Going For Silver: Henley Finals, Part I

Thames Rowing Club had a lot to drink to at the end of 2017 Regatta.

8 July 2017

Tim Koch produces his tardy reports on Henley’s Finals Day.

While the 168th Henley Royal Regatta may have appeared to be an Edwardian Garden Party, it took place in the age of the Internet and of the World Wide Web’s illegitimate and wayward children, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et al. Because of these, the results of the finals day racing on Sunday, 2 July were known around the world as soon as the bow of each winning boat had covered its allocated 2,112 metres. Thus, I make no apology for producing my two-part report on Henley Sunday several days after the event. Hear The Boat Sing is not a results service, and my aim in covering an event like Henley in words and pictures is not only to lightly comment on the rowing, but to also try and convey the atmosphere of the occasion, to seek out the historical and the quirky, and to find that which appeals to ‘HTBS Types’. While this is a self-imposed (and enjoyable) duty, I also take time out to enjoy the social aspects of the five-day gathering of the rowing fraternity, so not all races are covered equally and my reporting standards often drop after a good lunch.

A stylish young spectator views the finals action down the course.

In Part I, I cover the events for Club Men, Junior Men, Open Women, and Junior Women. Part II has the results for Open, Intermediate and Student Men. As in my previous Henley reports, I quote extensively from the official press releases (reproduced in italics, excluding the captions). Full details of split times and of the heats are on the official website and all the races can be viewed on demand on the official Henley YouTube Channel.

Club Men: Thames Challenge Cup (M8+), Thames RC ‘A’ beat Thames RC ‘B’ by 5 lengths.

A banner in the Stewards’ Enclosure? Possibly the thin end of a very thick wedge.

This race pushed all the HTBS buttons and therefore gets our extensive star coverage.

For a club to have two crews in a Henley final is remarkable – but the story gets better. While the ‘A’ crew was the club’s First Eight, the ‘B’ crew was its Third Eight. The Second Eight had been split into two fours, a Britannia Crew and the Wyfold Crew, both of which got to the semi-finals. The way most of us learned of this fact just adds to the story.

Thames race Thames on the Thames in the Thames.

As anyone who has attended Henley Royal Regatta will know, the commentary over the public address system in the Stewards’ Enclosure is renowned for being unemotional and factual, delivered in Received Pronunciation. It is well summarised by David Owen in his recent ‘Inside The Games’ piece titled, ‘Henley Royal Regatta could teach modern sport a thing or two’. In it, he says of the Regatta’s official commentators:

In an age of exaggeration and hyperbole, their contribution was gloriously laconic. There was no attempt whatsoever to inject bogus excitement or uncertainty where there was none; just a deadpan, studiedly neutral, summary of stroke rates, length of lead and location on course.

By the time of the Thames Cup final at 4 o’clock on Sunday, we had already been prepared for some deviation from this norm by the fact that there had previously been a woman commentating on the racing at Henley for the first time ever. She had been very competent, had followed all the conventions and the world had not come to an end when racing was described in a slightly higher pitch than usual. But, just before 4 o’clock, there was an even greater deviation from that which we have known when Thames Rowing Club (TRC) took over the three man commentary team. There was chat, there was emotion, there was even a joke; the lunatics had taken over the asylum.

Thames wins – and comes second.
A rare sight – the blazer of only one club worn by the spectators in the bows of an umpire’s launch.

In the race itself, the ‘A’ crew took the early lead, with the ‘B’ crew a length behind during the early stages. By the enclosures, ‘A’ had opened up a big lead, with solid technique and neat bladework that ‘B’ could not match. The Thames Rowing Club Head Coach since 2014, Ben Lewis, picked from eighteen men with similar ergo scores and finally chose a second crew that was actually five pounds per man heavier, with an average weight of 13 stone 8 pounds. The boys in the first eight were simply the better boat movers. Ben’s account of TRC at Henley 2017 is on the club’s website.

No losers here. Picture: @ThamesRC

The historical context of this race will appeal to HTBS Types. The history section of the TRC website is brief but informative. It is split into four sections; Origins, The Golden DaysWomen at Thames, and, The Return of the Men. The Golden Days refer to the inter-War period, the time of Steve Fairbairn, and the Beresfords, Senior and Junior. The section ends:

In the decades following the Second World War, Thames, like many British clubs, struggled to cope with the increasing professionalisation of international rowing coupled with waves of social change. Although success never completely disappeared, the club reached a low ebb in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with its role and future very much in doubt. It was to be a long road back to greatness.

