Youngest Ever Competitor at Henley Women’s Regatta

Image of Rory KeoghAt just 10 years old and a whisker over 4 feet tall, Rory Keogh from Dublin should be at home kicking a football or messing around on his Playstation.  But instead he’s preparing to take control of a boat worth over £13,000 and steer four athletes, up to three times his age, down a tight 1500m course in Henley-on-Thames this weekend.

Rory is the youngest ever competitor at Henley Women’s Regatta, which holds its 23rd event on 18-20 June, and his appearance on the entry sheet, coxing the senior four of Áine Feeney, Jane Shackleton, Laura Byrne and Naomi Fearon, has caused some consternation among event officials.

Diane Graham, regatta chairman, explains that in Ireland, Rory would have been excluded from taking part in the race because he would be under the official minimum weight, but in the UK he is actually allowed to make weight with ballast, and cox his crew.

“So we’re very happy to accommodate Rory, but at just under 30kg, we’re having to bring extra deadweights to the events as he’ll have to take around two thirds again of his weight into the boat to make it up to the minimum!”

Rory is no stranger to rowing; he’s the son of the current captain of Commercial Rowing Club Dermot, and his three older siblings have all learned to row at the club.  Both parents are travelling to Henley this weekend in the hope of seeing their youngest son hoist some silverware at the regatta.  His mother, Orla, says that although Rory’s just 10, she’s confident he has the guile and experience to steer the crew within the infamous Henley booms.

Martin Hogan of Commercial says “Henley Women’s Regatta is the best regatta we could look for at this time in the season as it provides a high standard of competition for our girls.  It offers us a great chance to both mentally and physically prepare for the Irish National Championships in July, and it will significantly add to Rory’s straight-line coxing experience.”
The previous youngest competitor at the regatta was Harriet Leach of Manchester’s Agecroft Rowing Club, who at the age of 11 steered Agecroft’s intermediate coxed four to victory in 2006.  She returns this year to compete in the Junior 16 quadruple sculls.

Rory and the crew have their first race – qualifying time trials – at 9am on Friday morning (18th). 

This year the regatta hosts over 1500 competitors and 40 overseas crews from the US, Australia and Europe.  Another crew from overseas includes Gentse RS’s women’s quad scull crew who scooped overall gold at this year’s Belgium Championships in Gent.   Both Gentse RS and Commercial RC are now coming to Henley Women’s Regatta thanks to Norfolkline, which paid for their ferry transport to the UK as the fastest non-British crews in their respective events in Belgium. 

You can follow the live results via the Henley Women’s Regatta Twitter feed