DOUBLE Olympic silver medallist Debbie Flood won the elite quad sculls at Henley Women’s Regatta, before rushing off to present the awards.
The former Leander captain, along with Lucinda Gooderham, Emily Carmichael and Fran Rawlins, beat the crew from Saratoga Rowing Association in the final to lift the Borne Cup on Sunday to cap a successful three days for the club.
The senior double sculls of Alice White and Emily Ashford beat Reading in their final, while Flood and Gooderham missed out in the final of the elite double sculls and a composite GB crew with three Leander rowers lost to Princeton University in the elite eights.
Henley Rowing Club also got their hands on silverware as the quad of Tilly Lock, Mary Wright, Georgina Robinson-Ranger and Charlotte Orr beat Headington in the junior sculls.
A total of 1,820 athletes from 435 crews took part in the event from Friday to Sunday last week, with representatives from 189 clubs across countries including France, Norway, Israel, and the USA.
It was the fourth year in a row that the regatta has had a record number of entries and beat the 1,800 rowers and 426 crews which competed last year.
Competitors rowed along a 1,500m section of the royal regatta course, starting at Temple Island and finishing at Remenham Club.
All four Leander club and composite crews reached their finals, with two of them converting those into wins.
Having qualified in the fastest unofficial time, Ashford and White were the crew to watch in the senior doubles and duly delivered, winning their first round encounter by four-and-a-half lengths before going on to record easy verdicts to reach the final.
Zoe Taylor and Laura Meridew of Reading RC put up more of a challenge in the final but the Leander scullers won by one-and-three-quarter lengths.
In the elite doubles, Flood and partner Gooderham had an easier path, winning the first round and sculling over in the semi-final. However the final proved a step too far as Team GB hopefuls Brianna Stubbs and Eleanor Piggott of Wallingford RC won by a comfortable five-length margin.
Flood and Gooderham made up for that defeat in the elite quads where along with Carmichael and Rawlins they beat the University of Massachusetts to set up a final clash with Saratoga. In the closest race of the weekend, the lead changed hands several times and the American crew led with the finish line in sight before Leander fought back in the last 200m to snatch victory by just four feet.
In the final race of the day, the GB development crew, which featured Leander athletes Holly Norton, Fiona Gammond and Katherine Douglas, took on Princeton for the final of elite eights. The crews were racing for the Ron Needs Challenge Cup, named after the veteran coach and Henley Royal Regatta steward, who died last month aged 90.
Despite a good showing, the composite crew were beaten by the Americans.
Mark Banks, Leander’s director of rowing, said: “This was an excellent set of results for a select group of our athletes, which should set them up well for some strong performances at Henley Royal Regatta next week.”
Off the back of a successful National Schools Regatta, Henley Rowing Club had seven crews in the regatta. The club’s highlight of the weekend came from the J16 girls’ quad of Lock, Wright, Robinson-Ranger and Orr. They took the Nina Padwick Trophy by beating Llanduf, Nottingham by two lengths each to reach the final against Headington. The final was even more convincing, with victory by four lengths.
Philip Davies, of Henley Rowing Club, said: “It was a very successful event in terms of Henley Rowing Club performances and the day itself was very well organised.
“The standout victory was our junior 16s who have just come off the back of some strong showings at the National Schools Regatta and put in some really good performances.”
The Shiplake College senior girls also raced at the regatta but neither the four, the double nor the single made it past the qualifying stage, all either the fastest or second fastest non-qualifier.
David Currie, director of rowing at the college, said: “It was hugely disappointing for the girls to have all missed out by the narrowest of margins, but the experience was useful for them and adds to their motivation for next season.”
Upper Thames had two crews in the regatta but failed to make any finals. The intermediate coxed four of Victoria Carver, Hollie Bartlett, Samantha Earle and Emma Peacock, coxed by Zoe Thomas, made the semi-final but were beaten by Worcester RC, who went on to lift the Lester Trophy.
Henley resident Flood who, after finishing her final had to rush back to the enclosure to present the prizes. Flood said: “I just about recovered in time for the awards. We won our last race and afterwards there were lots of phone calls telling me to get down so I had to jump on the back of a bike in my dress!
“It’s a fantastic event which has really grown over the years and it’s a testament to the regatta when so many international crews come over.
“It was my first place to win in my first year of rowing and it’s been a big part of my life over the last 18 years so it was great to be involved again. The women’s regatta is becoming more widely respected and recognised and women’s crews see it as a good stepping stone for Henley Royal Regatta.”
Flood was joined for the awards by Olympic silver medallist Alex Partridge, who presented the Invesco Perpetual Challenge Cup for the intermediate club eights, won by Tideway Scullers School.
The racing was screened online via the regatta’s website and used a drone camera to capture close-up and aerial footage. There were also three large TV screens along the course for spectators to watch the action on.
Henley Air Cadets also volunteered for this year’s regatta, helping with the stewarding at the event.
Caren Donnelly, of the regatta, said: “Historically, during Olympic years the number of entries in the regatta dips but this year it was quite the opposite.
“Last year was a record but we had even more this year across a broad range from junior to senior, clubs and elite.
“The standard of racing was incredibly high, the technical standard has gone up and the way even the juniors handled the pressure was better than ever.
“The racing was so much more exciting and a lot of that is down to the qualifying time trials which have enhanced the event. We’ve had more time trials due to the entries and it’s heartbreaking when crews work all year and don’t get to race but it really does set a high standard.
“It shows the quality of the event that there are crews who come over and use it as a guideline for Henley Royal Regatta.”