Putney club target elusive win at Henley

Thames Rowing Club in Putney are determined to end a lengthy drought without victory at Henley Royal Regatta as two crews from the club prepare to race in semi-finals on Saturday.

Thames have not won a men’s event at Henley since 2006, and more onerously have not won an eights event there since 1948 – despite reaching the last four in each of the last four years.

They will aim for victory this weekend in both the Wyfold Challenge Cup for club coxless fours and the Thames Challenge Cup for eights.

Head coach Ben Lewis said: “A lot of these guys have been around for a while and they wouldn’t care what event they won; they just want to win a Henley medal, clear out and get on with their lives.”

“There are going to be two cracking semis and the winners are going to be the crews that hold their heads together under pressure.”

Two years ago, Lewis coached the Molesey crew that stopped Thames in the eights final. He moved downriver in September, bringing a no-nonsense approach forged in his own successful rowing career with Oxford Brookes University and Henley’s Leander Club.

“I’ve learnt a lot from two fantastic centres and have just combined that and tried to generate competition for seats from top to bottom,” he said.

“We picked on who was best suited to what boat rather than who is better than who, and we’re through to the semi-finals. As a club we’ve had a good week.”

The Thames eight race their neighbours Sport Imperial – a club crew who train in Putney with Imperial College – on Saturday, while the coxless four face Upper Thames RC from Henley.

Crews from Frankfurt and Melbourne compete in the other eights semi-final, while Cambridge club Rob Roy – last year’s beaten finalists – and Chiswick’s Tideway Scullers’ School are in the other half of the draw in the fours event.

“Imperial are very good, although we haven’t lost to them. We’re on the less-favoured station [side of the river] and a Henley semi is always tough,” said Lewis.

“The other half of the draw has the Germans and the Aussies so there will be a Brit and a foreigner in the final – either way it will be a crowd-pleaser on Sunday.

“In the Wyfold we could probably have guessed the top four a few weeks ago.

“Rob Roy are the crew to beat but it is Henley Regatta – it’s a knockout, the stream is a bit unfair, the wind is pretty bad, there are launches creating wash, booms to hit. You cannot make a mistake.”

Meanwhile Great Britain’s single sculler, Alan Campbell of Tideway Scullers won his first round comfortably in the Diamond Challenge Sculls on Friday and now races in-form Dutchman Roel Braas for the right to face Olympic champ Mahe Drysdale or Australian Nick Purnell in Sunday’s final.

Campbell said: “It was a bit of a nervy start out there, there’s quite a lot of wind so I was a little unsettled off the line. Once I settled in I was very happy with what I did.”

Martin Gough writes the weekly rowing blog The Rowlup – http://www.therowlup.com – out every Friday

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