beating the French heavyweight four, with a time to the Barrier that was just three seconds off the record, in a decent headwind. The Club France lightweight boat provided easier opposition in the final as Molesey and Leander won by 3½ lengths.
Queen Mother Challenge Cup (M4x): The next chapter in the coming-of-age story of the GB quad of Pete Lambert, Charles Cousins, Sam Townsend and Graeme Thomas was written over the weekend as Leander and Agecroft came from behind to beat the US quad from Craftsbury Sculling Center on Saturday then withstood the challenge of the Australian national quad for a one-length win in the final.
Silver Goblets and Nickalls' Challenge Cup (M2-): Dutchman Mitchel Steenman described his win with Julien Bahain over South Africa's Keeling and Breet as an end to "the weirdest week of my rowing life"
He explained: "On Monday, I thought I was doing the pair with my normal partner Rogier Blink. On Tuesday, he was ill. I phoned my brother-in-law, Julien, who was training in his single in Toulouse. It was only on Wednesday that we had our first outing. Now we have won the Goblets. It’s amazing."
Of course it helps to have a double Olympian and four-time Worlds medallist as a brother-in-law.
Double Sculls Challenge Cup (M2x): Arguably the race of the regatta – some were suggesting the best ever at Henley - was between British heavyweights John Collins and Jonny Walton and the French lightweight duo Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou. Neck-and-neck through the first mile, with the lead swapping twice, the two crews were level through the enclosures before the French snatched victory by three feet.
However Azou claimed afterwards: “After 750m I thought that we were going to win this race.”
Diamond Challenge Sculls (M1x): Dutch sculler Roel Braas gave notice of his potential even though he paddled through the enclosures in the Diamonds final, having been broken by Olympic champ Mahe Drysdale after blazing off the start. Braas had already beaten three-times winner Alan Campbell, who was understandably out of form three weeks after the birth of daughter Tabitha.
Drysdale, who has a baby of his own on the way, grabbed his fourth Diamonds title, having beaten George Bridgewater - his 2004 New Zealand Olympic squad-mate who is at the start of a comeback for 2016 - on the way.
Remenham Challenge Cup (W8+): Great Britain have set their sights on winning an unprecedented Olympic medal in this boat class at Rio 2016 and Henley week brought a boost for experience and confidence as on Saturday against Australia then Sunday against the Netherlands the Leander Club and Imperial College took a lead and held on for victory.
In the four seat, Donna Etiebet wrote her name on a trophy underneath her big sister Vicki, who won with Thames RC nine years ago. Some of the crew only just made it to the presentation, though, as they were apparently told they couldn’t enter the Stewards enclosure without badges.
Princess Grace Challenge Cup (W4x): Great Britain’s openweight quad featuring Tina Stiller, Olivia Carnegie-Brown, Vicki Meyer-Laker and Beth Rodford beat their GB Under-23 counterparts in the final, having had a tougher test the previous morning against the GB lightweights.
Princess Royal Challenge Cup (W1x): Olympic and European champion Czech Mirka Knapkova won her fourth Henley title in five years, beating Krisztina Gyimes of Hungary in the final. Only one of the seven races in the event was won by less than the 4½-length verdict in the final: Brit Mel Wilson's one-length win over Jess Leyden in the first round.
Ladies' Challenge Plate (M8+): Leander put in huge sprint finishes on successive days; the first was successful as they pipped Brown University by a canvas but the second just came up short as the Golden Bears of the University of California held on for a three-foot victory.
Visitors' Challenge Cup (M4-): Scotsman Andrew Holmes shook his fist in triumph as he clinched his third successive Henley win for Harvard – by 2¼ lengths over Leander - then confirmed his intention to step down from top-level competition. Holmes won medals at junior and Under-23 level for Great Britain but has opted not to continue at senior level.
The highlight of the Visitors was Thursday evening’s dead heat between Molesey and Seeclub Zürich. The Swiss won the rematch the following morning but, with the extra race in their legs, came up short against the US lightweight four from Oklahoma City later in the day.
Prince of Wales Challenge Cup (M4x): A Leander quad with an average age of 20 secured the home club an unprecedented fifth successive win in the PoW with a 2¾-length verdict over Bayer Leverkusen.
Two man Seb Devereux had reason to celebrate a year after missing out in the Fawley when he crabbed and broke a blade. His parents Gail and Scott backed their boy for victory and won the annual Mystic Henley prediction competition, picking 17 of the 20 winners correctly.
Thames Challenge Cup (M8+): Any one of four crews could have taken home the Thames Cup on a frantic weekend of racing. Passport problems behind them, Frankfurter Germania beat Mercantile of Australia by six feet in their semi, and the match between Sport Imperial and Thames RC was just as thrilling as the boys in blue stormed past their Putney neighbours in enclosures.
Frankfurt led all the way in the final but Imperial put in another huge fight back, ending up just a canvas short.
The wait goes on for Thames. They last won a men's eights event - the Grand - in 1948 and last won the Thames Cup in 1934.
