Henley: A Sustained Wish to Excel

An elegant gentleman surveys the scene on the first day of the 2016 Henley Royal Regatta.
An elegant gentleman surveys the scene on the first day of the 2016 Henley Royal Regatta.

30 June 2016

Images, thoughts and a little news from Tim Koch on Henley 2016’s opening day, Wednesday:

I spent happy hours on the Isis, but the best was at Henley. There we were in competition with the finest crews of several nationalities, and at no moment in my life have I experienced so sustained a wish to excel. For those few days we lived in dread of the next race, discussing tactics, grooming the boat, eating enormously, sleeping long – and then the last terrified backward glance up the course before the race began in distant privacy to end eight minutes later between banks of parasols and tumultuous acclaim. Those were ecstatic moments.

Nigel Nicolson’s My Oxford (1977), quoted in Chris Dodd’s anthology, Boating (1983).

 It was not a pair of pink socks or a club blazer that was the ‘must have’ accessory for Henley Wednesday, it was in fact a large and sturdy umbrella. Here, some die-hards watch Nottingham Rowing Club in their defeat by Thames RC home in the Wyfold Challenge Cup, the event for club coxless fours.
It was not a pair of pink socks or a club blazer that was the ‘must have’ accessory for Henley Wednesday, it was in fact a large and sturdy umbrella. Here, some die-hards watch Nottingham RC near the finish, defeated by Thames RC in the event for club coxless fours, the Wyfold Challenge Cup.

It was an early start for me as I wanted to watch the crew from my club, Auriol Kensington (AK), in the second race of the day, the 8.35 heat of the club eights event, the Thames Cup. The relatively inexperienced crew had done well to get to this point as 55 crews had entered for the 32 places available. Thirty-six boats, including AK, had to race the Friday Qualifying Races for the 13 places available after the pre-selected and seeded crews were chosen. Unfortunately for Auriol, Henley is a lottery for all but the very best crews and the boys in the distinctive pink and green did not have a winning ticket. They were drawn against a strong crew from NSR Oslo, Norway. To quote the race commentator, the Oslo students were ‘a crew of young international rowers’. Most had World Cup experience and four of them are going to race in the lightweight quad in the upcoming U23 World Cup. However, in a great display of sportsmanship, AK rowed their hardest from start to finish, even though they must have known that they had no chance of winning from very early on in the race. This is not just my rather biased view, Umpire Stanhope wrote in his race report: ‘Oslo lead from the first stroke, and steadily drew away in spite of all efforts from Auriol Kensington’.

Auriol Kensington (left) and NSR Norway (right) approach the Barn Bar.
Auriol Kensington (left) and NSR Norway (right) approach the Barn Bar.
NSR Oslo, not under pressure.
NSR Oslo, not under pressure.
A view from the drone. AK and NSR Oslo approach the enclosures.
A view from the drone. AK and NSR Oslo approach the enclosures.
Auriol Kensington – fighting to the finish.
Auriol Kensington – fighting to the finish.
Post race, AK make the difficult come down from the ‘sustained wish to excel’ that motivated them for the past several months.
Post race, AK make the difficult come down from the ‘sustained wish to excel’ that motivated them for the past several months.

Rowing historians will note that Henley 2016 saw Sarah Winckless become the first woman to umpire a race the Regatta, shortly followed by Fiona Dennis.

Rowing – an art or a science?
Rowing – an art or a science?

Conditions deteriorated as the day went on, causing very difficult steering conditions. One victim was the Lady Elizabeth Boat Club from Ireland, who hit the booms after 600m, leaving Tideway Scullers to take a comfortable win in the club coxless fours event, the Wyfolds.

This supporter of the University of London combined elegance and practicality on a wet and windy day.
This supporter of the University of London combined elegance and practicality on a wet and windy day.

While the first day of Henley is not known for its close racing, the smallest verdict of the day was ‘one foot’ in the club coxed fours event, the Britannia Challenge Cup, when Stratford-upon-Avon beat Kingston Rowing Club.

Many Dutch student rowing clubs famously pass on blazers from one generation to the next with a prohibition on cleaning or repair. Here, a rower from Koninklijke Studenten Roeivereeniging Njord sports such a garment. Clearly he and/or the jacket’s previous owners have fallen over rather a lot.
Many Dutch student rowing clubs famously pass on blazers from one generation to the next with a prohibition on cleaning or repair. Here, a rower from Koninklijke Studenten Roeivereeniging Njord sports such a garment. Clearly he and/or the jacket’s previous owners have fallen over rather a lot.
Some lucky people do not have to travel very far for a good view of the regatta. This is one of the splendid houses opposite the Boat Tent Area.
Some lucky people do not have to travel very far for a good view of the regatta. This is one of the splendid houses opposite the Boat Tent Area.
Molesey Boat Club ‘A’ return from their easy victory over Agecroft in the Thames Cup, possibly aided by their 26lb/11.8kg per man advantage.
Molesey Boat Club ‘A’ return from their easy victory over Agecroft in the Thames Cup, possibly aided by their 26lb/11.8kg per man advantage.
The University of Bristol pay attention to their pre-race briefing before their race against the University of London ‘A’ in the student eights event, the Temple Challenge Cup. Sadly for Bristol, London won ‘easily’.
The University of Bristol pay attention to their pre-race briefing before their race against the University of London ‘A’ in the student eights event, the Temple Challenge Cup. Sadly for Bristol, London won ‘easily’.
‘Success has many fathers but defeat is an orphan’. Molesey Boat Club ‘B’ contemplate their loss to Sydney Rowing Club, Australia, in the Thames Cup.
‘Success has many fathers but defeat is an orphan’. Molesey Boat Club ‘B’ contemplate their loss to Sydney Rowing Club, Australia, in the Thames Cup.
Watch this space – four more days of racing to go.
Watch this space – four more days of racing to go.

Full results and more pictures are on the regatta website.

© Photography: Tim Koch

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