Quality racing at Marlow Regatta

A new format brought some nail-biting, high-quality racing at a blazingly sunny Marlow Regatta on Saturday. The usual system of heats, repechages and finals was replaced with a morning time trial for all events, followed by a seeded afternoon final for every one of the 380 entrants, with approximately 1,900 athletes.

With a few days to go until Henley Royal Regatta, the country’s top men’s crews took opportunities either to make sure they pre-qualified or to polish their preparations for the biggest domestic event of the summer.

In a light tail wind, Leander Club were recorded as the quickest crew of the day, winning the elite eights in 5 minutes 32 seconds – although there were complaints about the veracity of some timings – and they will hope their form carries into the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at Henley Royal.

Griffen BC – the old boys’ club of Abingdon School – were second, demonstrating their credentials to defend their Thames Challenge Cup title in a fortnight’s time. Thames RC – another of the favourites for that event – were absent on Saturday but Mercantile RC of Australia started their UK trip with victory in senior eights, just ahead of Molesey and Sport Imperial.

Several of the top school crews, including Abingdon and St Edward’s, were missing but Radley College impressed to finish third in IM1 eights. King’s Chester and St Paul’s led home the B final of that event.

Newcastle University look strong for the Prince Albert Challenge Cup after winning Marlow’s elite coxed fours. Upper Thames RC, two seconds behind them, will be eyeing the Britannia Challenge Cup.

Leander’s crew for Henley’s Visitors’ Challenge Cup won elite fours, with Wyfolds rivals Molesey and Rob Roy a length apart in third and fourth respectively.

Unlike previous years, though, the close racing was not restricted to A finals. In the B final for IM3 school eights – the penultimate race of the day –– just five seconds separated all seven crews, with four crossing the line 0.8 seconds apart.

The event’s new format brought some teething troubles for organisers in implementing the changes, including problems with timing, and technology issues. Some crews complained at having to wait over six hours between their time trial and final.

Regatta chairman Peter Blaseby issued a statement afterwards saying: “We regret that, in some cases due to infrastructure issues, we did not achieve the standards for competitors and spectators that we had aimed for.”

Among changes the regatta committee will consider for next year are a series of waves of time trials followed by side-by-side races, to avoid complaints from spectators that the regatta only came alive once the finals began in early afternoon.

“We learned quite a bit in the heat of battle,” entries secretary Mike Spencer-Jones admitted. 

“One of the main areas to improve is communication – we didn’t publish times quickly and when there were problems with timing we didn’t communicate that well.”

View full results here: http://reports.regattamaster.com/Pages/Races.aspx?regattaID=1114

By Martin Gough