Many surprises at #HRR16

An amazing five days of racing was topped off with a dramatic and unrelenting finals’ day at Henley Royal Regatta, which saw controversy, jubilation, heartbreak and vengeance course through the veins of the event.

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Henley on Thames. United Kingdom. Final of the Vistors' Challange Cup. University of California. Berkley USA catch's a boat stopping crab allowing Thames RC to go through and win the final. Sunday, 03/07/2016, 2016 Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Reach. [Mandatory Credit Peter Spurrier/

The event continued the success of its critically acclaimed broadcast project as BT Sport showed live coverage of racing from Wednesday onwards, including every race on Saturday and Sunday. With a record 629 boat entry, which was whittled down by nearly half before racing even began, the regatta was set up to excite, entertain and represent.

“That was really good. It was my third time at Henley and the previous two visits were quite stressful. I really enjoyed this year.”

Finals day promised much, with a healthy mix of much-fancied favourites and hungry hopefuls vying for one of the regatta’s twenty challenge cups. It was a true pleasure to see the Dutch men’s heavyweight sweep team in action before they jump on the plane to Rio. They travel back across the channel with the optimum three wins from three, the first of which came from the pairing of Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman in the Silver Goblets and Nickalls Challenge Cup. Racing under Hollandia Roeiclub, they also secured victories in the Grand and Stewards’ Challenge Cup.

Oxford Brookes wrapped up their second Temple Challenge Cup victory in three years, defeating Harvard’s junior varsity eight in a contest which demonstrated how the British university have truly taken their seat at rowing’s top table. Assistant coach Rory Copus commented on the importance of the win for the squad as a whole. “The whole team have been incredibly driven since the loss last year. On the day, the boys put in a class demonstration of quality rowing, and the club as a whole is immensely proud.”

In the Princess Grace Challenge Cup, Mathilda Hodgkins-Bryne became the first winner of the regatta from Reading Rowing Club since 1935. Racing as part of a Reading RC & Leander Club composite, which contained three oarswomen from the British heavyweight quad, Mathilda was delighted with her win. “That was really good. It was my third time at Henley and the previous two visits were quite stressful. I really enjoyed this year.”

The Ladies Challenge Plate often produces some of the regatta’s most competitive racing and so it proved again, with only a few feet separating A.S.R. Nereus and Leander Club’s surging bows as they crossed the line. Nereus were retrospectively disqualified after television replays appeared to show coach Diederik Simon coaching his crew from the launch after they received multiple steering warnings from umpire Boris Rankov.

Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale lost out to Hannes Obreno in the final of the Diamond Challenge Sculls in arguably the shock of the regatta. The Belgium sculler said: “I feel amazing. When I crossed the line, just wow. I came here in preparation for Rio with no expectations, but the heats were smooth, and I have felt good throughout the week.”

In the Visitors Challenge Cup, the University of California, Berkeley hit the booms with metres left to race to allow Thames Rowing Club to steal in and win. Coach Ben Lewis hailed his crew for their never-say-die attitude. “It’s not how you’d like to win a Henley final, but we pushed Cal to the point that they made a mistake. We never gave up and never made a mistake” he said.

The final race of the day ended on an appropriately emotional note, as Edinburgh University came from behind to win the Prince Albert Challenge Cup as the first time the university has featured in a Henley final in 177 years.

Other winners included Eton College in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, Gloucester RC in the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup and Princeton Training Centre in the Remenham Challenge Cup.

Report by: Tom Morgan

Photos by: Peter Spurrier

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