4 July 2018
Tim Koch gives his approval.
I spent Tuesday, the day before the start of the 169th Henley Royal Regatta, making sure that the Henley Stewards have got everything right. Thankfully, I found that the course was straight, someone had remembered to order the Pimms, and there was an extra roll of paper in all the lavatories. Thus, the world’s most famous and fabulous regatta is ready to go, much to the delight of the 565 crews that have entered (454 domestic and 111 from overseas). This year’s regatta has the third-largest entry on record. It may be an Edwardian garden party, but the draw is in cyberspace, as is Wednesday’s timetable. You can watch it all, live or prerecorded, on the wonderful HRR YouTube channel.
The HRR Press Office has issued the following preview of the opening day:
Race 28 will see two of the biggest junior names come face-to-face on the Henley stretch, with Eton battling it out against Hampton. Eton, semi-finalists in last year’s Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, will be looking to go one better this year in a side of the draw that also contains Bedford School and St Joseph’s College Nudgee, of Australia. Hampton’s first eight failed to make the finals at the National Schools’ Regatta but half of their crew for Henley Royal won a bronze in Championship Coxed Fours at Dorney in May.
The heats for The Thames Challenge Cup are sure to enthral the expectant crowds. In race 37, Kingston ‘B’ face Thames Rowing Club ‘A’, who have won this event in two of the past three years. On the other side of the draw, Leander has shown some mid-season promise.
Race 56 may well be one to watch. Washington will provide a boat for the competition made of members which formed the first, second and third Varsity crews over in the USA. They’re facing Oxford Brookes ‘B’, another strong entrant from the conveyor belt of quality that their well-established program now produces. Race 36 brings us an all-American encounter between Temple University and Yale University. Although this isn’t Yale’s Varsity Eight, the depth of their program suggests a strong showing from Steve Gladstone’s bulldogs. Namesakes Temple University haven’t raced here for a number of years but earned themselves pre-qualification due to a win at the Dad Vail Regatta earlier this season. Favourites and holders Oxford Brookes ‘A’ go off in Race 68.
Unusually, The Remenham Challenge Cup for women’s eights begins on Wednesday. The University of Washington, a crew of internationals and NCAA championship medalists, come up against the Tideway Scullers School, who won Club Eights at Henley Women’s Regatta. Oxford Brookes and Yale will clash in race 31. Spectators will be spoiled at Henley Royal Regatta with elite level racing from day one.
St Paul’s School are renowned for their ability in eights, having put together an unbeaten crew at schoolboy level. However, a selection of their second-crew athletes have committed to the quad and are leading the charge against Star and Arrow tomorrow. In a race that is sure to demonstrate the continued elevation of schoolboy sculling, two reserve crews go head-to-head in a battle that will surely go the distance.
The Prince Albert Challenge Cup for student coxed fours consistently produces some of the Regatta’s tightest racing. Imperial College, who lost out in the final last year by 2/3 of a length, are back in 2018 with a new-look crew and renewed conviction to take home the trophy. Their opponents, Grand Valley State University of the USA, have travelled across the Atlantic to compete on Henley waters but could be staring down the barrel of defeat as the home favourites look to flex their early racing muscles.
Looking at what remains of the rowing press, The Daily Telegraph publishes Rachel Quarrell’s preview in which she writes that ‘Despite extremely strong entries in the women’s open eights, fours and quads, it is a thinner year for international men’s crews, especially the larger boats’ and that ‘The quality comes in the small-boat events…’
Rowing Related writes about the regatta draw held on Saturday, comments on recent rule changes, and notes that “Henley isn’t like a lot of things in life”.
WEROW has a piece on Mahé Drysdale, who has entered the Diamonds once again, hoping for a sixth win. However, WEROW considers that ‘a sixth win seems unlikely given his form at home this season but Drysdale is a master of timing his athletic peaks and whatever the result, it will be exciting to see the reigning Olympic Champion at Henley, possibly for the last time’.
Row2k previews the American interest on Henley’s opening day.