‘Greatness’ returned to TRC when it became the centre point of British women’s rowing for twenty years from the 1970s. Eventually however, ‘lottery funding, early talent identification and the move of the national team to Caversham (meant) that the role of clubs in international rowing…. diminished…’

Thames ‘A’ are jubilant. Picture: HRR.

However, as the women at Thames faded, the men returned:

Steady improvement from the late 1990s onwards culminated in an emphatic and highly emotional win in the Wyfold Challenge Cup… in 2003, the first Thames win at Henley in 47 years… Finals appearances in the Wyfold and the Britannia Challenge Cup followed in 2005 and the club took another Wyfold win in 2006. From 2010, the focus moved to the quest to win the Thames Challenge Cup for club eights. Thames last won the event in 1934 (and there were) losses in the semi-finals in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014, and in the final in 2012. Finally, in 2015… TRC qualified a record four eights for the Thames Cup – but importantly the first of these won the event…

Thames also won the Visitors’ at Henley in 2016.

Seated in the middle, in front of the Thames Cup, is Thomas Phelps, stroke of Thames ‘A’. On either side are his siblings and fellow rowers, Cissie (15) and James (17). Standing behind (and bursting with pride) are parents, Annamarie (née Stapleton) and Richard (both are Olympians and Henley Stewards). Richard missed witnessing his son’s win when he had to deal with an appeal in a race that he had just umpired.

The final aspect of the 2017 Thames Cup that gets the HTBS seal of approval is the fact that the stroke of the winning crew, Tom, is part of the ‘Phelps Dynasty’ of watermen and rowers. While the legend that a Phelps was in the crew that rowed King John to Runnymede and the Magna Carta in 1215 is dubious, Maurice Phelps’s The Phelps Dynasty (2012) covers 350 years, ten generations of the family, ‘nine of which were without exception apprenticed watermen…’ The Phelps’s have not been watermen for three generations but both Tom’s parents have distinguished rowing histories and both continue to serve the sport in many different ways at its highest levels. By his success, Tom seems to have insured that the family’s wonderful aquatic record will continue into another age. He is a fourth generation Thames member, though his paternal great-grandfather, Dick, was only made a member (for life) when he retired as the club’s boatman after 35 years in 1966.

Club Men: Wyfold Challenge Cup (M4-), Sport Imperial beat The Tideway Scullers School by 2 1/2 lengths.

2,112 meters away, the Wyfolds is on the start.

Sport Imperial won the Wyfold Challenge Cup with a classy row which saw them smoothly take back the lead established by Tideway Scullers’ School in the early part of the race.

Sport Imperial is Imperial College’s non-student club, consisting of alumni club members, experienced club rowers and gap-year development athletes, all ‘with aspirations at national level’.

Sport Imperial lead Tideway Scullers in the final few strokes of the Wyfolds.
Sport Imperial take it home.

Club Men: Britannia Challenge Cup (M4+), NSR Oslo, Norway, beat St Andrew’s Boat Club by 1 length.

The ‘Brit’ goes abroad as Oslo win.

A group of friends from Oslo were the winners of the final event of Henley Royal Regatta 2017 as N.S.R. Oslo beat Scotland’s St Andrew Boat Club by one length. The Norwegian crew came to Henley to ‘have some fun’ according to stroke Ole Henrik Bang-Andreasen – now they go home with the trophy for men’s club coxed fours. The consolation for St Andrew was that 2017 was the first time the club had entered the Regatta.

The victorious Oslo look like they are having the fun that they intended.
Unusually, Oslo reassembled the three part Britannia Challenge Cup while on the presentation stand.

Junior Men: Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (JM8+), Scotch College, Melbourne, Australia, beat Radley College by 1 2/3 lengths.

The Scotch College crew. Their rowing was not always pretty but they were very powerful.

Scotch College, Melbourne, Australia became the first foreign crew to win the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup since 2008 …. (and) is the first Australian crew to win the event since 2001.

Junior Men: Fawley Challenge Cup (JM4x), The Windsor Boys’ School beat Claires Court School by 1/2 a length.

The result of the Fawley was a reverse of last year’s final when Claires Court beat Windsor Boys’.

