OK, pay attention, there’s a lot to get through. For the second day of Henley Royal 2022 we had a varied diet of new events and old, making up races 81-165 in this bumper crop of Regatta competition. In for the first time were more eights (Remenham open women, Island student women, Wargrave club women, Prince Philip junior women and Thames club men); the Visitors’ elite men’s coxless fours and the Prince Albert student men’s coxed fours; plus the early round of the Stonor women’s doubles. Meanwhile carrying on from Tuesday were the Britannia, Wyfold, PE and Temple, cutting out their second-round races and starting to get to the point where reaching the weekend starts to seem possible.
The headwind had dropped (a bit), the threatened thunderstorm stayed away, and celebs Gordon Ramsay and Max Verstappen turned up to cause a ripple of decorous excitement on the banks of the Thames. The excitement was hotter on the water, where the lower wind than the previous day led to closer races, starting with Sydney v Edinburgh Universities in the Prince Albert coxed fours. This was Edinburgh’s top crew against a boat of Australians including three state championships medallists, and nobody was getting beaten easily, so it took Edinburgh until the Milepost to manage to fight their way through to the front before winning by 2/3 of a length. The result is a match-up between Edinburgh and one of the other top UK crews, Newcastle, who were slower than Edinburgh at Marlow but seem to have improved since then.
The most extraordinary racing of the day was reserved for the last few races, when a re-row was called on the Visitors’ race between Vichy & Lyon and Oxford Brookes. Re-rows at Henley are as rare as lightweights winning by minutes in a head-wind — the epic one between Notts County and Harvard in 1989 is talked about even by those who weren’t born when it happened. This time the problem was steering trouble from both crews, the coxless fours going flat out and by sheer bad luck tending to veer centre-wards from their own side. Umpire Matthew Pinsent repeatedly had to flag the duo, warning sometimes one, then the other, but more often both, and eventually the oars interlocked in the middle of the stream past the Progress Boards just when Sir Matt was warning both crews.
Entangled and struggling, the fours drifted over the line with their remaining momentum, the French bowball crossing first. But a foul had plainly occurred, though it was less clear whether either was more to blame, and after some discussion Pinsent decided to employ HRR Rule 41 (l) which states: “In the event of a foul, the Umpire shall have power, if he has not disqualified either of the crews, to re-start the race according to his discretion, or to order a re-row.” The crews had barely 45 minutes to grab a brief rest before re-rowing at 7:55pm. To the horror of those still watching, it looked at first as if the same was going to happen all over again, Pinsent’s flag waving within the first 20 seconds. But Brookes, having taken a slight lead early on, were doggedly intent on not losing due to a clash, and near the quartermile jinked hard to bow side, nearly grazing the booms before straightening up and staying as far away from the French as they could. This tactic worked and despite the odd nervous moment, there was no clash and Brookes won by 3/4 length to prove their levels of endurance.
There was a smaller drama for Brookes B in the Temple eights, as their opposition Imperial College managed to hit a stationary pleasure boat while rowing down to the start outside the booms. Their bow rigger snapped clean in two and they limped back to the rafts where Brookes head coach Henry Bailhache-Webb lent them a spare wing rigger to hastily bolt on and allow a swift rescheduling rather than later in the day. Despite a ding-dong battle all the way up the course it was Brookes B who prevailed to justify their selection, taking the win by 2/3 length over Imperial.
The junior women’s newly renamed Prince Philip Challenge Cup saw the Surbiton High School oarswomen with S on their blades beat Wimbledon High School whose W logo includes a dangling apple to celebrate the fact that their first lesson when the school was founded was about apples. In the very next race the Hinksey and Tideway “Scullers Schools” raced the Britannia coxed fours (just to confuse everyone) and ended up with a tight half-length win to Hinksey who were pushed all the way by TSS. Durham just managed to get the better of Dutchmen Nereus in the Temple, and Vesta beat Commercial by a third of a length in the Britannia after battling the entire way up the course.
The Princess Elizabeth has pundits in the boat tents already predicting an Eton/King’s School Parramatta final, after the two quality crews cruised through their second rounds. In the Eton side of the draw Radley demolished St Edward’s much more convincingly than might have been expected, and Westminster v Shrewsbury produced a complete humdinger. The Salopians led at first before Westminster pushed through, but then grabbed back the initiative at the Progress Boards before an unfortunate crab in the Westminster eight gave Shrewsbury the win, balking the Londoners of a photofinish.
Less dramatically in the other half of the draw St Paul’s rowed down Shiplake to come through for a one-length victory while Edinburgh B did the same to Sydney University in the Island student women’s eights. Edinburgh’s A crew with a harder task did a terrific job holding overlap on Washington for most of the course, before a crab in the Enclosures sealed what was always going to be a loss to the Americans, albeit a very close and well-contested one.
In other news London’s Britannia Cup A crew beat their B crew much more comfortably than the previous day’s times might have suggested, while there was a row-over for French Olympians Elodie Ravera and Helene Lefebvre in the Stonor women’s doubles after lightweights Annabelle Ruinet and Lauren Maddison withdrew.