Mixed fortunes for GB Rowing Team at Henley Royal Regatta

Sam Townsend, Bill Lucas, Charles Cousins and Stephen Rowbotham were involved in what was described by the race-recorder as a “wonderful race” in winning the Queen Mother Challenge for men’s quads in significantly blustery conditions on thefinals day at Henley Royal Regatta today against an American squad crew.

Their victory, and that of the equivalent GB Rowing Team women’s quadruple scull, was a highlight in an afternoon of otherwise mixed fortunes.

The British men’s quartet got a strong start and led by a canvas at the quarter-mile. But the two crews were level through most of the middle section of the race before the GB men pushed out to a length lead by the mile and won by a verdict of 2 lengths in front of a delighted home crowd.

The British strokeman Stephen Rowbotham said: ‘We always backed ourselves and when the wind dropped slightly our boat speed came up and we went away.”

Katherine Grainger stroked the GB women’s quadruple scull to victory in even stronger headwinds of the afternoon session of the Princess Grace Memorial Cup against Kiwi opposition.

The British women received an umpire’s warning early in the race and New Zealand veered into the buoys later in a race which GB controlled from the quarter-mile onwards.

Meanwhile, Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed did not have such a good time. They were  defeated once more by New Zealand’s
world champion pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond in front of that same home crowd today.

Both had talked of coach Jurgen Grobler making small “changes” in the boat for today’s final. Each was hopeful that they would break the New Zealanders’ run of victories over them after a close encounter between the two at last month’s  Munich world cup.  Neither could have predicted such an emphatic defeat.

The two crews went strongly off the start and were level for much of the early race when suddenly the New Zealanders put in a strong push and sped away.  Britain’s duo were unable to  counter immediately and after that point the New Zealanders sat in front and could react to any attempt by the British to get back into the race.

 “We had a great platform early on today but then everything just went bang and I saw them disappear”, explained Hodge. “We’ve got just four days to pull ourselves together to race them again in Lucerne.”

The two crews could well meet once more next weekend when the season’s third and final world cup takes place in Lucerne, Switzerland, from July 9-11.

There was more food for thought and a potential Lucerne re-match in store for Matt Wells and Marcus Bateman in the men’s double scull after today’s Henley final which they lost to French combination Cedric Berrest and Julien Bahain.

The British combination were caught off the start and never recovered.

“The French got away and our guys worked hard to try and get back but didn’t have enough in the second half. In match-racing sometimes the body works hard and then the head says that’s enough”, said coach Mark Earnshaw.

The GB men’s eight were thoroughly disappointed on semi-final day to lose out to a fast-starting New Zealand crew who controlled the race from the front and fended off any recovery attempts by the British.

Caroline O’Connor’s hopes of history-making were dashed when the GB Rowing Team women’s
eight were beaten by the Canadian national eight by two lengths. The Canadians took the lead from the very first stroke and, in difficult conditions, drew to a over a length lead by the three-quarter mile post.

O’Connor was coxing both the GB women’s eight and a combined Oxford University and Oxford Brookes
men’s eight at Henley today.  If she had won both races she would have been the first female cox to win two races on finals day in the 171-year history of the Regatta.