A Hannes Horribilis for Drysdale while Henley Goes Dutch
8 July 2016
Tim Koch was at a remarkable Henley Finals Day:
To be present at Henley Royal Regatta is an enormous thrill for spectators, officials and competitors alike, but for those interested in rowing’s rich heritage it is especially exciting as HTBS types in particular experience the event as ‘living history’. Moreover, the emotion is compounded when they actually witness history being made – as happened at least three times in a few hours on Henley Finals Day on Sunday, 3 July 2016. In the Open Events, it was the Diamond Sculls that generated the most excitement.
The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men’s Open Sculls)
H. Obreno (Brugse Trim en Roeiclub, Belgium) beat A.M.O. Drysdale (West End Rowing Club, New Zealand) by 2 lengths, time 7 minutes 56 seconds
At little after 1.08 p.m. on 3 July, I would not be surprised if the Stewards had to send someone to find an engraver to erase the name of Mahé Drysdale from one of the famous ‘Pineapple Cups’ given each year to the winner of The Diamond Sculls. It would be logical for them to have presumed that the reigning Olympic Champion, on his way to Rio, five times winner of The Diamonds and a convincing victor in his three earlier heats, would beat Hannes Obreno, a man 2 1/2 stone/15 kgs lighter, who finished 12th overall at last year’s World Championships and who had only just qualified for the Olympics four weeks ago. If it was a given that there would be a record equalling sixth Diamond Sculls win for the 37-year-old Kiwi, then no one had told the 25-year-old Belgian National Champion.
Even when Obreno made a great start and went a few feet up while sculling beautifully, most of us assumed it would be a typical underdog performance when the presumed loser puts all his energy into at least leading to the end of Temple Island or the Barrier. Further, Drysdale can have a famously relaxed start so it was only around the mid-point of the race that it began to look as if we were witnessing something very special with the Belgian leading and, at 32 strokes per minute, underrating the Champion. Around four minutes in, Drysdale put in the push that most of us still assumed would finish the challenger off and, indeed, the Fawley time of 3.56 gave the New Zealander the lead. However, it did not last and, by the Enclosures, Obreno was back in front with Drysdale unable to respond to his finishing sprint. Olympic Gold Medallist and respected rowing journalist and commentator Martin Cross called the race ‘a privilege to watch’.
I do not know if Mahé is interested in history but I can tell him that in 1912, WD Kinnear of Kensington Rowing Club was unexpectedly defeated in the first round of the Diamonds – but a month later he went to the Stockholm Games and won Olympic Gold, beating a Belgian in the final. He partly attributed his comeback to drinking ‘Black Velvet’ (Guinness and Champagne) and to sexual abstinence.
The Double Sculls Challenge Cup (Men’s Open Double Sculls)
N.C. Middleton & J.R.A. Beaumont (Leander Club) beat G. Fistravec & D. Fridman (Veslaški Klub Maribor, Slovenia and Tiberias Rowing Club, Israel) by 4 1/2 lengths, time 7 minutes 27 seconds.
The Silver Goblets and Nickalls Challenge Cup (Men’s Open Coxless Pairs)
R. Braas & M. Steenman, Holland beat B. Demey & E. Jonville (Aviron Grenoblois and Cercle Nautique d’Annecy, France) by 3 3/4 lengths, time 7 minutes 35 seconds.
The Queen Mother Challenge Cup (Men’s Open Quad Sculls)
Leander Club beat California Rowing Club, U.S.A. by 2 1/2 lengths, time 6 minutes 45 seconds.
The Stewards Challenge Cup (Men’s Open Coxless Fours)
Hollandia Roeiclub, Holland, beat Erster Wiener Ruderclub ‘LIA’ and Ruderverein Villach, Austria, by 1 3/4 lengths, time 6 minutes 53 seconds.
The Grand Challenge Cup (Men’s Open Eights)
Hollandia Roeiclub, Holland, beat Nautilus Rowing Club by 3/4 length, time 6 minutes 24 seconds.
As the Hollandia crew was the Dutch Olympic Eight, their win was expected. However, perhaps the crew that came second, the GB U23 crew, Nautilus, was almost as happy. The British Rowing Development Eight lost by only 3/4 length to the best of the Netherlands, and to get to the final they beat both the Spanish and Italian senior men’s crews. If they are the future of British rowing, it looks promising.
The Princess Royal Challenge Cup (Women’s Open Sculls)
L.I. Scheenaard, Holland, beat A. Beenken (Ruderverein Saarbrücken e.V., Germany) by 3 1/2 lengths.
The Princess Grace Challenge Cup (Women’s Open Quad Sculls)
Reading Rowing Club and Leander Club beat Akademicki Związek Sportowy AWF Warszawa and Klub Wioślarski “Wisła” w Grudziądzu, Poland, by 1 length, time 7 minutes 27 seconds.
The crew that were the commentators’ nightmare are the reigning U23 World Champions but, in a tough race, were unable to sustain their pushes against the Reading/Leander composite.
The Remenham Challenge Cup (Women’s Open Eights)
Princeton Training Center, USA, beat Leander Club and Tees Rowing Club by 4 3/4 lengths, time 7 minutes 0 seconds.
The strength and depth of U.S. women’s rowing was demonstrated by the Princeton Training Centre (PTC) crew who dominated this event despite the fact that they were made up of those who did not make the Olympic boat.
Part II will cover the Intermediate and Student finals and Part III will look at the results for Club and Junior events.
© Photography: Tim Koch