On a blistering hot first day, Henley Royal Regatta got off to fantastic start both on and off the water. Crews from around the world have again come to compete in over 200 races over 5 days.
Thousands came to watch, many in colourful blazers, dresses and amazing hats. Even though the temperature was in the nudging 30 degrees, Steward’s Enclosure didn’t allow men to remove their jackets.
For the first time, the horrible scaffolding barriers on Henley bridge got a makeover and were wrapped with blue and white binding after Henley Mayor Councillor Glen Lambert had a discussion with Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Regatta’s Committee of Management about this unattractive entrance to our town.
We started our morning on Berkshire side of the river watching the opening day’s racing along with some children from Badgemore School who got to tickets to watch from the Regatta Enclosure for the first time. Teacher Mr Hoskins said, “A lot of children wouldn’t get the chance to be in this enclosure. It’s hopefully a way to inspire them.”
Our first day finished off on the other side of the river at Phyllis Court Club, where we enjoyed great views of the finish line and enjoyed Carribean music, a stilt walker and a delicious hog roast.
It was a good morning for any Etonians lining the bank, as two of their crews successfully navigated the heats of the Princess Elizabeth and Temple Challenge Cups. In the event for schoolboy eights, Eton saw off fierce rivals Hampton School, striding away from the barrier with a clear advantage and never relinquishing the lead. Eton’s second eight, who impressed by qualifying for the competition as schoolboys, maintained their strong domestic form by beating a student crew from Newcastle University in the Temple Challenge Cup.
The Wednesday of Henley Royal Regatta brought a substantial number of closely contested races, with some thrilling comebacks to keep the crowds on their feet. In the re-rowed Wyfold Challenge Cup encounter between Stratford Upon Avon Boat Club and Swan River of Australia, the verdict was four feet whilst St Neots Rowing Club ‘B’, who were only called up for the Regatta yesterday after a late withdrawal, edged out Worcester in the Wyfold Challenge Cup by a foot. In one of the final races of the day, the National University of Ireland, Galway overtook A.S.R. Nereus in the closing metres to win by a canvas in an opening heat of the Prince Albert Challenge Cup.
2018 marks a historic first for The Remenham Challenge Cup, the event for premier women’s eights, racing on day one. Domestic opposition fell short however, as Yale University, recent finalists at Henley Women’s Regatta, dispatched a tidy outfit from Oxford Brookes University. Roeivereniging Silvia of the Netherlands beat Newcastle University, the University of Iowa defeated a Molesey and Edinburgh composite and the University of Washington saw off the attentions of a strong Tideway Scullers School club crew.
The Temple Challenge Cup regularly produces some of the Regatta’s most exciting racing, and it began with a bang as Bath University came from behind to defeat the University of Bristol by 2/3 of a length during the morning session. An all Holland-affair saw A.S.R. Nereus upset the Stewards’ form book to knock out selected boat Proteus Eretes in a statement of intent. American student crews are often considered amongst the finest in the world, and there were wins for Yale, Princeton, Brown, Syracuse and Washington Universities along with Orange Coast College of California.
There was a mixed bag of results for local clubs on day one. Leander Club beat Leeds Rowing Club in the Thames Challenge Cup by one and three-quarter lengths in a time of 6 mins and 43 secs. The Star & Arrow, Leander Club development crew who are all Henley College students beat Paul’s School by half a length in the Fawley Challenge Cup.
Henley Rowing Club “B” beat The American School in London by one and three-quarter lengths in a time of 7 mins in the Fawley Challenge Cup. They will meet tough opposition Westminster School in heat 2. Henley Rowing Club ‘A’ will start their competition against Claires Court School today (Thursday).
Upper Thames RC were beaten by Montclair Mounties R.C., USA by 2 3/4 lengths in the Thames Challenge Cup. The Wyfold (M4-) heat rescheduled from 11.15am after one member of the Upper Thames crew had to pull out due to illness beat Rex Boat club by 1 3/4 lengths in the final race of the day.
U16 Shiplake College crew were beaten by the much older Nottingham University crew in the Temple Challenge Cup but the J8+ crew beat Stowe Sculling Club easily in the Princess Elizabeth Cup.
Today (Thursday) will bring second contests for some and debuts for others, as a selection of smaller-quota events get started. The Britannia, Visitors, Goblets, Diamond Sculls, Diamond Jubilee and Prince of Wales all begin tomorrow, whilst the match-ups created by some excellent racing on Wednesday promise further excitement. The armada of American eights in the Temple Challenge Cup will look to overturn a run of winless appearances dating back to 2012, whilst the selected crews in the Fawley Challenge Cup enter an already crowded fray. We will also see St Paul’s School, reigning national champions and reputed to be one of the fastest junior eights ever, make their Henley debut as the Stewards chose to seed them through to the Thursday.