HRR SPECIAL: BLUFFER'S GUIDE, TV STARS, MELTING BLADES, PAPER TALK, MORE SPACE FOR WOMEN? July 03 2015
If you’re planning a trip to Henley this weekend – or watching on telly for the first time with your friends – you may not have had time to study the form guide.
More extensive previews are available but The Rowlup aims to provide just enough to make you sound more knowledgeable than the person next to you.
Grand Challenge Cup (elite eights)
The regatta’s blue riband event is being billed as a rematch on finals day between Great Britain and Germany after that thrilling finish to the World Cup in Varese a fortnight ago but the Australian eight are first up for GB (or Leander and Molesey and they will be known this week) on Saturday, while the Germans from Hansa Dortmund get a bye.
Remenham Challenge Cup (women’s eights)
Canada (Western Rowing Club) were three seconds ahead of bronze medallists Great Britain (Leander and Imperial) in Varese and there is a rematch on the cards on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how close Oxford University’s Women’s Boat Race crew (plus Harvard guests) are to GB.
Ladies' Challenge Plate (intermediate eights)
University of Washington - fresh from their fifth successive national title in the US – have a tough start against Princeton, who were less than three seconds behind them in that title race. The winners take on Melbourne University, featuring three Olympic medallists. Leander and Yale do battle in the top half of the draw.
Thames Challenge Cup (club eights)
Thames Rowing Club may not have won a men’s eights event at Henley since 1948 but they have such strength in depth that they pre-qualified two crews into the event that bears their name and got a further two through qualifiers. Thames A are the pick of the Brits but there are plenty of good foreign crews lurking, including University Barge Club of Philadelphia in their side of the draw. Mercantile Rowing Club from Melbourne and Bayer Leverkusen could contest Saturday’s other semi.
Temple Challenge Cup (student eights)
No British crew had won the Temple for eight years until Oxford Brookes beat Brown in last year’s final. Few would bet against the Brookes boys doing it again, though, with a brand-new crew who could be faster than their predecessors. The Dutch of Nereus are on the same side of the draw while French crew Université de Lyon and Hobart College (from upstate New York) are the pick of the other half.
Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (school eights)
It looks like destiny that Westminster will win the PE – and with it the Triple of Schools Head, National Schools Regatta and Henley – in coach Bill Mason’s final year. St Paul’s and reigning champions Eton have run the men in pink closest so far this year. Of the foreigners, Gonzaga look strong while Boston College High School are a bit of an unknown.
Queen Mother Challenge Cup (elite quads)
Great Britain and Germany led the world in Varese a fortnight ago, with the Brits coming out on top. Known this week as Leander Club & Agecroft and Rostocker & Potsdam respectively, they are pitched together in a straight final on Sunday.
Princess Grace Challenge Cup (women’s quads)
Great Britain (Imperial and Tees) stand out from what is otherwise a good intermediate-level field. Debbie Flood, who has won two Olympic medals in the quad, could face them as one of the Leander crew in Sunday’s final.
Prince of Wales Challenge Cup (intermediate quads)
Leander Club are going for a sixth successive win in the PoW, and Jack Beaumont is aiming for his own hat-trick in the event. The foreign entry was wiped out on Thursday, leaving several British lightweight and Under-23 composite crews bidding to topple the men in pink. How about Imperial and Agecroft, featuring Wingfields winner Tim Richards and senior international Zak Lee-Green?
Fawley Challenge Cup (junior boys’ quads)
Sir William Borlase's School are targeting their third win in four years, a suitable send-off for coach Robin Dowell. Pangbourne and Glasgow appear to have moved on since finishing second and fourth respectively behind Borlase at Nat Schools, while Sydney Rowing Club started well on Thursday.
Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup (junior girls' quads)
Such was the strength in depth in this event that the Stewards extended it from eight to 12 crews after the close of entries. Gloucester were five seconds faster than bronze medallists Marlow at the Nat Schools and also won the Senior event at Henley Womens (while Marlow won the double). The only foreign crew are Y Quad Cities RA from Moline, Illinois.
Stewards' Challenge Cup (elite coxless fours)
Neither Greece nor a new South African four have shown themselves so far this year. The latter take on Great Britain (Leander and University of London) on Saturday for the right to race the former in the final.
Visitors’ Challenge Cup (intermediate coxless fours)
Newcastle University may include two former Henley winners but they face some tough US opposition, including two Harvard crews plus fours from the University of California-Berkley and the University of Washington.
Wyfold Challenge Cup (club coxless fours)
Disqualified from last year's Wyfolds final, Tideway Scullers School are back for more, vying with Tyne ARC for the title of best British crew in a club coxless four. Petone RC of New Zealand look the pick of the event, though.
Britannia Challenge Cup (club coxed fours)
The four selected crews made their way unhindered through to the weekend in an event that is given Friday off. Lea RC could be the best of the British, with Sydney RC keen to step on from last year’s semi-final.
Prince Albert Challenge Cup (student coxed fours)
Perhaps because of changes in the structure of college cowing in the US, American universities have shifted this year from the eight to the coxed four, with West Coast giants Cal-Berkley and the U of Washington favourite to meet in the final. Imperial College look the best of the Brits.
