North East rowers score historic double victory at Henley

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Rowers from two of the region’s Boat Clubs have put the North East firmly on the international rowing map with an historic double victory at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta.

A Newcastle University Boat Club (NUBC) crew of Fred Gill, Mason Durant, Murray Wilcojc, Nathan O’Reilly, coxed by Carolyn Johnson, won the Prince Albert Challenge Cup in the coxed fours event, while Stuart McCluskey, Will Fletcher, James Harris and Kieren Emery, from Tyne Rowing Club, won the Wyfold Challenge Cup in the coxless fours event. The Tyne RC crew led their final race from start to finish to beat off competition from London Rowing Club in the final race of the prestigious five day event, winning the race by one length.

In the final of the Prince Albert Challenge Cup, Newcastle University’s coxed four beat the University of West of England by two lengths. On their way to the final, NUBC defeated opponents from the top UK rowing universities, including Oxford (Isis), Cambridge (Goldie), Oxford Brookes, Bristol and Imperial College, as well as crews from America, Australia and Holland.

Head Coach of NUBC, Angelo Savarino, said ‘This is a truly historic result, being the first time in the history of Newcastle University that they have won a Henley medal. Winning a Henley medal is a tremendous achievement for any rower, and the achievement is all the more remarkable because two members of the winning Newcastle crew, Fred and Carolyn, only learned to row in the novice programme at Newcastle University’.

Chris Parsons, Captain of Tyne Rowing Club, said ‘This is a fantastic achievement for such a young crew – Stuart and Kieren are still rowing as juniors and this demonstrates the talent emerging from rowing in the North East of England. Kieren has retained his place in the GB Junior Squad and Stuart will also be joining him in the squad to race at the Junior World Championships later this year’.

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Head coach of Durham University Boat Club (DUBC) Wade Hall-Craggs said ‘It will take a while for the Tyne crew to realise just what an historic achievement their win is – they could be the youngest crew to ever win the event.  DUBC is proud to have coached this crew to such a unique result.’

Judith Rasmussen, regional director with Sport England North East, said ‘Once again, North East rowers are certainly proving a force to be reckoned with. To bring back two titles from Henley is a credit to the determination and effort of everyone involved, athletes, coaches and volunteers. This is the first time the Wyfold Challenge Cup has returned to the region since 1874 – certainly a historic victory.

‘Rowing has been recognised as one of the region’s target sports in the build-up to the London 2012 Games and rightly so. We have a superb club structure that identifies and nurtures the talent of our future athletes through a number of world class programmes to ensure they reach their full potential. This strong structure is certainly paying off. Rowing is one of Great Britain’s most successful Olympic disciplines. With seven North East
rowers heading out to Beijing and a wealth of North East talent in the GB Under 23 and junior squads with their eye on London 2012, Henley could just be the start of a golden era for North East rowing’.

Former Newcastle University rowers were also among the winners at Henley. Henry Pelly, who was President of NUBC from 2004-07, and is now President of Cambridge University Boat Club, won his first Henley Medal in the Stewards Cup, and Richard Francis who graduated in 2007, won the Ladies’ plate rowing at stroke in the Leander Club eight. Fred Gill and Mason Durant are now at training camp with the GB eight in preparation for the U23 World Championships to be held in Brandenburg, Germany, later this month. All five members of the winning NUBC crew and Kieren Emery from the Tyne RC crew took part in the 2008 University Boat Race on the River Tyne in May.

Melanie Reed
Newcastle University

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