CREWS from Henley and Shiplake starred on the first day of the Henley Royal Regatta on Wednesday.
Upper Thames, Henley Rowing Club, Shiplake Vikings and Shiplake College all chalked up wins on a rain-hit opening to the five-day event, while Reading Blue Coat School and Star and Arrow were also in action, narrowly missing out in their first-round clashes.
The Upper Thames A crew used the knowledge of their home course to secure an easy win over HSBC Rowing Club in the Wyfold Cup as they look to reclaim the title they won two years ago.
The crew of James Hanson, Laurence Manning, Will Moorhouse and Jake Davidson had secured a top-five finish in elite races at the Metropolitan regatta during the season and put in a tidy performance on the 2,112m regatta course.
Moorhouse said: “It was a good clean performance. We are trying to save as much as we can for the later races.
“It was difficult conditions, but we dealt with them well. The rain wasn’t a factor, but the wind made things difficult.”
The Upper Thames four also achieved success in the Britannia Cup. The crew made a great start against Baltimore Rowing Club, who are made up of rowers from four different American universities, and by the time they passed their club they were already several lengths ahead.
They eventually crossed the line five lengths ahead of their opponents, finishing in a time of eight minutes 27 seconds.
But there was disappointment at the club as the eight came unstuck to London Rowing Club in the Thames Cup.
Upper Thames put out a strong crew against the qualifiers but London led for most of the race and eased home by a length to eliminate the home rowers.
Upper Thames B was also forced to withdraw a crew from the Wyfold Cup. The four that was due to face Leeds Rowing Club dropped out after bow Conor Walsh picked up a bug.
It was the second race of the day to be called off due to illness, with the early morning Fawley Cup clash between Bedford Modern School and Kingston Rowing Club postponed until later in the afternoon after a Bedford rower had to be replaced. The race was eventually won by Kingston.
Justin Sutherland, captain at Upper Thames, said: “Conor contracted a bug three days ago and he was up all night. He’s very weak today.
“We’ve been looking for a substitute but because of the rules we can’t take anyone out of other crews and we just ran out of people in the end.
“The thought did cross my mind that I could have jumped in myself but there’s a fine line between a substitute and an imposter!”
He added that it had been a mixed day for the club but he was pleased with the efforts of the crews. He said: “Our Wyfold four had a good win and the Thames Cup eight lost to a very good London crew.
“They had some pretty big boys in there so all credit to them.”
Henley Rowing Club A beat Thames Rowing Club in the Diamond Jubilee Cup in a race umpired by Olympian Sir Matthew Pinsent.
In what started as a close clash the crew eventually pulled away to win by three and a half lengths.
Their success was matched by the Wyfold Cup crew who beat Worcester Rowing Club. Henley were put under pressure from the start, despite Worcester having slight steering issues early on.
The race was still close by the time the crews reached the enclosures but in the end, Henley pulled ahead, finishing in seven minutes 58 seconds with a verdict of three-and-a-half lengths.
Dave Lambourn, stroke, was part of a Henley eight that won the Thames Cup in 2005 and says the crew aren’t getting ahead of themselves this time.
He said: “You never really know. There are a bunch of foreign crews who’ve had decent seasons.
“We don’t take anything for granted, but focus on each day as it comes. We’re not really thinking beyond tomorrow.” Henley were unable to make it three wins from three in the Britannia Cup as Thames Rowing Club earned revenge for their earlier Diamond Jubilee defeat.
Both crews are familiar with the river conditions in Henley but Thames had pulled ahead by the barrier and reached the finish line four and three quarter lengths ahead.
In the final race of the day, Henley’s B crew also lost to Warrington Rowing Club in the Diamond Jubilee Cup. The Henley crew struggled with their steering early on and were never able to catch the Warrington crew, who easily won in a time of eight minutes 30 seconds.
Shiplake Vikings made it through to the next round of the Diamond Jubilee Cup with a narrow one-length win over Northwich Rowing Club.
In a dramatic race, Shiplake were twice warned for veering from their bank into the centre of the two lanes.
Northwich’s number three then caught a crab, meaning she was unable to remove the blade from the water in time. This set the crew back about a length which they were unable to overhaul, Shiplake winning in eight minutes, 57 seconds.
Hattie Orr, stroke, said: “It was challenging, especially in the conditions, because I think we are the lightest crew that are racing.
“There were massive headwinds, but we did what we needed to do. We have stuff to work on, but we are ready to improve and need to focus on coping with the wind.”
The Shiplake College eight also progressed as they beat American crew Choate Rosemary Hall by three lengths in the Princess Elizabeth Cup. Students and staff gathered to watch the race on a TV screen in a marquee at the college during the leavers’ ball on Wednesday afternoon.
After a fast start, Shiplake were more than two lengths ahead by Fawley, and finished three lengths ahead in a time of seven minutes 18 seconds. Dave Currie, director of rowing at the college, said: “It’s a good start to the regatta, it’s really pleasing to get the first race under our belts. We’re now just looking forward to the rest of the racing.”
Star and Arrow, the Leander development crew, were beaten in the Fawley Cup, going down to Windsor Boys’ School.
The Berkshire crew was nearly two stone a man heavier and the additional power, paired with Star and Arrow going off course early on and earning a warning flag from the umpire, meant Windsor won easily in a time of seven minutes, 51 seconds.
The Reading Blue Coat School eight were also knocked out of the Princess Elizabeth Cup after losing to the American crew from St Paul’s School.
The Sonning-based crew were unable to cope with their opponents as an assured performance by the Americans saw them finish in seven minutes 47 seconds, two and three quarters lengths ahead. Josh Smith, 17, bow, said: “It was a tough race. The headwind was hard on the shoulders and we are a light crew anyway. There was a lot of stream, it wasn’t very nice.
“It’s a shame to go out on Wednesday but we wouldn’t do anything differently, it’s a great group of lads and we’ve had a good time.”