Tim Koch writes:
Independence Day at Henley started with sixteen of the original American entry of fifty-nine crews still in the event but, by the end of semi-finals day, Saturday, that number had been reduced to five, four of them in all-American finals. Today, when the finals will be rowed, Yale University and University of Washington will line up against each other in both the Ladies’ Plate (Men’s Intermediate Eights) and the Prince Albert (Student Men’s Coxed Fours). In the Visitors’ (Men’s Intermediate Coxless Fours), the University of California, Berkeley will race Sydney RC, Australia.
Saturday saw very different conditions to those that helped break so many records the previous day and for much of the time there was a headwind down the course. I spent the day at a crew reunion and so was more concerned with Pimm’s than wins. Luckily, the Henley press office had no such distractions and produced this summery of some of the semi-finals:
The Great Britain men’s eight teed up the final the home crowd wanted when they beat the Australians in the semis of the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta today. Racing here as Leander Club & Molesey B.C., the British boat now face their arch-rivals Germany. This morning they made light of a swirling head-wind to come through in 6:32 against the Australian national eight freshly arrived in Europe. GB, the World Champions, and Germany, the Olympic Champions, have raced each other twice already this season. The Germans won in Poznan to take the European title whilst the British took the honours in Varese in a thrilling world cup final 10 days ago. This season, with Olympic qualifying looming at the World Championships in September, the Jurgen Grobler coached GB eight is stacked with a host of World or Olympic medallists including 2012 men’s four gold medallists Alex Gregory and Pete Reed. Boat Race winner Constantine Louloudis has also joined the crew since finishing his finals to replace Stewart Innes. This rivalry has captured the imagination of the rowing world and the expected tens of thousands of spectators should have a cracking final to savour tomorrow.
One of the best races of the afternoon’s programme came from the junior women’s quadruple sculls of Gloucester R.C. and top American line-up Y Quad Cities R.A. Gloucester won after a terrific scrap which saw some tremendous mid-race pace from the Americans but in which the lead changed hands several times. In the final 350m, just as Gloucester had their noses in front again, the U.S. crew made a huge steering error during which they lost so much ground that they could not recover.
Olympic Champions Mahe Drysdale and Mirka Knapkova won their semis as expected and will contest the finals of the open men’s and women’s single scull events – the Diamond Challenge Sculls and the Princess Royal Challenge Cup – against Gabor Csepregi of Hungary and Lisa Scheenaard of Holland, respectively. Both are seeking their fifth title here.
St Paul’s School will meet Westminster School in the final of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for schoolboy eights but only after Westminster came through a tough contest with Gonzaga College High School of the USA.
Nottingham R.C. and Sir William Borlase’s Grammar will contest the final of the Fawley Challenge Cup for junior boys’ quads but only after the Borlase crew had been given a run for their money by Glasgow Academy in thrilling and close semi-final.
This final will bring the curtain down on the 2015 Regatta as the last of 20 finals to be contested (on 5th July). Racing starts at 11.30am and will run until 4.00pm. Sunday’s timetable is here.
The official highlights programme of the Saturday races is on the Henley YouTube Channel – which also has some thoughts on what its worldwide audience may wish to watch:
With 20 sparkling finals in store (on Sunday, 5th July) it will be hard to choose a favourite. British and German viewers might feel that the Grand Challenge Cup final is the top pick. That’s on at 15.30 BST – although the Germans also have a crew in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup for men’s quads where they will meet the British crew that won world cup gold 10 days ago. Americans will no doubt relish both of the Yale v Washington match-ups in the Ladies’ Challenge Plate final at 14.30 BST and the Prince Albert Challenge Cup for coxed fours at 15.50 BST. Australians may wish to stay up late and watch Sydney R.C. open the whole finals programme at 11.30 BST against the University of California, Berkeley.
People watching, Henley style