Wednesday, 04 August 2021

Leander in seventh heaven

THE Great Britain men’s eight helped Leander Club to set a new record of seven trophies at Henley Royal Regatta.

THE Great Britain men’s eight helped Leander Club to set a new record of seven trophies at Henley Royal Regatta.

It beat its own previous best effort by one trophy after the composite of Leander and Molesey Boat Club won the Grand in record-breaking time.

The boat included Olympic gold medallists Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory as well as bronze medallist Will Satch.

There were also Leander victories in the Queen Mother Cup, Remenham Cup, Princess Grace Cup, Princess Royal Cup, Ladies’ Plate and Prince of Wales Cup, while club member Alan Sinclair wore the Leander colours as his Oxford Brookes University and University of London composite crew won the Stewards’ Cup.

Upper Thames Rowing Club came within a whisker of crowning their 50th anniversary with victory in the Thames Cup but suffered a narrow defeat in the final.

The GB eight, who were given a bye to the final, beat the University of Washington by one-length in a time of five minutes and 54 seconds, taking three seconds off the record held by the German national eight, set in 2011.

Delayed at the start by an obstacle in the course, the crew built a lead in the early phases and resisted a mid-race push from the Americans before extending their lead in the enclosures.

Satch, 24, of Market Place, had not won at the regatta since 2008 and admitted the lack of a warm-up race made him nervous. He said: “The delay built up the nerves even more but the adrenaline took us through. We didn’t expect to get the jump and we moved away slowly. They came back in parts of the race but we absorbed it. Our attitude was so positive all the way through.”

Leander member Satch, who won bronze in the men’s pair at London 2012, said it was an “awesome” experience rowing past the enclosures.

He added: “We didn’t know what time we were on for the record and only found out when we came back in.”

Alex Gregory, another Leander member who won gold in the coxless four last summer, said he was pleased with the performance having had no warm-up race.

He said: “Sometimes there’s an element of holding back a bit if you have a semi-final first but in this event we felt like we were just going to go for it.

“When you’re in the lead you tend to relax and that brings more speed to the boat.”

The eight have been chosen by GB coach Jurgen Grobler as the country’s top boat and it also won at the World Cup at Dorney Lake last month.

Gregory, who was returning after missing that race through illness, said: “This event was the real test for us. It’s the first time we’ve had our full eight together.

“This good time we achieved has given him a reason to carry on with the project and we will hopefully stay in this until the World Championships.”

Leander were represented in six of the nine finals of the open competitions, winning all but one. Sinclair, dressed in his Leander kit, rowed as part of the Oxford Brookes University and University of London coxless four as they beat Turks Rowing Club, from South Africa, in the Stewards’ Cup final.

The crew won by a length-and-a-quarter in a time of six minutes and 27 seconds.

Leander and Reading University beat Waiariki Rowing Club, from New Zealand, in the Queen Mother Cup by four-and-a-half lengths in a time of six minutes and 17 seconds.

Jonny Walton, 22, of Duke Street, was a late substitution in the coxed four after a crew member became ill. He said: “The guys came together very well and they were a joy to work with.

“We wanted to be really aggressive off the starting line and that’s what we managed to do — we never looked back.

“They tried to attack us but we held our nerve and got the race we wanted. We’re really pleased.”

In the Remenham Cup, Leander and Oxford Brookes University, the GB women’s eight, easily beat their U23 squad, who competed as Tees Rowing Club and Agecroft Rowing Club, in a time of six minutes and 43 seconds.

Katherine Douglas, 23, of Bell Street, a substitute in the semi-final, said: “It was good to get this opportunity, especially because I hadn’t won at Henley before.

“The atmosphere was great. It was a big crowd and different to anything I’ve ever done before — all your friends are on the bank shouting your name.”

Leander and Minerva Bath Rowing Club beat California Rowing Club in the Princess Grace by one length in a time of six minutes and 59 seconds.

There was disappointment for Leander’s Matt Langridge and Bill Lucas, of London Rowing Club, in the Double Sculls as they lost by two lengths to New Zealand’s Michael Arms and Robbie Manson in a record time of six minutes and 48 seconds.

One of the best races on finals day was in the Ladies’ Plate where Leander and Molesey came from behind to beat to beat Northeastern University ‘A’, from the United States.

The intermediate eight found themselves three-quarters of a length down but a surge past the enclosures saw them win by a canvas in one of the vest races of the day.

