Henley closed Sunday, the booty of silver goblets, trophies, pineapple cups and plates were divvied up, and the recipients duly thrilled (see the awards platform photos in the Sunday PM gallery). Thames brightened everyone's sprits, many muttered under their breath after the opening three days "hope this doesn't turn out like Women's Henley," which was a mud fest from start to finish.
Certainly the most jubilant of the recipients was the Shrewsbury School team, their excitement matched by the audience. This race epitomized racing at Henley. Both crew sat expectantly at the finish line only to learn that one foot of Shrewsbury's shell left a game Brentwood College School wishing for a rematch; truth is both schools raced a sensational match at Stadium Henley, no regrets.
After racing ends there is a sense that it was not all about the shells deployed from the boat tent on the Thames. Forgive me regatta fans, but Henley is an event that casts a big net, mind if I pull in the fish?
Many of the foreign crews (and there was a record amount) that came for Henley were there thanks largely to the hospitality of local families who opened their homes for the week or more. Those who raced in qualifiers or the Reading Regatta before the big dance were enjoying their host homes for more than 14 days--a big sacrifice for these families, but they seem to do so without a touch of complaint, despite the chore of cooking for 8 or so hungry oarsmen or women.
The US crews that took home bullion included medal-stand newcomers and vets alike; the Cal frosh are the first Cal crew to win at Henley proper - rowing as the US men's eight, the varsity won the 1948 Olympics held at Henley. On the other hand Harvard crews have racked up an impressive number of Henley trips and victories alike (including grad Michelle Guerette's win this year in the single). This was Harvard's first win at Henley since 2002, when they won the Ladies Challenge Plate, the Temple Challenge Cup and the Britannia Cup at the same regatta. Harvard has won the Ladies Plate six times and won at Henley 16 times, with twelve of those wins under Harry Parker. Harvard beat a combo Molesey/NYAC crew, which included Harvard grad Mike Blomquist; Harvard was warned for steering into the combo crew's lane several times, but the combo crews' protest was disallowed. Also, Columbia men's frosh coach (and former Boat Race winner) Dan Perkins won in the Wyfold Cup.
A bevy of US crews enjoyed the residences out of town and up the hill a bit... Harvard, Radcliffe, Brown and Dartmouth were within 1/2 mile of each other in the lovely (and quite large) estates up there. Cornell was not far, also enjoying living some prime real estate in Henley-on-Thames. In my own case, the Coleman family provided a wealth of local information, a diligent shuttle service, and food, always ready. See Elaine Coleman at the door of The Mount, their home on the hill.
Turns out I was in what the family calls the 'sin room'. Having lived in Las Vegas, I made the obvious assumption, but I was wrong! It's the room where the Coleman family sent their children when they misbehaved (dad is Irish Catholic after all). Just for a giggle, though, the Coleman's put up boudoir curtains. The other residents of this home used up all the hot water, but I'm not bitter about that. I also got to share dinner there with the Trinity College, Dublin novice crew and their coach John. The dapper bunch is pictured here at the Coleman family picnic at the Cricket Club. Did you have fun de-rigging the boat when the varsity boys split the scene Sunday?
A couple closing comments:
*Remenham Club is the most-commonly mispronounced name, the likelihood increases after a few pints, when it sounds like: "I'm going to Remum, care to join me?"
* To the Canadian National team: good row for the Grand Challenge Cup and good looking chaps you are, but... I saw a couple of you boys out Sunday night. 'nuff said.
*Sticker shock: the entire tag/badge thing was a lot of pressure. I have to congratulate Belfast gal and Brit journalist Liz Wray on her impressive stack of badges she acquired with each day--she certainly won the prize.. I was left feeling quite inadequate among the journalists; my worn-out press badge had only occasional company. Oh, the shame of it.
* To the gals in Saratoga Springs, NY who gave me Knowledge Cards of Queen's English which I was fearful of using, because almost all British slang within had double meaning. Chuffing eck!
*Of course, thanks to row2k, who equipped me with the row2k road show, right down to a well-worn backpack, to take on Henley, and who didn't curse (at least not to me) when many of the pictures were originally sent upside-down.