Successful Masters Regatta Despite Interruption by Storm

An electrical storm threatened the smooth running of Henley Masters Regatta on Saturday as safety concerns meant racing had to be stopped for an hour and three quarters.

The team organising the regatta had been monitoring the weather forecast and were aware that there was a significant chance that the storm could disrupt racing. When the first thunder and lightning flashes arrived about 11:30am on Saturday, racing was immediately suspended with all crews, umpire launches, safety boats and volunteers quickly getting off the river.

The storm eventually passed over and after some operational planning racing was able to start again, with boats going back out onto the water at around 12:45 and racing starting at 13:15.

Races at the regatta are usually set off every 4 minutes, starting at 8 or 9am solidly through until 6pm, so getting all the events completed before the river opened again to normal and increased Henley Festival River traffic was a significant undertaking.

To meet this challenge the organizing teams jumped into action, and after a short while the usual 4 minutes between races was reduced to 3 minutes, so that racing finished less than half an hour behind the original target finish time. The Environmental Agency had given permission to extend the river closure until racing finished and were standing by to monitor and support the situation.

On the water there were some excellent races with the now world famous ‘purple boxed medals’ being presented by a team including: Olympic Gold medallist and World Champion Andy Triggs- Hodge, Deputy Henley Mayor Kellie Hinton, Upper Thames Rowing Club President Paul Stuart-Bennett and Catherine McLaughlin.

Entries had again been oversubscribed, this year with over 1240 competitors with some in their 70s, from 170 clubs and 12 countries taking part so that every medal was well earned. Local club Upper Thames, who host the regatta were delighted to win 9 events in the face of significant competition.

Upper Thames RC’s Coxed 4 in the D4 class (John O’Donohue, Steve Kelso, Gareth Morris, Mike Scott and cox Johnny Frieth beat Thames RC by just ¾ length . Afterwards Mike said, “It’s brilliant to retain the title. We had to do it the hard way again through the quarter and semi-finals.  I think it went really well.  Thames put up a really good race and had us under pressure all the way but we had just enough in the tank (only just!)  It’s been a tough weekend but I’m really proud of the lads as our 2 man’s Dad died last week.”

In spite of the storm on Saturday there was good support on the bank throughout the two days and for the first time the event was available to watch globally via pay per view live streaming.

Andrew Triggs-Hodge said, “I’ve presented the medals here once before Covid and I couldn’t say no.  I do so little in the rowing world now so it is nice to come back and see the action.  The oldies have still got it – there have been some great performances.  It’s nice to see a few people I know.  I presented Tim Male who was a GB lightweight at Athens who has coached a Monmouth crew and rowed in a Tideway Scullers crew here.”

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton added, “It’s got a really lovely relaxed and family feel and it’s been great to be invited down and be involved in the prize giving.  It’s nice to come down to watch the finals and I was really pleased when earlier in the day I saw the thunder and lighting and thought it would be cancelled but like the best of British, they carried on and caught up the time.  It’s been great to celebrate here with all the winners.”

Competitors and supporters could enjoy a glass of local Fairmile Vineyard fizz at the Champagne Fire Truck for the first time this year.  Jan Mirkowski, owner of Fairmile Vineyard said, “I was offered a pitch here but we have a bar set up so we had swapped a few Instagram messages with them and we agreed to supply the wine and they provided the staff and the cool truck.”



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