The Americans set new best times at the Barrier and Fawley before Leander and Molesey registered a new competition record of five minutes and 58 seconds — just one second off the old best time in the Grand.

Lance Tredell, 24, of Bell Street, Henley, said the victory helped ease his pain of losing in two previous finals. He said: “To be down was a bit of a shock because we felt good and we were going fast.

“As soon as we came into the grandstand everything got pretty loud. I felt good and confident and felt we were in a good rhythm at that point. We started moving hard, we had the momentum and it was a case of maintaining it.

“I was confident in myself and the crew and we’re proud if the result. It feels really special to have finally won.”

Leander won the Prince of Wales Cup for the fourth successive year as its A squad beat Aalesunds Roklub and Moss Roklubb, from Norway, by four-and-a-half lengths in six minutes and 23 seconds, breaking the previous record by seven seconds. They also beat the Fawley record and equalled the best time at the Barrier.

Stewart Innes, 22, from Binfield Heath, said: “I saw the time of three minutes and six seconds come up at Fawley and I just shouted ‘yeah!’ because I knew we were on for the record. As we got towards the line we were confident we could get it.”

The Upper Thames A eight was visibly devastated at the end of their one-length defeat by Griffen Boat Club in the Thames Cup, who posted a time of six minutes and 17 seconds.

They lay on the pontoon looking disconsolate for more than five minutes before retreating to the boat tent, where they were applauded en masse.

The crew had previously beaten the Kingston A and B crews, Nonesuch and Molesey on its way to the final.

Crew member Luke Wootton, 25, from Wargrave, said he was “gutted”. He said: “It was a hard race and not very nice losing. Fair play to them, they’ve got a lot of experience. We’re gutted. I felt very tired at the end. We will be coming back next year and we can win it in the future.”

Captain Justin Sutherland said he was “proud” of their efforts as they became the first men’s crew to reach a final in the club’s 50-year history.

He said: “It was nip and tuck all the way up the course. We gave it a really good go but unfortunately, at the end of the day, they managed to find something.

“Our lads were obviously very disappointed. They’ve trained hard for this for 10 months and it’s always a shock when you lose, especially in a Henley final.

“Congratulations to Griffen, they produced a brilliant performance and are worthy winners, as much as it hurts to say it.”

Three Upper Thames crews were knocked out on the opening day, while its quad progressed from the first round but was knocked out on Friday by Bayer Leverkusen in the Britannia Cup.

Sutherland was pleased with what the club achieved this year, adding: “It’s the club’s best year ever. We’ve won some elite events and it’s just a shame it has to end on a slightly downbeat note.

“We will be back next year looking to bounce back and go one step better.”

Luke Wiggins, 17, from Kingwood, was part of the Abingdon School crew that won in the Princess Elizabeth Cup as they beat St Edward’s School in Oxford by half-a-length. It was the first time any crew had won the competition for three years running and their time of six minutes and 17 seconds was a new competition record, beating the record they had set the previous day against Scotch College, the Australian junior eight.

Wiggins said he was “ecstatic” with the victory, adding: “It seems such a long time ago since the first race. It felt super surreal all day. We had to have confidence in ourselves because we’ve done so much training throughout the whole year.

“We had to put it together and we did. We knew it was going to be tough but we really attacked it. It’s been odd with the heat because it feels like we’re a million miles away.”

Olympic bronze medallist Alex Partridge helped The Oratory School, in Woodcote, to progress beyond the first round of teh Princess Elizabeth Cup for the first time in the school’s history when it beat The King’s School, Canterbury, but it was knocked out by Poelchau Oberschule, from Berlin, in the next round.

Henley Rowing Club’s only crew were knocked out in the first round of the Britannia Cup against Taurus Boat Club‘B’ while the Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning lost to Radley College in the Princess Elizabeth Cup.

Leander captain Debbie Flood progressed to the second round of the Princess Royal Cup but was easily beaten by eventual winner Mirka Knapkora, the Olympic champion. Club mate Vicky Thornley also lost out in the semi-final heats.

Flood, who has retired from international rowing, said it mirrored her first year in the sport in 1998 when she won the single sculls at Henley Women’s Regatta, which she replicated two weeks previously, before losing to the Olympic champion in the second round of the royal regatta.

She added: “I tried to hold with her for as long as possible but her strength showed in the end.”

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