Wednesday, 06 July 2022

Opening day progress for Shiplake College and Upper Thames eights

Opening day progress for Shiplake College and Upper Thames eights

CREWS from in and around Henley had mixed fortunes on the opening day of Henley Royal Regatta on Wednesday.

Upper Thames Rowing Club A beat City of Bristol Rowing Club in the Thames Challenge Cup for men’s club eights in the sixth race of the day.

They won by three- quarters of a length in a time of six minutes and 34 seconds.

The crew started well, with their stroke rate peaking at 45 a minute. After the first quarter mile, it was at 41 strokes a minute with Bristol all out at 39 strokes a minute.

By the barrier the two crews were rowing at the same rate, which continued throughout most of the race, but that initial burst was enough to push Upper Thames through.

Upper Thames’ Mark Jinks, 29, from Clarence Road, Henley, was thrilled with the win. Coming off the water, he said: “We had a really positive start and were a couple of seats up. We managed to get up to about a length and maintain our rhythm and just sat in that the whole way down. We managed to hold our nerve and come away at the end. It’s a really positive result.”

This was followed by a loss for Upper Thames Rowing Club against Worcester Rowing Club in the Wyfold Challenge Cup for coxless fours.

There was a clash of blades in the first few seconds of the race as Upper Thames drifted from the Bucks station, garnering an early warning from the umpire.

The younger Worcester crew established a clear lead before the barrier and were able to ease the pace slightly.

At the quarter-mile point, Upper Thames’ stroke rate was 38 per minute to Worcester’s 36 a minute. By the finish Worcester had eased off to 23 strokes a minute to Upper Thames’ 35 stokes a minute. Worcester crossed the line in seven minutes and 30 seconds with an easy verdict.

Despite the disappointment, the Upper Thames crew were proud to have taken to the water in memory of former crew mate Mike Tovell, 46, from Henley, who passed away earlier this year.

Speaking after the race Upper Thames’ Gareth Morris, 47, from Maidenhead, said: “It was great to get here, it’s a big thing for us. One of the guys in our squad died earlier this year. It was really a mini tribute to him. He was a really good rower.

“We had a bit of a blade clash off the start. We were racing a younger, fitter and more lively unit. They just came off a little bit better from the start. They had the advantage of youth over us. We were rowing in their wash. After, we were able to get into a bit more of a rhythm.”

Following this, Upper Thames Rowing Club B were beaten in the Thames Challenge Club by Kingston Rowing Club A.

Kingston were in the lead from the off, steadily increasing the water between them and their opponents and finishing in a time of six minutes 45 seconds by a verdict of four and three-quarter lengths.

A familiar face of Henley rowing made a long-awaited return to the water in this race. Upper Thames’ long-term director of rowing Justin Sutherland, 53, of Henley Bridge, had taken a break from coaching to get back into the thick of things with the B crew.

After the race Sutherland said: “The start was fantastic. It was a very good start but Kingston are one of the favourite crews to win the event. We knew it would be a big ask, but we did ourselves justice. We earned our place by going through the qualifying races. It was surreal and brilliant fun to be on the start again 21 years after I last did that. It’s been terrific and an exercise in male bonding!

“The conditions were very, very bouncy. I don’t remember it being quite that bouncy. We were in the middle of the river so we were exposed to the bouncy water a little bit more. You forget how difficult conditions are with the pleasure boats washing you down as you pass.”

Shiplake College beat the King’s School, Chester, by two lengths in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for junior men’s eights. The winning crew finished in six minutes and 30 seconds.

Crew member Sebastian Hjortland-Marks, 17, of Mill Lane, Henley, said: “It’s a crazy atmosphere. You get so much free energy from having loads of Shiplake supporters behind us and your mates on the side shouting your name. It’s amazing.”

He added: “We tried to keep our heads really clear. You never know what can happen. The opposition are a good crew, so we had that in our minds. We knew they were going to be fast off the start. As soon as we had our rhythm we kept on moving.”

Shiplake College had reached 36 strokes a minute at the quarter mile point.

The King’s School, Chester, were rowing at 40 strokes a minute at the same point. Shiplake rowed steadily throughout, while their opponents’ rate dropped slightly as the race progressed.

Shiplake were ahead by one length at the barrier and extended this to two lengths at Fawley.

Another crew to make progress in the same event saw Sonning’s Reading Blue Coat School beat Boston College High School, USA, by two and three-quarter lengths in time of six minutes and 41 seconds.

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