Five Henley Wins for GBRT crews

GB Rowing Team crews won five finals at Henley Royal Regatta’s 175th anniversary event. The wins were spread through the programme and came for the men’s and women’s eights, the men’s four and the men’s and women’s quadruple sculls.

The relatively new GB combination in the men’s four continued the season unbeaten with a very comfortable, three and a half lengths victory in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup. They started well against their French opponents, Club France ‘B’, and by the quarter mile mark, racing as Molesey and Leander Clubs, led by one length using their extra weight advantage to push ahead.

They steadily increased their lead throughout the race and always looked in control. Alex Gregory, in the bow seat, said it could not have gone better. He said: “We moved quickly through, and we sat on our rhythm, and I’d say that was one of the best rows we’ve done so far in this four. I just kept calling down the course ‘enjoy it, enjoy it’ because it’s such a unique event.’ 

At the mile post they were three lengths clear and cruised to a victory by three and a half lengths in 6:41. For the crew featuring Moe Sbihi, George Nash and Andrew Triggs-Hodge, the victory is the perfect preparation for World Cup III in Lucerne, where they will undoubtedly meet opponents with serious World Championship aims for later in the year.

The Double Sculls Challenge Cup was one of the closest and most exciting races of the day, where Leander teammates John Collins and Jonny Walton were against the French pair Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou.  The French crew got away to a slightly better start and were leading by half a length but they struggled to open up any more distance and the GB crew fought back and for the last part of the race it was level.

In a thrilling finish the French pair sprinted ahead to beat the GB scullers by a third of a length. “We’re obviously disappointed” said Collins. “It wasn’t the perfect row but it was a great race and that’s just the way it goes sometimes and anything can happen here”.
Looking forward to Lucerne though he said: “it’s just a small speed bump but it’s just a shame we had ours at Henley.”

After beating Australia in the semi-finals the GB Rowing Team women’s eight lined up against The Netherlands international crew in the final of the Remenham Challenge Cup. A confrontation in the European Championships earlier this year saw GB come out in front and it was the same story today, with a Molesey and Leander crew winning by two thirds of a length. The Netherlands remained close to the British boat and when the visitors pushed with half of the race to go cox Zoe Toledo got her crew to respond. “She said to us ‘ok girls, we have to go now.’ So we put a big push in and she called out every name in the crew and we took hold of that energy and went for it,” Polly Swann said that move was essential.

In the Grand Challenge Cup it was a close race until Fawley Meadows where the GB Rowing Team men’s eight, racing as Leander Club and University of London, beat Club France ‘B’ to record a victory by one and a half lengths. This is a third consecutive win in the event for Great Britain.

Constantine Louloudis, who returned to the boat for Henley after time out concentrating on University studies, admits their start could have been better. He said: “It wasn’t ideal. We have a lot of strength, but we weren’t quite utilising it but then I think we got onto our pace and the French pushed hard early on, and we rocked about a bit. We were maybe a little bit thrown by that but then there were a couple of good calls in the boat and we got straight onto it.”

This combination in the men’s eight have been together for a very short time due to illness and injury and this victory will hopefully provide a good marker for the upcoming International regattas.

The GB Rowing Team men’s quad, competing for Leander Club and Agecroft Rowing Club, were up against National Training Centre, Australia, in the final of the Queen Mother Challenge Cup. They led the whole way and won their final convincingly, and were only pushed when the Australians made a big surge mid way through the race. “We said we wanted to go out hard and when you’re just that little bit up you can keep an eye on those pushes and we just absorbed it, kept doing what we were doing and they didn’t really have anything else to then give”, commented Graeme Thomas. 

It all looks promising going forward for the quad and Peter Lambert looks ahead to the World Cup in Lucerne next weekend, “We have so far only lost to one crew this year and are gaining a lot of confidence.  We go to Lucerne on Wednesday and race there and we want to try and get the gold, we are definitely looking for top of the podium again.”

The women’s quad, rowing for Leander Club and Gloucester Rowing Club, faced an U23 challenge in Gloucester Rowing Club and Northwich in the Princess Challenge Cup final. The GB squad produced a strong race where they kept extending their lead throughout, with a big surge at the end to win by over three lengths. A delighted Kristina Stiller commented on the race “We’re pleased with the result as we wanted to practise for Lucerne next weekend so no matter what we were going to race it to the line and get a good run out for next weekend.”

Looking forward to the rest of the year Beth Rodford is positive the quad can keep improving, “This for us is all in preparation for Lucerne and moving forward to the World Championships so we had to learn things this week and I think we’ve done that and it’s great to get a Henley win. We still don’t feel like we’ve raced to our full potential yet and feel like we’ve got more in the bag.”

A satisfying regatta from a British perspective with also some encouraging results from younger crews experiencing Henley for the first time. Great Britain Head Coach for Men, Jurgen Grobler, was smiling as he reflected on the week, and the first half of the season,“We have the leading boat in the four and we are developing the eight. We are very pleased with the crew sculling and we have a quad which won, the first time ever, a medal at last year’s World Championships and our biggest aim now is to defend that.” World Cup III comes next week in Lucerne, and the World Championships are in Amsterdam in August.

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