For the International athletes in the Open events, Henley is often seen as a pleasurable distraction in an otherwise “sterile” multi-lane racing season. For the up-and-coming young athletes in the Intermediate events it’s often a stepping stone to greater things. But, for the athletes competing in the club events, Henley defines the season for most clubs…indeed, get one of those sought-after little red boxes and it defines your whole career as a club oarsman.
So who are the crews to look out for….
The Thames Challenge Cup
Always ferociously contested (and debated), this event defines the Regatta for the majority of British clubs.The Stewards have selected 8 crews, 3 of them from overseas (and all of the overseas entries are in the top half of the draw).
The first selected crew in the top half of the draw are Union Boat club from Boston. Union are celebrating their centenary this year. There’s a short video of them in training here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3AMxFNmVsk
They are made up of experienced college graduates from the likes of Brown, Northeastern and Boston. Sitting at 7 is Paul Luttick who rowed for UL and Tyrian before moving to Boston. Todd Gentry at 2 is no stranger to Henley as he coached the Kent School to the final of the Princess Elizabeth in 2010.
They will have a tough first round draw against the Lea. Back in the 80’s and 90’s the Lea were a byword for tough, no-nonsense crews who were fearsome racers. In the new millennium the reputation dwindled a little, but this year they have a crew reminiscent of those great crews from the last century. They won Senior 8’s at Reading and were 4th in Senior 8’s at the Metropolitan. They may not go all the way in the Regatta but they will give the selected Americans a torrid time in the first round and may well send them packing.
It’s a testament to the strength in depth of Thames Rowing Club that they have three 8’s in the main draw. Their “A” crew are selected in the bottom half of the draw (more on them later), but their “C” crew have the misfortune of being drawn against the 2nd overseas selected crew in the top half of the draw; Mercantile Rowing Club from Melbourne. The Aussies have been in the UK for a few weeks acclimatising and won the Senior 8’s at Marlow Regatta beating fellow selected crew Molesey by just over a second. Racing at home this crew competed at the Victoria State Championships winning the Grade A 8’s. They looked very smooth at Marlow and could well have installed themselves as possible favourites.
The 3rd selected crew in the top half of the draw are the Germans from Frankfurt. Any German men’s 8 is going to be a force to be reckoned with and this Frankfurt crew look no exception. They raced at the Piediculo regatta in May finishing 4th. The are a young crew stacked with U23 and Junior internationals. Alex Usen and Jan Kruppa both won medals at the World Junior Championships in 2012 and are likely to feature in the German U23 squad this year. Moritz Block was a junior world medalist in 2011 and Nico Mergret raced in the U23 team in 2012. Half of this crew raced the 4+ at Ratzeburg befinishing 2nd to the German U23 4+ and beating Oxford Brookes into 3rd and They could well face a quarter-final against the 3rd Selected crew in the top half of the draw…Molesey.
The “men in black” were runners up to Mercantile at Marlow and include Olympic champion Alex Gregory’s younger brother Alistair. Like the German’s they are a young crew with a number of athletes with junior international experience. Harry Glenister at 3 was in the Marlow rowing Club quad that won the Fawley in 2013.
In the lower half of the draw the first selected crew are Griffen Boat Club. the Abingdon School Alumni are the defending champions and the fact they are selected again show’s the strength in depth of the alumni programme. They have a completely different line up to last year (as previous winners are ineligible). They finished 2nd in Elite 8’s at Marlow behind the Leander Ladies Plate 8 (albeit with a slightly different line-up). Their first race is against Star & Arrow A.K.A the Leander development 8. All of this crew are under 21 and were 7th in senior 8’s at Marlow. They may find the Abingdon old-boys a little too quick.
The 2nd selected crew in the lower half of the draw are Sport Imperial who finished in 3rd just over a second behind 2nd place Molesey in Senior 8’s at Marlow. In the Challenge 8’s at the Metropolitan regatta they came 6th in the “A” final.
Many peoples favourites for this event are Thames. It’s 80 years since Thames won the Thames, and this year is the best crew they’ve had for a long time. 2nd at Ghent and winners of Senior 8’s on both days of the Metropolitan Regatta they are probably the leading British contender in the race. There’s a lot of Henley experience in the boat with most of the crew having reached the Sunday races at least once – but not come away with the red box. Maybe this year is their year. They open their campaign with a tough match up with Agecroft from Manchester winners of the “C” final at Marlow. They should progress to meet the 4th and final selected crew in this part of the draw; Upper Thames. They were 3rd in Senior 8’s at the Metropolitan regatta and if they meet Thames it should be an interesting (and loud) race with the Remenham roar meeting the roar from Upper Thames a few yards up the towpath!
So those are the main contenders in the Thames Cup….who’s my pick to take the win….I think we’ll see a Mercantile v Thames final and I’ve got a feeling the Putney club are going to miss out yet again…the Aussies for the win.
The Britannia Challenge Cup
If I’m brutally honest, I’m not a fan of the Britannia Challenge Cup as an event for coxed fours. I think as a boat class it’s a bit of an anachronism. I’d far rather see it become an event for club quads and thus provide a progression between the Fawley and Prince of Wales events. But, it is what it is so lets see who I pick.
