Henley Royal Regatta 2014- Review

What a wonderful regatta! There were thrills, spills, surprises, victories, upsets and jubilation at Henley last week, with some of the best racing I’ve seen all year. The junior events stood out, enjoyed by Sir William Borlase, Eton College and Gloucester Hartpury College will live long in the memory.

I was lucky enough to be involved with Regatta Radio this year and what a superb week I had! I produced the wiki pages for the junior and club events before the regatta actually started, which was thoroughly enjoyable as it meant I gained a real insight into all the crews. I was involved with the lunch/tea interviews, which meant I met some fantastic people and got to interview some of the stars of the rowing world- the Great Britain Men’s Four for example! I was also lucky enough to get the chance to commentate on some of the racing for Regatta Radio- it was a real pleasure sitting up at the start on Friday and Saturday evening and watching some of the best crews in the world fly past Temple Island, on towards the famous barrier marker.

I also congratulate all the other victors in the various events but I must mention two particular winners for their contributions throughout the week. The first is Rory Copus, coxswain of the Oxford Brookes ‘A’ crew, who brought the Temple Challenge Cup home. Rory was amazing in providing us with a brilliant and insightful interview during the Thursday luncheon interval while he also wrote a fantastic breakdown of his crew for the wiki page; the Brookes boys looked incredible throughout the regatta and are deserving winners. The other mention must go to Nigel Longley and the boys from Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft Germania, winners of the Thames Challenge Cup. Nigel came into the office on the Friday morning and was brilliant in providing us with an interview, a song and general German good will. The crew from Germany were one of the stand-out eights in the entire regatta and were involved in an incredible final, beating Sport Imperial by a canvas.

Before I get started on my review of the junior events, I’d just like to thank everyone involved with the Regatta Radio station for allowing me the opportunity to gain access to the inside lines of the regatta- special thanks go to Pete McConnell, Robert Treharne-Jones, Cindy Burrowes, Linda Thomas, Will Smith, Pete O Hanlon, Amy Brandis, Lizzie Cottrell and George Thomas for all their help through the week. I also want to thank all the people who I harassed through the week for an interview; your patience and cooperation was amazing and meant we had some fantastic chats with the best of the best! As many will have seen from my post on Wednesday morning, my various vantage points through the week were incredible and I learnt a lot.

I suppose it is worth mentioning that I also won Mystic Henley- or at least was a joint winner with ‘hgfds’. We both got 17/20 winners correct and the overall winner was chosen from a hat by Martin Cross; unfortunately my name wasn’t drawn but I was so pleased with the week I’d had that I can’t say I minded too much!

Anyway, onto the junior events…

The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup

Although this year probably wasn’t a demonstration of the most technically gifted eights in the junior world, it was an illustration of the maturity, tenacity and fitness required to win at the highest level. The standard of foreign competition this year was quite low and so we were given an all British semi-final line up, with Hampton, Eton, Abingdon and St Edward’s taking the four slots. These four were the top four at the National Schools Regatta just over a month ago and their strength was re-iterated again. Abingdon’s run of eighteen successive race wins at Henley Royal Regatta, and three consecutive overall victories, was finally brought to an end on Saturday afternoon by an impressive Eton unit, coached by the Henley master Alex Henshilwood. St Edward’s, rejuvenated by the return of Oli Knight in the stroke-seat, beat Radley on the Friday and Hampton on the Saturday by an impressive 2 and a 1/4 lengths each time. The final race was a real cracker; St Edward’s went out to an early lead and led Eton by 2/3 of a length at the barrier. However, Eton never allowed St Edward’s to break contact and gradually reeled them back in, moving at Remenham before breaking a flagging Teddies crew as they entered the Steward’s enclosures. Henshilwood’s ‘project’ is certainly ahead of schedule and, having spoken to Alex on Saturday, he’ll be very pleased with a fantastic win in his first season back in the UK. Kudos to St Edward’s who were amazing racers and went out bravely.

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The Fawley Challenge Cup

Another fabulous event, with early season favourites Sir William Borlase taking the ultimate prize in impressive fashion. However, the real surprises of this event, and indeed the entire regatta, were the Windsor Boys crew. We knew they were moving pretty quickly after they won the qualifying races by an impressive 9 seconds but I certainly did not expect this. I was lucky enough to be standing on the finish in the press box for their race against Malvern Preparatory and they certainly looked strong. However, I did not expect them to beat Northwich, whom they rowed through coming into the enclosures. This result sent shock-waves through the regatta and made the other selected crews look anxiously over their shoulder; Northwich were one of the favourites for the competition and it is fair to say that Dan [fatsculler] and I were pretty shocked at Windsor’s form. In an extremely competitive event, confidence was everything for Windsor as they then dispatched with the Grange School and Ridley College in the following rounds to set up a blockbuster final against Sir William Borlase. In fairness, Borlase had looked incredible throughout the regatta and were never really troubled. I remember commentating on their race against Westminster on Saturday evening and watching the quarter mile signal go up to notify Mark Davis [my co-commentator] and I that SWB had taken a clear water lead over Westminster; a remarkable feat as the quarter mile is only around 400m into the race! Sir William Borlase won the title for the second time in three years and three of the guys from the winning crew will be back next year to challenge again.


The Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup

Arguably the hardest event to be involved with in the entire regatta [17 crews whittled down to 3 in the qualifying races] and the racing demonstrated the very best of junior women’s rowing. It was a tale of British strength as our girls dominated the strong foreign opposition from Canada to set up an all British semi-final. Gloucester Rowing Club, otherwise known as Gloucester Hartpury, were fabulous in victory and the return of Flo Pickles certainly gave them that kick to move past Marlow and Headington. To their credit, Marlow were excellent finalists and will be back next year to try and win the ultimate prize on schoolgirl sculling. As ever with Henley, the brutality of match-racing took its toll and Gloucester’s superb start paid dividends as they often took control of the race early. I was pleased to see comfortable victories for both Headington and Marlow against Shawnigan School and Ridley College respectively as this demonstrated the strength in depth of our junior women’s program here in the UK. I have to thank all four semi-finalist club/schools for their cooperation through the regatta; they all gave me interviews or chats and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tom Pattichis of Gloucester Hartpury, Bret King of Marlow Rowing Club, Ryan Demaine of Headington School and Steve Thompson and Marcus Williams of Henley Rowing Club.


So, another HRR over and the season is gradually coming to a close. GB Final Trials take place this week and we’ll be waiting for news of team selection for the Home Countries, Coupe De La Jeunesse and the Junior World Championships. I’ll be releasing a preview of the Junior British Championships, due to take place in two weeks, and an end of season review.

Onto HRR 2015!

I am the editor of a rapidly growing blog based around the junior rowing circuit within the UK. From launch in June 2013, the website has experienced vast growth in both its reader count and view count while the article range has expanded. I currently work with a team of 10 people, all of whom voluntarily write articles for the blog. In our first year, I looked to expand from the standard previews and reviews that had gained initial success to building relationships with clubs and conducting interviews. This move proved successful and we are currently exploring new routes to further improve our platform. The blog has led to involvement with Regatta Radio, Rowing & Regatta, Row 360 and British Rowing.