Henley Women’s Regatta showcases upcoming talent
It’s Henley season again and thousands are flocking to the town of Henley-on-Thames in Great Britain. Although the Henley Royal Regatta (HRR) traditionally attracts most of the attention, the Henley Women’s Regatta (HWR) has grown steadily. This year’s HWR took place on 19-22 June as a record 1808 participants raced through sun and showers in this three day annual fixture.
This year's HWR was the “largest ever,” said Caren Donnelly, Press and sponsorship officer for the Henley Women’s Regatta. The number of entries has grown from the record 373 in 2014 to 426 in 2015. A new record of overseas entries was also set with crews attending from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States.
Great Britain's Olympic Champion Sir Mathew Pinsent was one of a number of umpires working to ensure safe and fair racing conditions throughout the event. In a tweet following the regatta he said: “Loved my 2 days @henley_womens – hard to think of another GB rowing event growing in size and quality (fast too) at the same time.”
The Regatta began with time trials on Friday and Saturday morning to seed the participants. From there racing moved on to match or side-by-side racing in the format of the HRR.
As always, the elite eights provided a lot of excitement. Oxford University (GBR) had an incredible run through the weekend, besting Cornell University (USA) and Stanford University (USA) and then Brown University (USA) by a canvas in the final to win the Ron Needs Challenge Cup.
The Ron Needs Challenge Cup, formerly The Sports Council Cup, was rededicated this year to Ron Needs, Head Coach of the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club in the 1980s and 1990s and coach of the bronze medal British women’s eight at the 1997 World Rowing Championships. “We re-named it in recognition of his services to British women’s rowing,” said Donnelly.
In the elite quadruple sculls, Stanford University (USA) beat Leander Club (GBR) by a canvas. Henley Rowing Club (GBR) was dominant in several of the junior events while Headington School won the junior eights event by 1/3 length over Kent School (GBR), who were making their first appearance at the HWR. Durham University (GBR) defeated Nottingham University (GBR) in the Academic Eights event by 1/3 length.
“The junior singles race was also incredibly tight,” says Donnelly, “and reflects the great strides our juniors are making in driving competition standards up."
Most outstanding and a name to watch was Lucy Glover, Warrington Rowing Club (GBR), in the junior single sculls. Aged just 16, she had an incredible race defeating Robyn Armstrong, Bedford Girls School, by one foot. Armstrong has represented Great Britain at junior competition and is a hopeful for this year’s team.
This was the 28th edition of the HWR. The regatta was founded in 1988 to provide an opportunity for women’s racing that wasn’t then available at the Henley Royal Regatta (HRR). Although the HRR now offers women’s events, they are few in number.
“HRR offers only four events for women,” says Donnelly, “with only eight crews in each event. We offer 28 events and create a pathway for women to compete in from 15 through junior, university and club to international under-23.”
A unique feature of this year’s event was the linking of the regatta with an international women’s development initiative that took place in conjunction with the HWR. Three World Rowing Federation (FISA) umpires from Argentina, Nigeria and Uzbekistan were hosted by British Rowing in the days leading up to the event. These umpires in training were invited to observe the HWR and shadow the officials and members of the organising committee throughout the event. This was a valuable learning experience and the regatta provided an ideal classroom.
Full results and further information can be found on their official web page www.hwr.org.uk