Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Clubs excited by prospect of racing at royal regatta

Clubs excited by prospect of racing at royal regatta

Henley Royal Regatta

ROWING clubs have told of their relief that Henley Royal Regatta is set to take place this summer — and stay in the town.

Organisers confirmed on Monday that the annual event will be held in the week commencing August 9, subject to coronavirus restrictions.

The regatta had been postponed from July in a bid to avoid a second cancellation in as many years due to the pandemic.

Plans to hold it with limited or even no spectators or to move it to Dorney Lake in Buckinghamshire, where the 2012 Olympic regatta was held, were also considered.

The regatta’s committee of management has decided to use its usual site in light of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The announcement came as restrictions were eased to allow the return of recreational rowing.

Mark Banks, director of rowing and chief coach at Leander Club, said athletes were excited.

He said: “It is an intention to run the regatta. It is still a bit of a ‘maybe’ but it is nothing short of what we expect from the people who run it because they are very pro-athletes.

“They were always going to do everything that they could to make sure something goes ahead and it is a great incentive for the athletes. It has given them that extra spring in their step and it’s something to race for.

“The athletes were all delighted and very humbled when they returned to training this week.”

Stewart Bell, captain of Upper Thames Rowing Club, said: “We hope that the other large sporting events earlier in the summer proceed without any problems and that the regatta is able to go ahead.

“It was also great news that Henley Women’s Regatta plans to run an event from July 2-4. For our club athletes this provides a fantastic opportunity for very competitive racing on our home water and, although not confirmed yet, we do expect the Henley Masters Regatta to go ahead.”

Mr Bell said it has been great to welcome rowers back to the club this week.

“He said: “We are allowed to open the club to provide minimum facilities to allow covid-secure boating. No indoor activities are allowed and the clubhouse, changing rooms and showers all remain closed.

“Importantly, our members are allowed to travel to the club to take part in organised sport. We will be working closely with British Rowing to safely open more of the facilities at the club over the coming weeks.

“It was great to see the crews back on the water enjoying the fantastic sunshine. The weather for the Easter weekend doesn’t look so good but I am sure that the river will be very busy as our members can get back in their boats.”

Helen Turnell, who chairs Henley Rowing Club, praised the regatta organisers for trying their best to stage an event this year.

She said: “The regatta happening is great news but the tone of the regatta was quite hesitant as they don’t really know what the situation will be but they are doing their best to find a solution.

“The majority of people just want to race and would rather race at Henley than at Dorney.

“I know the timing is not great for some of the juniors, it is quite a long time into the school holidays and so that might be another summer holiday that’s disrupted.

“We might also have people competing in the Junior World Rowing Championships, due to take place at the same time, but there will be other times to race at Henley.”

Mrs Turnell said the club was doing its best to support members when they returned to the club.

She said: “We recognise that people have had different experiences of coronavirus, some of our members are thrilled to be back while others are more hesitant, so we are doing all we can to make sure that everyone is comfortable.

“But people are used to the restrictions now and have got used to wearing masks and social distancing. I went out on the water on Monday and the river looked wonderful with all the boats on there.”

Dave Currie, director of rowing at Shiplake College, said: “It’s fantastic the decision has been made to try to run the regatta in Henley. This does not come without its challenges due to the end of term being six weeks prior to the regatta starting.

“The other factor to consider is the clash of dates with the Junior World Championships. We have a couple of students that are in the trials process with a chance of being selected so students would need to choose between rowing with their school at the premiere regatta in the world or representing Great Britain.”

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