Wyfold Challenge Cup (M4-): Tideway Scullers School were philosophical after being disqualified in the final few metres of their final against Upper Thames RC. The decision at first seemed harsh as the home club had moved out but - as Scullers coach Miles Forbes-Thomas explained - umpire Mike Williams disqualified them for “interference” when they steered across the course just after the half-way point. He went on with the race thinking that an UTRC outright victory would save him making that disqualification.
Britannia Challenge Cup (M4+): For Upper Thames RC, Henley wins are like buses: you wait 51 years for one to come along then two appear in quick succession. One of the favourites coming into the event, the boys in blue beat Sydney RC in the semi then Bayer Leverkusen by two lengths on Sunday.
Cox Scott Smith told the Henley Standard: “Words can't really describe it. I'm absolutely ecstatic. I've been chasing this seven or eight years now.” His club have been chasing it for far longer.
Student Events – Men
Temple Challenge Cup (M8+): Oxford Brookes were the last British university to win the Temple, back in 2006. Eight years later, it was the men in maroon again, stopping Brown’s freshmen in the final and no doubt remembering the “Brookes vs Brown?” headline in The Rowlup a month ago.
In the final, Brookes were only two seconds slower to the Barrier than the GB crew in the Grand three hours later.
Prince Albert Challenge Cup (M4+): Newcastle University beat Harvard's freshmen to reacquaint themselves with the trophy they last won in 2008, and paid tribute to coach Angelo Savarino as an “inspiration”.
The Junior Rowing blog has a full run-down of the action in the other three events at the regatta.
Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (JM8+): Abingdon's three-year reign at Henley came to an end as Eton beat them in the semi-finals then went on to reclaim the crown they won in 2009 and '10. It was a perfect homecoming present for Alex Henshilwood, who coached Eton to those victories before taking a three-year sabbatical in Australia.
St Edwards were the beaten finalists, much improved from the National Schools Regatta – where they finished fourth - as stroke man Oli Knight returned from a rib injury. They were up by two-thirds of a length early on but Eton came storming through.
Fawley Challenge Cup (JM4x): Sir William Borlase's Grammar School won the battle of the state schools in Sunday’s final to take the Fawley for the second time in three years, beating a rejuvenated Windsor Boys School – who were forced to qualify after they failed to field a J18 crew at Nat Schools.
Three of the Borlase crew will be back for more next year. The other, Chris Lawrie, was on Wednesday named Great Britain’s sole male rower selected for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China in August. Their coach, Robin Dowell, will be GB's rowing team leader at the event.
Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup (JW4x): Favourites Gloucester RC beat Nat Schools winners Marlow resoundingly but Sunday wasn’t all plain sailing for the girls from Hartpury College as they hit a moored pleasure cruiser during a morning paddle and broke several blades. Leander Club stepped up with a couple of pairs of replacements.
Hackney to Henley
They didn't move as quickly along the course as the other crews in attendance but two coxed quads from Lea RC reached the finish line on 4 July after a far longer journey, having completed over 100km from their boathouse in Hackney in three days.
Lea need to redevelop their clubhouse if they are to take over the lease from the local council. They have set a target of £13,950 and have just topped £5k. (Their fundraising page is here).
"It was an absolutely exhausting row but it was fabulous and brought the whole club together," crew member Georgina Aldworth told BBC Berkshire (36 mins in on this link). "We really wanted to push ourselves to show people how passionate we are to keep the club going."
Next stop, Lucerne
There was little rest for the GB Rowing Team after Henley, as they flew to Lucerne on Wednesday to prepare for the second and final World Cup of the season, the event that always boasts the strongest field of the lot.
As well as the usual World Rowing audio and video coverage, the finals are live on the BBC Red Button from 0930 BST on Sunday, with highlights are on BBC Two on Monday at 3pm.
One foreign crew to keep an eye out for is the young New Zealand men's eight, who are targeting the World Under-23 Champs this year, with an eye on stepping up to the senior ranks next season and qualifying for the Olympics.
Men in suits break out the lycra
Administrators in many sports are criticised for being out of touch with current competitors. If you had been on the Henley reach early last Sunday, you would have seen a clear reason why rowing administrators are still at the heart of the action.
Molesey BC took an opportunity to give a run-out to their two entries for October’s Head of the Charles. One crew featured the usual suspects - Redgrave, Pinsent, Cross, Stanhope, Herbert, Obholzer – plus a guest in the shape of Jean-Christophe Rolland, Olympic champion in 2000 and now president of world governing body Fisa. The other was coxed by British Rowing’s interim chief exec Neil Chugani.
Sir Steve Redgrave of course also rowed over the course on Saturday, in an emotional celebration of the 30th anniversary of the GB four’s Olympic victory in Los Angeles, alongside Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and coach Mike Spracklen sitting in for Andy Holmes, who died four years ago.
Redgrave is expected to take over as chairman of Henley Royal next year and went on the hustings for December’s election in an impassioned interview with the Henley Standard.
“It is not our regatta — we are only here for a short period and they will keep it going for many, many years to come. There isn’t a regatta in the world that has the same atmosphere from start to finish. I love the colour of the event and the noise is special.”
Amen to that.