You can look at the bright side that it is literally bright and cheery at Henley this year. Additionally, records fell. Eight course records, several more Barrier and Fawley records also were set, including Harvard’s A (heavyweight) crew who tied the Fawley record and set the course record in the Visitors’ at 6:33. Unfortunately, to achieve that record, they had to do a race piece against their Newell Boathouse teammates--there was not a big splash and yell of victory at the finish line, but a respectful congratulations.
The records set this year included: Harvards A four's time of 6:33
Leander and Molesey Club's (Team GB Olympic boat) finish time of 5:54
Here is the tough one: Northeastern set Barrier and Fawley records in the losing race against Leader Club and Molesey's (Team GB2), where Team GB ended up with a course record of 5:58 in the Ladies’ Plate, a category they likely should not have been in (in this reporter's opinion only)
Mirka Knapkova, the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, tied the course record of the Women's Single/Princess Royal Challenge at 8:06
Arms and Manson Double Sculls set course record at 6:48
The Prince of Wales Women's Quad record by Team GB (Leander and Molesey), who set Barrier, Fawley and finish records
Goblet's and Nickall's Pair from NZL of Murray and Bond (Olympic Gold Medalists) matched the course record at 6:56
Finally in the Britannia, a Barrier record was set, and that was when Union Boat Club of Boston was about 2 feet from their opposition in this match.
On to race coverage:
There were six US Crews racing in the finals this Sunday at Henley. For whatever reason, this was one of the leanest years in the finals for Americans; a temporary condition for certain. however, the limited number of American crews does not invalidate the number of American athletes overall, as many racing with teams from the UK and beyond. Everyone who comes to Henley is caught up in the magic, and even those who have lost in any round count it as an event that sharpens their crews, shows them new experiences, and creates racers. There is nothing else like the matches and brackets of Henley, and it teaches young athletes that here it is win or lose--not heats, repechage, semis, finals.
In afternoon racing, Northeastern came driving down the course against Team GB2, a crew reportedly unfunded by GB at this point, but is representing the country in international competitions. That situation might not be the spirit of the Ladies’ Plate; nonetheless, the young Northeastern Huskies made the most of the situation. They lead the race for most of the course, including being ahead at the barrier by three-quarters of a length. The Huskies are an aggressive crew, but as the British crew came to the mile marker they put in a massive press, which extended as far as the progress boards. In the final few full strokes, Leander and Molesey Club crew inched forward, beating Northeastern by a canvas. It was a devastating loss for the Huskies after holding their ground so effectively throughout the race.
Team captain Justin Jones, a rising senior and stroke of the Varsity boat says, "We knew Leander and Molesey was older and more experienced, so we wanted to get our bow ball out in front." Jones and his crew achieved that. "We wanted to throw out the moves not react to them." Unfortunately, in those final few strokes, Leander inched their bow ball out ahead. Northeastern raced well; next Henley they will remember this, and race even better.
Before the race, despite the talk that their finals challenger might not be the best fit, Coach John Pojednic said, "We do a lot of great racing in the spring, we have such a strong collegiate system, and we think we are ready. We are not intimidated." He explains they were a little rusty when they got back into the boat after a three week break after their Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships fourth-place finish, but that the races leading up to the finals day have sharpened the crew back into race form.
"We are disappointed in the rules translation that led to us racing Team GB2, but we will race them hard," he said a day before their final. "We don't race for guaranteed wins, there is nothing my crew will do differently in the race based on the opposition."
A side note: All of the Northeastern University Huskies rowing team had a good experience at Henley, and are eager to return in the coming years. They enjoyed the hospitality of Tom and Elaine Coleman, who have been hosting American Henley crews for years...and row2k reporter and photographers. Thanks to the Colemans!
In the next US match, California Rowing Club women raced Leander and Minerva Bath's Princess Grace Challenge entry. The GB crew included 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Helen Glover and development athletes from the GB program. California Rowing Club athletes did not have quite that pedigree, but were qualified athletes in their own respect. They again had that fantastic start that propelled them to victory the day before, and were within one foot of the British crew at the Barrier. It took until Fawley for the GB athletes to break free of the CRC boat, but just barely at first. The crews had identical ratings almost throughout the race, but at the next marker, Team GB had extended their leads to one length, which they kept until the finish line.
University of Washington has not had much coverage here despite their bold move to step it up and enter the Grand and the Ladies’ rather than the Ladies’ and the Temple. After a year of gold medals, tips of the podium, and coxswain tosses, the Huskies (note there are two Husky teams at Henley) had losses here, one in the semis for their 2V, and one today in the Finals against Team GB Eight, which included British 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists Andy Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory. When Washington rowed by in training, and as they passed the enclosures to row up for a match, the crowd seemed to hush a bit with respect; these guys have a reputation of winning, and just looked good on the water. They had cleaned up at the IRAs, the collegiate championships in US, and looked very fast here in the early rounds.
But in the esteemed Grand Challenge Cup the British led Washington the entire way down the course but by as little as three-quarters of a length at the half-mile; the Washington crew couldn't pull it any closer than that, and lost just a couple more seats coming into the finish. Pretty good go for a collegiate crew, and when you think back on the IRA final, it is strong evidence of just how fast you have to be to win in the first week of June.
In a Harvard versus Harvard race, just who do you cheer for? In a bout that could have happened on the Charles River in Boston, two Crimson crews, one Heavy, one Light, started against one another.
About 25 pounds per seat separated these two crews, a contribution in power that was insurmountable for the lightweight Harvard "B" entry. The lightweights had a fast, high rating start, holding on to a rating 2 beats higher than their heavyweight comrades until Fawley, and never really losing contact. Just beyond Fawley, however, Harvard A was able to move on, pulling ahead by a length, then two, ultimately winning by three lengths, their team mates pushing them to a course record. A win for Harvard. A loss for Harvard.
At the prize giving, Regatta Chairman Mike Sweeney went off the normal program to give a tribute to Harvard Coach Harry Parker, who has raced and coached at this regatta since 1955 when he won with University of Pennsylvania in the Grand. He also was in the final of the Diamonds against Stuart McKenzie in 1959, and almost annually as the coach of Harvard. Parker died just days before his crews were scheduled to leave for Henley. There will be a memorial service for Parker in Boston later this summer. His name and his memory have been a part of toasts the entire week of Henley; he had touched so many in the sport.
Goodbye from Henley! Press tent closes here quickly. If I missed anyone, my apologies, we might do a wrap up once back in the States, but also look at the extensive galleries; they too tell the story.