Possibly the only thing worse than going out of the Royal Henley on Thursday is going out of the Royal on Wednesday. This was the sad fate of several US crews yesterday, who now have the unenviable task of watching the bulk of the regatta, which they travelled thousands of miles to attend, from the shore.
A bit of a bummer, from the US perspective again, was the fact that two US crews, Phillips Exeter in the Student Coxed Fours and Boston U. in the Temple went out against other US crews (Grand Valley State and Georgetown, respectively). It's not a secret that the draw at Henley happens according to arcane principles at least as old as the regatta itself (insert joke about Gandalf as a rowing umpire here), but you'd think that a certain sense of fair play would dictate that you wouldn't draw two US crews against each other in the first round of racing. That's a long way to go for a race that could've been held at considerably less expense (and heartbreak) state-side.
But, as the saying goes, "I'm just sayin'." Regatta organizers certainly have every right to do as they wish.
A reminder that the best on-the-ground resource for the Royal is The Rabbit's Guide to Henley Royal Regatta (updated for '04)
Henley by the book: (thanks to the HRR press corps for these tidbits)
This year 1647 athletes in 298 crews will compete at the regatta.
"For the first time in the history of the regatta a mother and son will compete, though not in the same event. Former GB international Helen Mangan, 45, will take part in the London RC quad scull, while her son Ollie Mahoney rows at 6 in the Imperial College B crew in the Temple. "
"Another Henley tradition is the spare men’s pairs, which provides competition purely for those athletes who travel with their crew to substitute in case of sickness or injury. Tuesday’s race was another purely American event in which St Paul’s School, Concord, beat the pair from St Andrew’s School in a straight final, to win the Jesus College trophy. "
Wimbledon-like weather alert: "After rather a breezy and occasionally damp start yesterday the weather has started dry and rather brighter today, but it’s not scheduled to last! Scattered showers will develop later, turning heavy and blustery at times." At least in rowing, the competition continues.
First Royal sighting of the regatta: TRH ("Their Royal Highnesses") (sic) the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester will be making an official visit to the regatta today.
"Filming takes place at Henley today for an episode of the popular brit TV detective series 'Midsomer Murders.'" Let's hope all rowers and cox'ns are accounted for at the end of the day!
"If at first you don’t succeed - Mitsubishi BC of Japan won their first heat in the Thames Cup yesterday by an impressive five lengths over Curlew. It was only the second time that the Japanese club had won a heat at Henley and rather different to one of the club’s previous races at the regatta - their 1936 crew went over the course rating 52 strokes per minute!" (could this be the source of the "crew that died" rowing urban legend? - ed.)
"Although not one of this year’s selected crews the St Andrews College, South Africa, crew in the PE might be one to watch. Their stern four and cox won the bronze medal in coxed fours at last year’s World Junior Championships on the Olympic rowing course at Schinias. Experience of the windy conditions last year in Greece may have helped set them up for a win in blustery conditions yesterday when they beat Bedford Modern School to move into the second round." (St. Andrews/South Africa also knocked out Stotes champ Thomas Jefferson in a fast race Thursday morning)
Taking one for the team department: "Olympic gold medallist Tim Foster, part of the GB four in Sydney, is competing today as a member of the University of London four, a crew he was previously coaching! The crew was one man short after going down with a virus and Foster stepped into the breach to compete. It’s a busy week for Foster, who has just released his book ‘Four Men in a Boat’ and is busily signing copies around Henley when he’s not out on the water."
Only at Henley:
It's a Henley tradition (obsession? -ed.) to make a big to-do about competitors weights: see here and here (under "entertainment") for evidence.
No crash stories have filtered out of Henley Reach yet this year, but the Henley racecourse can be treacherous for cox'ns; the booms and poles that mark the race course are pretty unforgiving, and an altercation with them can result in a verdict of "NRO" ("Not rowed out") in the worst case.
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