Double Sculls Challenge Cup
John Collins and Jono Walton probably have a phobia about lightweights after being beaten by the French double here last year in a thrilling final. And the men who beat those French lightweights to last year’s world title, James Thompson and John Smith of South Africa, could well meet our brave Brits this Sunday.
Silver Goblets and Nickalls' Challenge Cup (elite pairs)
James Foad and Matt Langridge, the second-fastest pair in the world ever, are the pick of three Great Britain squad pairs here, with new South African duo Shaun Keeling and David Hunt their likely oppo on Sunday.
Diamond Challenge Sculls
New Zealand's Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale aims for his fifth Henley title and, after three-time winner Alan Campbell withdrew before the regatta began, Hungarian lightweight Gabor Csepregi is likely to meet Mahe in the final.
Princess Royal Challenge Cup (women's singles)
Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic, another Olympic champ aiming for a fifth Henley red box, leads the field, with Dutch sculler Lisa Scheenaard her likely rival in the final. Keep an eye, though, on Polly Swann, sometime partner of Helen Glover in the GB pair who is coming back from injury in the single and impressing with her speed in training.
Henley TV starts with a boom
When Henley Royal decides to do something, it doesn’t settle for second best and that has been obvious with its approach to live video coverage this week. Every single race has been on the regatta’s YouTube channel and the BBC’s red button service will carry the finals live on Sunday.
Thursday’s highlights show featured a camera on the stern-canvas of Kingston RC’s eight. Hopefully the cox mic was dampened as Kingston’s cox’n was heard to utter the first rude word of the broadcast on Wednesday morning.
Over 38,000 people watched the first day’s action, including a terrific close-up of Tyrian’s coxless four smacking the booms but still going on to win their first-round race in the Wyfolds.
Hmmmm the words I found in the moment. All in the spelling. https://t.co/UdPB8rNiG8
— Sarah Winckless (@Sarah_Winckless) July 1, 2015
Mysterious melting blades
To lose one blade - as Lady Bracknell may have said were she a rowing fan - may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. That is exactly what happened, however, on one of Henley’s hottest days ever on Wednesday.
Kings Canterbury finished their defeat to Westminster in the PE with only seven blades as their stroke man found himself without a spoon. Earlier in the day Canford were forced to reschedule their race after a spoon dropped off during warm-up.
“We think it may have something to do with the heat,” said Andrew Wilson, who markets the Chinese-made Wintech blades. “It’s very unusual. We’re in the process of pressure testing the blades and investigating the cause.”
Wilson's best guess is that the glue used to attach the spoon of the oar to the shaft began to melt in the high temperatures.
There once was a time that every major newspaper had a rowing correspondent. However, while the profile of the sport is rising with Great Britain’s success, media budgets are shrinking rapidly. These days only Rachel Quarrell of the Telegraph is a guaranteed fixture in the press box through the regatta and even she is feeling under threat.
https://t.co/z9QwHaaRmP - favourite this if you want more rowing writing online.
— The Rowing Voice (@RowingVoice) July 1, 2015
She wrote in her blog this week: “A few months ago the Telegraph sports desk had a policy change, and now they have tightened up the online edition so that it doesn’t have everything in. It will only carry sports stories which are gauged to be of interest.
“This makes for a tricky vicious circle for rowing: they think nobody’s interested, so they won’t publish online, therefore robbing us of the chance to react and show we are interested, therefore reducing the chance that rowing will in future be taken online, let alone in print.”
Many media outlets are relying on press releases from major organisations, which may be of high quality but present a single viewpoint. Comb a GB Rowing Team release for any hint of criticism of a British crew and you will be disappointed. Independent journalism is expensive but vital.
Great in Hyndsight
The latest rowing gadget to catch our eye was reviewed by para-rower Sophie Brown on the Rowperfect blog recently.
“Hyndsight” features a bow-canvas camera linked via Bluetooth to a screen on the footplate. You can even link the screen to a camera held in a coaching launch to get a coach-eye-view.
Brown likes it because her reduced mobility means she struggles to turn around. She wrote: “I am impressed with the system mainly for the confidence to be out on the river without having someone on the bank helping steering and avoiding the bigger crew boats.”
More space for women at the Royal?
Less than 25 years ago there were no women’s events at Henley Royal. Now there are four and there is a growing argument in favour of introducing another for women’s eights.
Filip Ljubicic on the Rowe.rs blog studied timings from the qualifying races to show there is just a 5.3% difference between the fastest and slowest non-qualifiers in the Remenham Challenge Cup, compared to an average 18.4% difference for the lower tier men’s sweep events.
Ljubicic advocates splitting the Remenham into a “Women’s Grand” for international crews and an intermediate event like the Ladies Plate for the rest. He suggests calling it the Men’s Plate but maybe it would be easier to reallocate the Ladies Plate and add a new trophy for intermediate men, to stop the current confusion.
Rowe.rs took split times for all crews at Qualifiers and have promised to publish all the data on Monday, which will make interesting reading both for those who made it and those who didn’t.
And finally …