Upsets punctuated the second day of racing at a blustery Henley Royal Regatta, with North American school eights falling in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup and British clubs prospering in the Wyfold Challenge Cup for coxless fours.
Chiswick club Tideway Scullers’ School beat the selected crew London ‘A’ by two lengths but were lucky to have even been in the race as they hit the wooden booms on the side of the course during Wednesday’s heat against Upper Yarra RC of Australia, before staging a comeback.
In a hard-fought race on Thursday, Scullers trailed off the start but put in a strong mid-race push to win by two lengths.
“We’ve certainly ridden our luck so far,” said coach Phil Rowley. “We knew they would lead us off the start but after our recent training camp in Hazewinkel [in Belgium] we were confident about our pace.”
In all, eight of the crews selected by the Henley Stewards were beaten earlier than expected.
Nottingham Rowing Club’s ‘A’ crew were 1 ½ lengths faster than Griffen BC in the Wyfold, while Shrewsbury School upset Ridley College of Canada and Gonzaga College High School were a length quicker than American compatriots Tabor Academy.
Two British schools are still on course to meet in the final: Hampton School beat Americans Groton, and National Schools Regatta winners Abingdon inflicted a four-length defeat on Latymer Upper School, meaning an end to the Regatta for bowman Orlando Nixon, at 14 years and 10 months thought to be Henley’s youngest ever oarsman.
The headwind increased in strength late in the day, making steering difficult. Star Club’s selected coxless four moved to the next round of the Wyfold when Tyrian were disqualified for steering into their rivals and, in the very next race, selected Walton’s junior quad lost to Prince Alfred College of Australia after they hit the wooden booms that line the course.
The first women’s events of the Regatta began on Thursday but two of the British crews in the Remenham Challenge Cup were knocked out in the first round - Newcastle University by Munchen and Hurth of Germany and Thames RC/ Henley RC by Radcliffe Crew of Harvard University – leaving Great Britain’s European Championship entrants as the only home crew remaining. They have their first race on Friday.
Also on Friday, Oxford University’s Alex Woods will return to top-level competitive rowing for the first time since April’s dramatic Boat Race, which saw a swimmer stop the crews, a restart, a clash that broke an Oxford blade and then Woods’ collapse after his crew were defeated.
A now fit Woods, who had expected to retire after that race, will compete in a coxless four in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley, with three of his crew-mates from the 2012 Blue Boat: last year’s president Karl Hudspith, his successor Alex Davidson and American William Zeng.
Woods, who was admitted to hospital after he collapsed in the Oxford boat on 7 April, said: “I still don’t understand what happened but we lost and that’s the difficult thing to come to terms with.
“Now we have to look at the next Boat Race and at what we can do to win it.”
Several other 2012 Boat Race competitors, from both universities, were knocked out of the Regatta on Thursday morning.
Dan Harvey was in an Oxford University / Isis composite that hit the booms at the top of the island and went on to lose to Durham University by 4 ¼ lengths in the Visitors’ Challenge Cup.
A Cambridge University / Leander crew featuring light blues Mike Thorp and Alex Ross was also knocked out of the same event, by Dutch crew ASR Nereus.
German Hano Wienhausen – who rowed at six in that dark blue defeat – saw his Christ Church / 1829 crew beaten in controversial circumstances by Taurus BC. The race was restarted by umpire Boris Rankov after an early clash in neutral water and Wienhausen appealed unsuccessfully against the final verdict, claiming poor Taurus steering caused excessive wash.
However Fred Gill, Cambridge’s winning Boat Race stroke in 2010, progressed through to Friday in a Molesey composite coxless four with Oxford Brookes University that will represent Great Britain at the European Championships, beating Imperial College and University of London by 3 ¾ lengths.
2000 Olympic champion Rowley Douglas will also start his Regatta on Friday, coxing Molesey and Oxford Brookes in the Ladies Plate.
Douglas, who won in Sydney with the Great Britain eight 12 years ago, returned to the sport with Molesey in 2010, hoping to trial for the same seat again. He says he feels "a little bit cheated", having as he saw it not been given a fair chance to trial against the incumbent Phelan Hill, although a tribunal turned down his appeal over selection. “I said at the outset I would finish out the year because I love the sport and this is a great place to come and do it, with a club that has supported me the whole way through,” he said.