GB crews up and running at Henley Royal Regatta

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Glorious sunshine greeted the GB Rowing Team crews as they made a successful start to the 2015 Henley Royal Regatta.

While records tumbled throughout the day in largely perfect rowing conditions, the main focus for the GB rowers was to get into the racing groove.

“It’s nice to open up the lungs and brush the cobwebs off,” said Matt Langridge after he and James Foad – representing Molesey BC and Leander Club – comfortably beat a Sons of the Thames RC pair in the Silver Goblets & Nickalls’ Challenge Cup.

It was a first outing for the GB pair since winning gold at the European Championships in May, with a slight injury niggle for Foad ruling them out of the recent World Cup in Varese.

“That seems like a long time ago now,” Langridge said. “We’ve done a lot of long, steady training but no high-intensity work so it’s nice to get into it and get one race out of the way.”

Next up is a Saturday semi-final against Callum McBrierty and Mat Tarrant, who made the men’s pair final at the Varese World Cup in Foad and Langridge’s absence.

They progressed by beating Sumito Nakamura and Noritaka Kamada of Mitsubishi Boat Club this afternoon.

Joining them in the last four are Oliver Cook and Stewart Innes, who will race as a second GB men’s pair in Lucerne next week – they beat a Keble College, Oxford crew by a length and a half in the last race of the day.

The first GB crew in action were John Collins and Jonny Walton, who beat Team Keane Sculling School by three lengths in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup.

“It’s always good to get that one in the legs and get rid of the nerves,” said Walton. “All went to plan and it’s nice to get the campaign up and running.”

It’s been a nearly season so far for Collins and Walton, who missed out on the A finals at both the Europeans and Varese by just hundredths of a second.

They were also edged out in a thrilling Double Sculls final at Henley last year by French lightweight stars Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou but Collins believes the hard work will soon pay off.

“It’s been frustrating but it’s also been a productive season,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of things that haven’t quite gone for us, even though we’ve done a good job, but as a crew we are much stronger than we were this time last year because we have learnt lessons the hard way.

“This is our third Henley campaign in a boat together and it’s about time we got on the right side of things.”

Walton agreed, confidently adding: “Another three feet last year and we would have won – we’ll be on the other side of that this year.”

Also looking to step on in the next few weeks are the GB women’s quad of Melanie Wilson, Tina Stiller, Frances Houghton and Jess Leyden, racing in the Princess Grace Challenge Cup this weekend as an Imperial College London and Tees RC composite.

They beat a game Cardiff University and Cardiff Metropolitan University crew by two-thirds of a length to set up a Saturday semi-final against Brown University.

“That was good fun,” said Stiller. “It was really nice out there – not too hot compared to Wednesday so we can’t complain.

“I think we had a plan for today and we’re just going to try and build on that for the rest of the week. Fingers crossed we’ll be here on Sunday and get a really good run-out before Lucerne.”

The GB women’s eight sat in their boat with heads bowed before their Remenham Challenge Cup race as a minute’s silence was observed to remember those who lost their lives in the Tunisian beach attack.

The race went as predicted once it began, with GB – racing as Leander Club and Imperial College London – overcoming a youthful but talented Leander Club crew by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

“It was important for us to set a marker early on,” said cox Zoe De Toledo.

“We don’t get many opportunities as national crews to race on home water, so it’s a chance for our supporters to see us and for us to really enjoy that home-water advantage.”

Next up for the eight is Saturday’s semi-final against an Oxford UWBC and Radcliffe, USA crew stroked by American Caryn Davies, a two-time Olympic gold-medallist and winner of the first Women’s Boat Race with Oxford earlier this year.

“I’m always excited to race fast competition, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Davies.

“There should be a really good atmosphere. We have the chance to show that women’s rowing in this country is on par with the rest of the world.”

The women’s eight may be back in the swing of things but the men’s eight have to wait until Saturday before starting their Grand Challenge Cup campaign against National Training Centre, Australia.

They got out on the water during the Friday lunch break and stroke Will Satch was feeling right at home – particularly as he lives just up the road in Henley town centre.

“It was good to get out on the water,” said the double World Champion.

“I think we’re ready. We’ve just done a big block of training so there are a few miles in the legs but we are on a good pathway so fingers crossed tomorrow will go well.

“We are still on a bit of a high from beating Germany in the World Cup, it was a cracking race, but you can’t live in the past. It wasn’t perfect and there are things that we have been working on in training that we will look to put in place here at Henley.”

The only change to the eight that won so dramatically in Varese sees Constantine Louloudis return after completing his finals at Oxford University.

His record on the famous Henley course stands at 11 wins and just one loss, and he is looking forward to a good challenge from the Aussie eight ahead of a possible Sunday showdown with Germany.

“It’s a really good thing we get to race on the Saturday as well,” said Louloudis.

“Last year we came here and just faced the French, who aren’t as formidable opposition as the Germans, so we got away having a slightly sub-par race.

“We plan to win this event, so the way I see it is we get to have two races, which probably means we have our best performance on the Sunday.

“Watching them in Varese was fantastic. The pressure’s on now to maintain the dominance but there’s also a lot of space and potential to move on and stamp our authority on the event.”

The GB men’s eight will be in action at midday, with all of the weekend’s races being streamed live on YouTube at www.hrr.co.uk

Sunday’s finals will also be available to watch via the BBC Red Button.

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