All-British finals are in prospect in at least four Henley Royal Regatta events, including the two for coxed fours, after some hard-fought semi-finals on the fourth morning.
University of London ‘A’ (UL) came out best in a neck-and-neck tussle in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup with Harvard University, conceding an early lead and running level through the middle of the course before winning by half a length.
“They came back level at Fawley and from then on, I had no idea if we were up or down,” admitted James Cook, the crew’s stroke.
Ollie Cook, who sat at bow, said: "It wasn't until we got past the grandstand that I sensed we could win it."
As they attempt to win the Prince Albert Challenge Cup for the first time since 2007, UL must tomorrow face the winners in 2008, Newcastle University, who beat Imperial College in their semi-final.
Star Club of Bedford booked their second Henley final in as many years, beating London RC with ease in the Britannia Challenge Cup. They will face Taurus BC, who just held off Tideway Scullers’ School for a three-quarter-length victory early in the day.
Leander’s quadruple scull will take on a four-club composite hoping to compete for Great Britain at the Under-23 World Championships in the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup. Leander braved a sudden rain storm just before lunch to beat Bayer Leverkusen of Germany after the under-23s, rowing as Durham University and University of London, overcame New Zealand’s West End RC.
Thames RC’s eight in the Thames Challenge Cup withstood a furious late push from Upper Thames RC as the latter passed their own clubhouse half-way up the course to win by two thirds of a length. The second semi-final, between Molesey and Royal Chester, was scheduled to take place later on Saturday.
Graeme Thomas of Agecroft RC – a World Cup finalist in Munich earlier this month – eased to victory in the all-British semi-final in the Diamond Challenge Sculls, beating Loughborough Student Jonathan Walton. Dutch Olympic silver medallist Femke Dekker extended her 18-year career by a further day when her Hollandia quad beat the Italians from Piediluco in the Princess Grace Challenge Cup semi-final.
“I was hoping to be in London for my fourth Olympics but I just missed out on the women’s eight after a slight injury and some family problems,” she said.
“People here love rowing and I’m here because I love rowing.”
More than 170 British rowing Olympians will come together at the Regatta on Sunday and Jonny Searle has confirmed he will join them. Searle won gold in the coxed pairs in Barcelona in 1992 and his cox in that race, Garry Herbert, will also attend. The third crew-member, Jonny's younger brother Greg, is on the Great Britain training camp in the Austrian Alps as he aims to win a second Olympic title 20 years after his first.