Rowing’s Henley Royal Regatta reigns popular
The Henley Royal Regatta has been going since 1839 and over the years they have held many of the traditions of these early days. The pomp and ceremony has become a staple with dress codes enforced in some areas of the regatta course.
For thousands of people the regatta is not about the racing, it’s about a day out of socialising, picnicking, drinking Pimms and dressing up. Along the 2112m regatta course groups gather with estimates of over 100,000 people on the busiest days. The race is live streamed and attracted over one million views.
Racing is one-on-one style over five days with winning crews advancing to the next day of racing and narrowed down to the final two on Sunday for the final. Warm temperatures and a cross-tail wind that moved as the course advanced meant fast times with two new course records set.
The women’s eight final narrowed down to Great Britain against New Zealand. They got away level at the start both on 42 strokes per minute. The British finished one spot ahead of New Zealand at last month’s World Rowing Cup II – where they were third and fourth respectively. The boats remained close together for most of the race, but New Zealand was able to inch away as the race continued.
The men’s four was between Great Britain and the Netherlands. The British crew was made up of the under-23 national team and at the end of the race they had set a new course record. They also won by an easy distance over the Dutch team.
The final of the women’s double sculls was between China’s Shiyu Lu and Yuwei Wang and winners of World Rowing Cup II, Olivia Loe and Brooke Donoghue of New Zealand. Through the first part of the race the Chinese led before Donoghue and Loe were able to take over and maintain the lead. Lu and Wang finished fifth at World Rowing Cup II.
Returning to rowing after a post-Rio break, Emma Twigg of New Zealand has set her sights on the Tokyo Olympics. She opened her comeback by winning at World Rowing Cup II last month and has now taken on Henley. Twigg won this event in 2009. She lined up in the women’s single sculls against Lisa Scheenaard of the Netherlands. Scheenaard won at Henley in 2016 and earlier this season Scheenaard won the single at World Rowing Cup I. Both scullers came out equal at a 39 stroke rate pace. Twigg then pushed into the lead. The New Zealander used the rest of the race to move away from her opponent. This win gave Twigg the Princess Royal Challenge Cup.
Great Britain went up against New Zealand in the men’s double sculls. John Collins and Graeme Thomas of Great Britain got a lead early on over John Storey and Chris Harris of New Zealand. The British duo took silver at World Rowing Cup II where the New Zealanders finishing 13th. Harris and Storey took their stroke rate up at the end to 43, but they were not able to catch Collins and Thomas who had set a new course record.
The women’s quadruple sculls final was between China and the Netherlands with the Chinese crew taking the win. This is the first time an Asian nation has won at the Henley Royal Regatta. China comes to Henley following a win at World Rowing Cup II last month. The Dutch were fifth at the World Cup. China is now coached by former British coach Paul Thompson and their high performance director is British five-time Olympic Champion Steve Redgrave.
In the men’s pair Argentina’s Axel Haack and Agustin Diaz took the win over Mitchel Steenman and Michiel Oyen of the Netherlands. Steenman and Oyen have most recently been racing in their country’s four. Haack and Diaz are racing the pair together for the first time this season.
Oliver Zeidler of Germany was the favourite for the men’s single sculls. He was up against Giullaume Krommenhoek of the Netherlands. Zeidler most recently finished fifth at World Rowing Cup II. Krommenhoek has raced internationally twice. Both boats were in the high 30s stroke rate at the start of the race and were level. Zeidler then pulled away and continued to do so throughout the race.
Grand Challenge Cup is the men’s eight final and it was between Great Britain and New Zealand. These two crews raced each other at World Rowing Cup II with the British taking silver and New Zealand finishing fourth. The New Zealand boat included Olympic Champions Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale. Drysdale has won the men’s single at Henley six times. The boats were virtually level through the first part of the race. Coming through the second half of the race New Zealand was able to inch ahead. Both crews raced in the high 30s. New Zealand took the win.
The women’s four was between China and the Netherlands. The Dutch got a small lead over China and then a steering adjustment by China gave the Netherlands more of a lead and they went on to win. China took silver at World Rowing Cup II where the Dutch were at the back of the field.
The men’s quadruple sculls was rowed between Germany and Great Britain. The British had the better race and led through to the end.
The women’s pair was a similar scenario with New Zealand’s crew of Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast in the lead throughout the race over China’s Xinyu Lin and Rui Ju. Gowler and Prendergast won at World Rowing Cup II and they also won the inaugural women’s pair at Henley, the Hambleden Pairs Challenge Cup, in 2017. This was Gowler and Prendergast’s second win of the day as they also competed in the women’s eight.
The 2019 Henley Royal Regatta also commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta. This saw crews from six nations (Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States) race each other at the end of World War I. For the anniversary they were joined by the Netherlands and Germany. The United States and Germany raced each other in the final round with the US taking the win. In 1919 Australia won the race and it is raced every year at the Australian National Championships between men’s eights from Australia’s states.