West London clubs endured a disappointing final weekend at the 175th anniversary Henley Royal Regatta but there was a strong local contingent among the Great Britain squad crews who won elite events.
Chiswick’s Tideway Scullers School and Putney-based Sport Imperial BC both lost nail-biting finals, while Imperial’s neighbours Thames RC lost in two semi-finals on Saturday. Meanwhile, Henley club Upper Thames RC won two events, having never won at the regatta before.
The Tideway Scullers coxless four were neck-and-neck with Upper Thames when their final in the Wyfold Challenge Cup was stopped metres from the line, with the crews’ blades interlocking.
Scullers had done nothing wrong at that point but umpire Mike Williams disqualified them for “interference” by steering across the course just after the half-way point. He explained that he went on with the race thinking that an Upper Thames outright victory would save him making that disqualification.
“It seems a bit bizarre. I can see he had the best intentions in doing that but it didn’t have the best outcome,” said Scullers coach Miles Forbes-Thomas.
“The club captain is the bowman [who steers the boat] and he’s quite upset. We’ve had quite a few crews here but this was our best opportunity for winning a medal.
“That’s why it’s so frustrating: it’s not been about the rowing, heart or fitness but in coxless fours steering is part of racing.”
Another Tideway Scullers rower, Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell, went out in the semi-finals of the Diamond Challenge Sculls to Dutchman Roel Braas, missing the chance to win the event for the fourth time. Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale beat Braas in the final for a fourth Diamonds triumph.
Sport Imperial’s eight had caused an upset in beating neighbours Thames RC in Saturday’s semi-finals of the Thames Challenge Cup, coming from behind through the spectator enclosures in the last 500m.
Sunday’s final was even more nail-biting but Imperial could not quite hang on to a crew of aspiring German internationals from Frankfurt, going down at the end by a ‘canvas’ – about six feet.
Thames RC’s semi-final defeat marked the fifth successive year in which they have reached the semis in the eights event without winning the cup. In those five years, they only managed to reach the final in 2012.
However, there were west London rowers in three of the Great Britain crews who triumphed on Sunday, including three Molesey BC members – Andy Triggs Hodge, George Nash and Moe Sbihi – in the coxless four that beat a French lightweight crew with ease in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup final.
The GB women’s eight that beat the Dutch national crew by two thirds of a length in the Remenham Challenge Cup featured Donna Etiebet and Zoe Lee of Imperial, plus Jess Eddie of London RC.
And Constantine Louloudis, who grew up in Maida Vale, featured in a strengthened GB men’s eight, who beat the French in style in the regatta’s blue ribband event, the Grand Challenge Cup.
“This is the Grand, and its always going to be awesome to win that. It feels special to win on an anniversary year,” said Louloudis of the crew that will race the third World Cup of the season in Lucerne next weekend before targeting the World Championships at the end of August.
“We haven’t been together that long and I think that showed at the start. We have a lot of strength, but we weren’t quite utilising it.
“There’s an awful lot more to come from this crew and we need to find more to do really well at the worlds”.
The one disappointment for a national-team crew came for the double scull of John Collins and Jonny Walton, beaten by three feet by French lightweights Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou in a breath-taking finish. Collins rowed as a youngster at Putney Town and Tideway Scullers.
Martin Gough writes the weekly rowing blog The Rowlup – http://www.therowlup.com – out every Friday