UPPER Thames Rowing Club were the big winners on the first day of the 175th Henley Royal Regatta.
Both the A and B crews in the coxless fours comfortably won their first round races on Wednesday in the Wyfold Cup while the eight also went through to the second round after winning their Thames Cup race.
Upper Thames A beat Agecroft by a length in the Wyfold Cup and speaking after the race, bow Lewis Beech, from Oxford, said: “It was a tough race but we would rather that than an easy one. It went just as we predicted it would and we followed the plan to a stroke.”
In the same competition Upper Thames B had to work harder but eventually won their duel with Riverside Boat Club of the USA by two lengths, having trailed at the half-way point.
Stroke Jack Thompson, 24, from Wokingham, said: “It was pretty tough as they were really quick at the start. They had about a length-and-a-half on us a minute into the race and we thought it was over.
“But we kept going and we’d talked about being confident and doing our own race. At about half way we saw that they hadn’t moved further ahead so we pushed and when we got the cheers from the crowd we knew we could break through them.”
Coach Charlie Wiggin said he was pleased with the crew’s performance. He said: “Mentally it was demanding and here at Henley it’s just two boats. Upper Thames have never won the Wyfold Challenge Cup. We have three selected crews this year but Henley is a funny place.”
In the Thames Cup, last year’s beaten finalists Upper Thames defeated Worcester by three-and-a-half lengths.
After a fast start, the crew led by more than five lengths at the halfway mark and comfortably saw their way into the next round.
Coach Ian Desmond said: “It was a good start to their competition. They rowed well. I hope they can continue to improve and progress their way through this regatta.
“They are a tremendous bunch. They are very big and strong and could do very well here.
“They raced Worcester two months ago and had a really hard race so this was evidence of how much they have improved.”
There were mixed fortunes for Leander Club’s development crews, Star and Arrow.
In the Fawley Cup for quad sculls Star and Arrow beat Thames RC by two-and-a-third lengths.
Speaking after the win Tom Mortimer, 16, from Reading, said: “We had a good start and we were leaving them behind by the barrier.
“It went pretty much exactly as we had planned. We knew it wouldn’t be easy and that we would have to give it everything but that’s what we did.”
However, in the Thames Cup, Star and Arrow’s eight lost by three-and-a-quarter lengths to Griffen Boat Club.
Both Reading Blue Coat School and Shiplake College were knocked out of the Princess Elizabeth Cup for junior men coxed eights after losing their first round races.
Blue Coat trailed early on and could never catch opponents Pangbourne College as they lost by four-and-a-half lengths.
Cox Alex Gass, 17, from Reading, said: “It wasn’t good. I think we did well but we were beaten by the better crew.
“The conditions were quite good and I don’t think we could have done anything differently.”
Shiplake lost by a length-and-three-quarters to Hampton School but the crew were pleased with their effort.
This year’s regatta was the last time the crew rowed together and Max Hearnden, who rows in the number four seat, said: “It was a good race, an enjoyable race, and the atmosphere was great. It was a good experience and this is probably the best race we’ve done.
“All the evidence suggested they should be much faster than us but we really punched above our weight. We pushed them all the way so we go away with our heads held high, looking forward to building on this next year. We have lots of good rowers coming through so we’ll be back.
“We want to say a massive thanks to our coach, who has put in so much time and effort.”
Headmaster Gregg Davies added: “I’m very proud of the boys. They came very close to Hampton in what was a tough draw. I couldn’t have asked for more from any of them today.”
Abingdon School, who include two local rowers, beat Sir William Borlase’s School in the same competition by three lengths in their first round race.
Tom Digby, 15, from Greys Green, said: “The race was really good and the conditions were pretty still.
“We were expecting them to be with us for the first bit but we pushed out and got to a level they couldn’t sustain.”