Thames success at Henley Women’s Regatta 2017

Henley Women’s Regatta this year was blessed with perfect conditions, especially on finals day when records fell across the board. Thames sent 10 crews to compete, with eight progressing to the main draw and two all the way to the finals.

The elite lightweight A pair of Lowenna Coad and Natalie Hardy raced superbly throughout the regatta, finishing off all opposition within the first 500m of each race. In the final the girls stormed out of the blocks to establish a comfortable lead over the University of London. The classy Thames pair attacked the race throughout, resulting in them smashing the former course record by a huge 8 seconds. As a result they were awarded the prestigious Bremont Award for the small boat with the best percentage time based on the previous record.

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The elite lightweight B pair of Sarah Fabes and Ellie Garratt-Smith comfortably beat Oxford University Lightweights’ B crew on Friday and progressed to the quarterfinals where they fought and challenged a strong pair from Commercial RC, Ireland. The margin at the finish line was 1 ¼ lengths to Commercial.

Suzi Perry raced the senior lightweight 1x, hoping to end a spectacular year on a high. Suzi was on a mission to win this event after narrowly missing out in the final last year. She moved through each round with ease, reaching Sunday’s final with the closest margin 1¼ lengths in the quarterfinals.

In the final Suzi dominated the race from the start and went on to accomplish a huge 4 1/2 length lead over her opposition. Not only did Suzi win the event but she also set a new course record of 5:56, becoming the first sculler in this event to break 6 minutes.

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Jordan Cole-Hossain raced the senior 1x. After winning WIM3 1x at Scullers Head Jordan showed tremendous improvement throughout the year, securing medals at Ghent International Regatta and coming second at Met Regatta in the Tier 2 1x event. At Henley Women’s Regatta Jordan progressed comfortably through to the quarterfinals, despite suffering a stress fracture to a rib in the run-up to the regatta. In a close fought race Jordan lost out to the eventual winner of the senior 1x, World Class Start rower Laura Meridew of Reading RC.

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Thames entered two boats in the intermediate club 8+ and intermediate club 4+ events. In both cases the A crew was drawn from this year’s intermediate squad, with the B crew made up of rowers from the novice squad.

In the 8+ event, the A crew performed well in the time trial, easily securing a qualifying spot. The B crew also raced well but just missed out on a qualifying spot, finishing joint 19th out of 29 racing crews with less than a second separating the top four non-qualifiers.

The A crew got one of the toughest first-round draws, with a tie against Tideway Scullers School who had been consistently just a little faster all season. The girls knew they had to race their best race of the season to beat TSS, and they attacked the race from the start to cling on to their opponents all the way down the course. The verdict in TSS’ favour was just 1 length and the time six seconds faster than any other first-round race in this event – showing Thames’ speed and the fact the girls undoubtedly deserved to progress further in the regatta, had the draw been kinder.

Both the 4+s qualified for the side-by-side racing. The A crew, who had been improving rapidly in recent weeks, drew a strong and experienced Upper Thames crew who used their home advantage to full effect and won with a two-length margin.

The B crew drew Leeds RC in the first round and got off to a great start, pulling out to around a length. Leeds fought back and drew level but the Thames girls put in a fantastic last 500m to win by 1/2 a length. In the quarterfinals they faced Lea RC, who were favourites after several wins at earlier regattas. Thames went out hard and battled all the way down the course, holding Lea to a three-length margin – a good performance from a crew who had all been novices at the start of the year.

The junior quads were the last crews to start racing. In the Friday evening timetrials the J16s raced well, finishing as the third-fastest non-qualifying crew and close behind the slowest qualifiers. With only eight spots this was always going to be a competitive event and the girls came off the water happy with how they had approached the race.

The J18 4x did qualify for side-by-side racing, close behind their first round opponents St Paul’s Girls School. The girls had a gutsy row, but having spent most of the season in a 2x and 2- found a little less cohesion than their well-drilled opponents. St Paul’s won but by just 1 length.

Overall HWR this year was a good regatta for Thames, with all crews racing well and doing themselves and their club proud. The two lightweight wins were testament to the hard work of the crews and their coaches Ben Lewis, Jamie Lowe and Rich Dyer. Thanks must also go to Jack Clark and Sheena Cassidy for their work with the intermediate squad, and Jo Harris, Tim Hirst, Praneet Shivaprasad and Pauline Rayner for coaching the novice women.

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