Down By The Riverside: Henley’s Opening Day

If Henley is a place of pilgrimage, this is its temple.

29 June 2017

HTBS special HRR correspondent, Tim Koch. Photo: Clive Radley.

Tim Koch buys a day return to Henley.

The problem with Henley Royal Regatta is that it is held in Henley – which is at least two hours from my flat. Thus, by the time I have returned home from The Royal and found a clean shirt for the next day, there is little time left to produce some fitting prose and to sort the hundreds of photographs that I may have taken. Fortunately, other people either live nearer to Henley or have more shirts than I, and can post their reports before bedtime. Notable in this lucky group is Rachel Quarrell of the Daily Telegraph. If you wish that online editions of newspapers had greater coverage of rowing, please comment on Rachel’s piece. It does not matter what you say, the people who run newspapers just look at the numbers of comments, not their content.

Alongside the Queen’s Rowbarge, Gloriana, St Edward’s School boat for a heat of the Princess Elizabeth Cup.
Lea Rowing Club on the start for a heat of the Thames Cup.

Perhaps the press have given up on boring old paper, as, for the first time that I know of, the Daily Telegraph does not have a newsstand outside of the Stewards’ Enclosure (there is a coffee stall instead). Before Rachel’s piece was posted, the only piece that the online Telegraph put out for Henley’s opening day was a ridiculous non-story more suited to a free local newspaper, linking local rubbish collection with the regatta. As usual, the online Daily Mail wrote nonsense but put out lots of pictures (mostly of people, not rowing). The best online coverage of the rowing was race-by-race reporting by the Henley Standard, an excellent paper which has maintained proper coverage of local events while other such publications have become a collection of estate agents’ advertisements.

A sign of international competition (though Henley maintains the fiction that national teams are club crews).
Auriol Kensington in a heat of the Wyfolds.

Having criticised most modern local newspapers, I am now going to do exactly what they do and copy out a press release. Naturally, it is from Henley Royal Regatta, and I have interspersed it with my photographs, most of which do not relate to the text (I now feel like a real journalist).

The author of ‘Rowing Blazers’, Jack Carlson, has now gone into the business of designing and manufacturing the eponymous garments, both for the fashion market and for rowing clubs. HTBS will be writing more about this exciting venture soon. This is Jack’s ‘pop-up’ shop in Leander.
Clonmel Rowing Club, Ireland (far side), lead Malvern Preparatory School ‘B’, USA, in a heat of the Fawley Challenge Cup.

The press release reads:

The 2017 season of the world’s most famous Regatta began in earnest at 9am this morning, under moody grey skies. Not to be deterred, the racing began with a clash between City of Oxford rowing club and Thames Rowing Club ‘B’ in the aptly named Thames Challenge Cup, with the Putney-based crew prevailing by 1 ¼ lengths.

Shrewsbury School beat the selected Tabor Academy, USA, in a heat of the Princess Elizabeth.
A young spectator goes for ‘smart casual’.

Dutch Dominance

In a few short minutes, both Dutch crews in action this morning ran out winners in their respective heats. K.A.R.Z.V De Hoop, who were racing in the Wyfold Challenge Cup, defeated Fulham Reach Boat Club, before K.S.R Njord saw off stiff opposition from Oxford Brookes University ‘C’. De Hoop’s leggings were the subject of much discussion in the press tent, and the crew were happy to shed some light on the subject. “There’s this person in Amsterdam who came up with the idea of our colourful leggings when drinking wine with the crew 10 years ago. He was Scottish and always wore a kilt”.

Imperial College (far side) race Oxford Brookes in the Temple. Brookes were the eventual winners.

Early-event Indicators

The Thames Challenge Cup is one of the most hotly contested events at the Regatta, and a couple of crews looked particularly impressive in dispatching their opposite numbers. Mitsubishi Boat Club from Japan has made the long trip to compete in the heart of the British countryside and made their journey look every inch worthwhile as they confidently beat Vesta Rowing Club. Cox Yohei Iwasaki said: “We’re very happy to come away with the win today. We started off quickly and got out fast to help establish a solid rhythm. The Mitsubishi club record is reaching the semi-finals and this crew hopes to go on and win the event”. In a race just before lunch, home favourites Leander Club beat Worcester Rowing Club by 2 ½ lengths. 

Young style.

International Fall

Several overseas crews face the daunting prospects of early flights home, as the best of the British largely reigned supreme. National Champions in their native New Zealand, Avon Rowing Club were knocked out by Cantabrigian in the Thames Challenge Cup whilst Riverside Boat Club, USA, were rowed through by the Tideway Scullers School in the same competition. 

Old style.

Jubilant Juniors

There might well be some tired legs in the Shiplake College crew tomorrow morning, despite the fact that today marks the opening of competitive racing. The National Schools’ Regatta bronze medalists were drawn against rivals Westminster School, who themselves were fourth at the latter event. Shiplake were eventual winners by a margin of 2/3 of a length, but they were pushed all the way.

Auriol Kensington in the Thames Cup.

Wayward Compass

Steering at Henley Royal Regatta is one of the most divisive topics one can discuss on the towpath, and today has proved the merit of learning the unique nature of the course. Several crews struggled to stay on their station, with clashes and warnings keeping the umpires busy. St Neots Rowing Club even had their bow-number sliced off after colliding with Akademischer RV Westfalen, Germany.

Blue Boys.

Evening Entertainment 

The final section of the day’s racing saw some of the crews considered favourites in their respective events take to the water. Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ comfortably beat the University of the West of England in the Temple Challenge Cup, whilst 2011 winners University of California, Berkeley, USA, were convincing in their win against United Hospitals, London. Meanwhile, St Paul’s School escaped a near-catastrophe in their heat of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup to successfully begin their assault on the premier prize in schoolboy rowing. Coach Bobby Thatcher commented: “It was an eventful first race with someone coming off their seat. It’s good to do this in earlier rounds as there is less pressure to do well. We are looking for a simple race against Pangbourne, but are taking it one day at a time”.

Arriving at Temple Island in style.

Of course, you do not have to accept other people’s view of the racing, all the action is available to view on demand on the Henley Royal Regatta YouTube Channel. This Internet thing could catch on.

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