There are four selected crews. In the top half of the draw are the German’s from Bayer Leverkusen with the 42 year old Thorsten Jouischkeit at bow. They raced at Ratzeburg regatta finishing 4th just behind Oxford Brookes. They face a tough first round race against Rob Roy who were 5th at Marlow and then a potential match-up with their countrymen from Hamberger und Germania.
The other selected crew in this half of the draw are Vesta – in my opinion the friendliest club on the Tideway 😉
This Vesta crew achieved selected status by placing 4th in Elite 4+ at Marlow following a win in the same class at Reading and a 3rd place in Senior 4’s at the Met. 2 of the crew, Harry Bond and Simon Woodfine made the semi-finals of the Wyfold Challenge cup this year. Their first race is against local club Henley who were 3rd in Senior 4’s at Marlow and they will be a real test for the selected crew.
In the lower half of the draw Sydney are one of the selected crews. They are a young crew with 2 U23 and 2 U21 oarsmen. Ed White and Tom Gunton finished 2nd in the Aussie U23 trials and just missed out on selection. Strokeman Sam Hardy will be plying his trade on the other side of world as he will be attending Harvard next year. despite their apparent youth they are a fast combination and have not traveled all the way from Australia to be knocked out in the first round. Hoping to do just that are Evesham who placed 6th in senior 4’s at the Met.
The final selected crew are Upper Thames. They raced in a coxless 4 at the Met coming 2nd in elite. In the coxed version they were winners at Ghent and also winners of the Challenge 4-‘s event at Wallingford. The crew of Jake Davidson, Sam Barnes, Graham Hall, Luke Wootton and cox Scottt Smith are, perhaps, the leading domestic entry in the event.
They face a first round tie against Star club from Bedford.
Who’s going to win? Tricky…the Germans look very strong and I think they will reach the final against Upper Thames, but I’m going to plump for the local crew to take the win.
The Wyfold Challenge Cup
Another very open field with 8 selected crews. In the top half of the draw the German’s from Mulheim are the first selected crew. Henrik Stoepel, Phillip Uebachs and Martin Tschage are all German league and sprint champions and look to be well worth their selected status. They face Cantabrigian “A” in the first round who raced IM2 4-‘s at the Metropolitan regatta taking 3rd.
The other selected crew in this half are Thames “A”…a testament to the strength in depth of the squad that they are fielding selected crews in both the Thames and Wyfold Cups. The Wyfold crew (Jonathan Bale, Richard Dyer, Anthony Lester and Simon Challen) raced at the Met finishing 4th and then at Marlow where they finished 6th in the very competitive Elite 4- final. They race City of Cambridge in the first round who also raced at Marlow finishing 7th in IM1.
The third selected crew are yet another crew from Sydney with 3 current Australian lightweight national champions, they face the City of Bristol in the opening round and should progress to meet the selected Upper Thames in the quarter final.
Upper Thames are another club with a very strong squad and could well do the Britannia and Wyfold double. The crew of Lewis Beech, Joseph Perry, Michael Nagi and Ed Couldwell finished 4th at Ghent and 2nd in Senior 4- at Marlow. To get to the quarter finals they must first defeat Agecroft who finished 3 places behind them at Marlow.
In the lower half of the draw the selected crews include Rob Roy. They have 3 of the crew who finished as runners up in this event last year (Dan Clift, Leo Lundgren and Rob Stark) they are joined by former Cambridge Blue Moritz Schramm. At Marlow they finished 4th in Elite 4-‘s with only the crews racing in the Visitors ahead of them. They will be desperate to go one better than last year and take the trophy back to Cambridge. The next selected crew are Riverside from Boston. They raced a couple of weeks ago at Reading but were beaten by a very strong Pangbourne College crew. The Americans start their Henley campaign against Upper Thames “B” who were 4th in Senior 4’s at the Met and will be relishing the chance to dump out a selected crew in the first round.
The Tideway Scullers crew describe themselves as “just regular guys with 9-5’s that do some training from time to time”…don’t believe a word of it. They are all highly experienced racers. Nathan O’Reilly won the Prince Albert with Newcastle University in 2008, Stuart Heap has appeared in several Henley finals and William Fields was a finalist in the Prince of Wales in 2011. The final member of the crew is former Polish international Adam Lodygowski. they were 5th in Elite 4-s at Marlow and won Sen 4- at the Met, They face Elizabethan in the first round.
The final selected crew are the Norwegians from Oslo. The stern pair of Lars Myhrer and Ole Henrik Bang Andreasen both raced for Norway at the U23 world championships. Myhrer also raced in the senior Norwegian team at the Eton Dorney World cup last year. Also in 2013 Bang Andreasen raced in the Prince of Wales quad that were beaten in the final. Clearly this young crew has some serious talent on board and they were winners of mens 4- at the Christiania Regatta. They take on Nottingham and Union in round one.
So my pick for the win….it’s really tough…I reckon it’ll be Mulheim v Rob Roy final with the Cambridge club getting the victory they so narrowly missed out on last year.
So that’s it for the club events….just the student and junior events to get done before racing starts tomorrow!