Henley Royal Regatta Through French Eyes

Mickaël Molina and Benjamin Lang gave France its only victory in this year’s Henley Royal Regatta.

HTBS’s Hélène Rémond reports about two French crews racing at the Henley Royal this year:

“You should visit Henley at least once in a lifetime” say Benjamin Lang (Emulation Nautique Bordeaux) and Mickaël Molina (Sport Nautique Compiégnois) who have just won the Silver Goblets & Nickalls’ Challenge Cup at the 163rd Henley Royal Regatta.

And what a victory! Whereas they failed to qualify for the men’s eight in Lucerne to take part in the London Olympic Games, their participation in Henley has no doubt cheered them up.

When I met them after they easily beat the British internationals Dan Ritchie and Tom Broadway of Leander Club, on Saturday afternoon, they felt very enthusiastic about their first Henley experience. From the start, they rowed at an astonishing 56 strokes a minute which enable them to get a quick lead by three lengths. Even though the gap closed past Fawley, the French pair put in some powerful strokes and won easily. Just like when they were racing the Greek duo Christomanos and Lampridis in the finals.

For the French pair, it was a dream come true. “It’s a historic event”, says Benjamin, “it’s where all the British aristocracy met. It’s a very special regatta for us French. It’s full of folklore”. For Mickaël it has something of a “huge wedding” over it. “It’s amazing to see these tall men wearing colourful blazers and ties. And women wearing dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee at a regatta. We have never seen so many spectators. The clamour of the crowd is tremendous. It’s amazing to hear a jazz band along the course. We’re not used to that. It’s magical”, he says. There were also other aspects they had to handled. “The wind and the current were against us. There were also waves made by motor boats. The course is 1 mile 550 yards in length (2,112m) and we’re neither used to that distance, nor to match racing. It had a disorientating effect but we had identified visual cues like the Redgrave bar.” And they made a great race! “It was an enriching experience. It was exceptional majestic”, they both agree. And a good preparation for the World Rowing Senior and Junior Championships that take place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in August later this year.

Benjamin Manceau, coxswain for the French women’s eight rowing in the Remenham Challenge Cup.

The experience was also very enriching for the French women’s eight which was coxed by Benjamin Manceau of Angers Nautique Aviron, which took part in the Remenham Challenge Cup. Even if they did not have any success in the quarter finals, the oarswomen from Aviron Grenoblois (Nadia Gully, Sara Prochasson, Margaux Segrais), Toulouse Aviron Sports et Loisirs (Roxanne Gabriel, Anne Jouy), Societé d’Encouragement du Sport Nautique (Floriane Garcia), Cercle Nautique Annecy (Marion Riallet), and Société Nautique Avignon (Charlotte Culty) put up a creditable performance. “It was a pity the draw made us row against the Canadian eight”, says Roxanne. “They train all the time. They are part of the Olympic Reserve squad. Whereas we only trained together during 5 days, a week before the HRR, in Grenoble”. “But it is an honour to be at Henley Royal Regatta. It has a prestigious atmosphere”, adds Nadia. According to Marion, “It has another dimension. We have never seen so many spectators at a rowing regatta. It is encouraging. It was a great experience.” And it was made possible thanks to Alain Waché, president of the Rhône-Alpes League in Grenoble who consolidated the boat coordination.

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