Victories at Henley for Thames and Imperial

Putney neighbours Thames Rowing Club and Sport Imperial Boat Club both celebrated victory at Henley on Sunday but while one win came in thrilling style, the other was guaranteed 24 hours in advance.

Imperial beat Chiswick’s Tideway Scullers School in the Wyfold Challenge Cup for coxless fours, coming from behind with a devastating move in the middle of the course to triumph by two-and-a-half boat-lengths.

Thames beat their own club second eight to win the Thames Challenge Cup for the second time in three years.

The two crews battled through four days of heats in a 32-boat field, resulting in the first final ever in the club eights event featuring two crews from the same club.

In mid-morning, there were jubilant scenes in the boating area when the Imperial crew of Sam Butler, Matt Pointing, Josh Butler and Matt Whaley came ashore.

The Butler brothers dedicated the win to their father Rob, who is recovering from cancer.

“We put this project together at this time last year. We were sitting in New Zealand with my dad, who had three weeks to live,” said Josh Butler.

“We did it to bring us together – me, my brother and my dad – so it means a lot.”

Josh Butler has had a long wait for Henley victory. It is 10 years since he first raced in a final, losing the schoolboy quad event. He stopped training as seriously in 2013 and now coaches Westminster School.

“Taking a step back has helped me look from outside the box,” he said.

“I love the sport but it’s not about that; it’s about getting in a boat and hurting yourself day in and day out.”

Sport Imperial is a club programme that runs alongside the students at Imperial College. Then named Queens Tower, they last won the Wyfold in 1996.

It is now 50 years since Tideway Scullers won the Wyfold. Their most recent Henley win came in a coxed four in 2010.

Later in the afternoon, Thames RC won their third Henley trophy in successive years as the Thames ‘A’ crew beat Thames ‘B’ by five lengths.

The winners missed their aim of setting records along the course, though, as the tailwind that helped bring records early in the day dropped in the afternoon.

In the stroke seat of the winning crew was Thomas Phelps, whose parents Richard and Annamarie both rowed for Great Britain.

Although victory for Thames was a foregone conclusion on the day, head coach Ben Lewis singled out Friday’s quarter-final for the A crew against NSR Oslo and Saturday’s semi-final for the B crew against Agecroft RC as races where his men were really put under pressure.

“We nearly came unstuck and it could well have been an Agecroft-Oslo final but we came through by the skin of our teeth,” he said.

Lewis insisted there is no secret formula to success, saying: “We ask them to turn up, work hard, have fun and we teach them how to race.”

Meanwhile, two of West London’s university crews came up just short on finals day.

Imperial College were rowed down by Newcastle University in the final of the Prince Albert Challenge Cup for coxed fours – an event they have won three times since its inception in 2004.

Newcastle broke the record for the event by six seconds with a time of 6 min 48 secs.

The eight from University of London ran Oxford Brookes closer than expected in the final of the Temple Challenge Cup, holding them to a threequarter-length verdict.

It was UL’s first Henley final since 1992, when they won the Grand Challenge Cup for elite eights.

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