Thames wins the Thames and the Brit
Just when you thought 2017 and Thames vs Thames in the Thames could not be beaten, along comes 2018 – and a new chapter in the club’s history is written.
After a good season it was realistic to hope that at least one of the three club trophies at HRR would be coming our way, but at Henley you can never assume anything. Yet on Sunday afternoon both the Thames Cup and Britannia Cup A crews triumphed, making it the first double win for Thames at HRR since 1948 and our first ever Britannia win.
Click on the links in the summaries below to watch the races.
Thames Challenge Cup
The signs were good on Wednesday that the attempt to retain the Thames Challenge Cup might be successful, after wins for both the A and B crews. The A crew was, crucially, the fastest to the Barrier by three seconds, and both boats were able to take their feet off the gas early on. The two boats also sailed through Thursday with the A crew just 2 seconds off the Barrier and Fawley records. They repeated this on Friday. The B crew went out on Friday to eventual finalists NSR Oslo, but kept in touch the whole way down the course in a race to be proud of.
The A crew continued their smooth run to the final on Saturday with a win over the US crew Montclair Mounties. Oslo, to everyone’s surprise, beat Leander in the other semi-final to set up a repeat of the 2017 quarter-final – which Thames won by just a canvas. This year, there was to be no such tension for the Thames spectators on the bank as our boat took the lead from the start and extended it to a 2 3/4 length win by the finish.
Britannia Challenge Cup
The Britannia kicked off on Thursday with a 2 1/2 length win for the A crew over Agecroft in the second-fastest time of the day, sending a signal that Thames meant business. The B crew had a tough draw against Vesta, racing well but losing by 1 1/3 lengths.
The A crew raced DSR Copenhagen on Friday, an unknown quantity who ultimately posed no difficult questions. On Saturday it was the turn of Sydney RC, the club which had beaten our 2015 Britannia finalists to the title. This year, Thames made the win look straightforward.
The crowd in Remenham and Stewards had to wait until almost the end of the regatta to find out who would be the stronger out of Thames and opponents Molesey BC in the final. The Molesey crew, a quartet of talented juniors, were lighter but had been fast all week and the tailwind conditions arguably suited them. But the Thames crew shot out of the blocks into a narrow lead which they held on to all the way down the course, equalling the Barrier and Fawley records and breaking the Britannia course record by 1 second as they secured a 1/2 length victory. History was made.
Wyfold Challenge Cup
Right from the first day it was clear that the Wyfold would be one of the toughest events this year with most of the field split by only a couple of seconds. Both our A and B crews made good starts, the A crew beating the selected crew from Potomac BC, USA and the B boat beating Ardingly RC. On Thursday Walton RC fell to the A crew, but Tideway Scullers despatched the B crew after a blistering start.
On Friday the A boat gave all the spectators one of the best races of the day, coming back from a length down to row through Bayer Leverkusen for a 4-foot verdict. The race took a lot out of our 4’s legs, however, and on Saturday they could not quite find the answer to the fast crew from Mercantile RC, Australia, who won the semi-final and went on to lose to Molesey on Sunday.
Racing the open women’s events at HRR is always a big ask for a club. The Princess Grace quad were on a high after qualifying, but drew the current U23 heavyweight quad racing as Edinburgh University & Leander. Our women raced well but with three lightweights on board were simply over-powered. The race was the second-fastest of the day and the 1 3/4 length verdict the tightest margin in the event on Friday.
Silver Goblets & Nickalls
Nick Pusinelli and Jamie Palmer had a great first-round race against a gutsy, fast-starting pair from Bexhill RC. The 1 1/4 length win earned them a place in the quarter-finals against Martin and Valentin Sinkovic, reigning men’s 2x Olympic champions and world silver medallists in the pair last year. The Thames duo did what they could – attacking off the start and even leading for a short while before the Sinkovic brothers settled into rhythm and cruised away. The Croatians went on to break the course record, set initially by Steve Redgrave and Matt Pinsent, in the final.
Double Sculls Challenge Cup
Dan Ritchie (racing for his home club Herne Bay) and Tom Solesbury made their first round race look easy as they beat a crew from Christ Church, Oxford, in the fastest Barrier and Fawley times of the day. That victory took them through to a race against Rio 2016 LM2x bronze medallists Are Strandli and Kristoffer Brun of Norway, who won comfortably. It was great to see Thames represented in this event, the first open men’s scullers from the club at HRR for a long while.
Prince of Wales Challenge Cup
Jon Bale and Anthony Lester’s foray into sculling saw them team up with Alex Cawthorne and Dylan Wing of London RC for a shot at the Prince of Wales. They began racing very early on Thursday morning, waking up everyone with a gloriously close race against Reading University C. Reading got the better start, but the Tideway men pulled back through and then it was bowball to bowball all down the course. In the sprint, Thames & London prevailed by just 3 feet. On Friday the composite raced AASR Skøll from the Netherlands – and like everyone else who faced ultimate winners Skøll, came off on the losing side.
Visitors’ Challenge Cup
Orlando Nixon, part of the 2017 Thames Cup crew, had returned from Yale for the summer to team up with three fellow students rowing as Molesey for the Visitors’. The composite made a good start, beating a decent line-up from Eton Vikings (Eton College’s alumni club) on Thursday and producing the fastest time of the day to Fawley in the process. On Friday they drew a selected crew from the University of London. A few steering issues did not help the composite’s case and they finished 1 1/4 lengths down on UL, who ultimately lost to Leander in the final.
Overall it was a brilliant Henley for Thames, with eight full club crews and three composites qualifying. Only two crews missed out on the second round of their events, and we had nine crews racing on Friday. A total of 14 winners’ medals from 47 athletes is a superb return on all the investment put in by rowers, coaches and volunteers throughout the year. Many congratulations to all.