The Windsor Boys’ School rowed an immaculate race… (they) were three seconds behind the record at Barrier and Fawley, they then upped the pace and powered through to finish with a record time of 6:34.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, took a much-needed break from politics to enjoy a day out at Henley on the Friday. She followed the race involving a Junior Quad from her constituency, Maidenhead, in the Fawley Challenge Cup. They produced a strong and stable performance and they won without forming a composite with an Irish crew. Picture: @TidewayBulletin

Open Women: Remenham Challenge Cup (W8+), Waiariki RC, New Zealand, beat Leander Club & University of London by 2/3 length.

One of the powerful Waiariki crew enjoys the great taste of Champagne and silver polish.

The New Zealand women’s eight, rowing as Waiariki Rowing Club, were stronger than the young British crew who did well to keep overlap throughout the race. The Waiariki cox, Sam Bosworth, is the first man to steer a women’s international crew.

Open Women: Women’s Fours (W4-), Hollandia Roeiclub, Netherlands, beat New York Athletic Club, USA, by 3 lengths.

Hollandia – surprised but happy. Unusually, there were no American wins at Henley, despite a large U.S. entry.

The first-ever winners of the Women’s Fours at Henley Royal Regatta was Hollandia Roeiclub, the current Dutch under-23 crew. Stroke Veronique Meester said the crew surprised themselves by despatching an experienced American crew of Olympians, racing as New York Athletic Club, by three lengths in the final. ‘We didn’t expect it at all because there are quite a lot of names we had to race against, some Olympic champions, and we’re just an under-23 crew.’

Open Women: Princes Grace Challenge Cup (W4x), Hollandia Roeiclub, Netherlands, beat Nottingham RC & Warrington RC by 4 1/2 lengths.

Hollandia put on an assured display.

The Princess Grace Challenge Cup saw the crew from Hollandia Roeiclub, Netherlands, continue their fine form they established at both the European Championships and the first World Cup Regatta. They comfortably beat the British U23 quad.

Hollandia at the finish – not looking like a crew leading by four lengths.

Open Women: Women’s Pairs (2x), Gowler and Prendergast, New Zealand (Waiariki RC), beat Kalmoe and Eisser, USA (New York Athletic Club), by 2 3/4 lengths.

Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast, having just won the Women’s Pairs, tell teammate Matthew Dunham the good news as he paddles to the start of the Diamond Sculls.

New Zealanders Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast secured victory in the first-ever Women’s Pairs by beating Megan Kalmoe and Tracey Eisser of the New York Athletic Club. Gowler and Prendergast were presented with their trophy by London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games Champions Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, whose world best time they recently broke.

Grace Prendergast displays a rower’s tan as she collects her medal from Heather Stanning. Helen Glover and Henley Chairman, Steve Redgrave, look on.
Kerri and Grace – world’s best.

Open Women: Women’s Double Sculls (W2x), Donoghue & Loe, New Zealand (Waiariki RC) beat Oldenburg & de Jong, Netherlands (Hollandia Roeiclub) by 4 3/4 lengths.

Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe on the way to the start.

Henley’s first ever Women’s Double Sculls final saw a great performance from New Zealand’s powerful double of Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe. Oldenburg and de Jong did everything they could, but just could not equal the power of their opposition.

Open Women: The Princess Royal Challenge Cup (W1x), A.K. Thiele, Germany (Sport – Club Deutsche Hochschule für Körperkultur Leipzig) beat VL Thornley (Leander Club), verdict, Easily.

Thiele leads Thornley early in the race.

Rachel Quarrell, writing in the Daily Telegraph:

Vicky Thornley was beaten in the final of the Princess Royal women’s singles by Olympic quads champion Annekatrin Thiele, who has been no match for Thornley so far this season. Thiele’s fast start put Thornley under pressure, but the Briton was unable to mount the expected mid-race challenge and lost by a large margin. ‘Something was not quite right, I don’t know if it was wash, weed or what,’ Thornley said. ‘I was having to steer hard left to stay straight. But that’s racing, things happen…’

Thornley: ‘Something was not quite right’.

Junior Women: Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup (JW4x), Gloucester RC beat Isle of Ely RC by 2 1/2 lengths.

The powerful, precise and efficient Gloucester crew, a credit to coach Tom Pattichis.

Gloucester Rowing Club first won the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup… in 2014…This year’s victory over Isle of Ely made it four in a row. The two clubs had last met in the final of Henley Women’s Regatta a fortnight ago where (rowing as Gloucester Hartpury, they) also triumphed.

Celebration time for Gloucester – again.
The boat tents empty by half every day and, by Sunday, the place is almost clear.

Tomorrow, Part II will have the results for Open, Intermediate and Student Men.

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