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Henley Royal Regatta

As you possibly were aware, last week was Henley Royal Regatta. This year saw the regatta return to its pre-covid glory with a wealth of international crews from across Europe, Canada and US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Great Marlow had two crews racing, a Boys’ Quad in the Fawley Challenge Cup and an Eight in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup. Our Eight having qualified on the previous Friday was drawn against a seeded crew in the first round, Kings College School Wimbledon. While the crew had a good row and looked well drilled and hardworking, they knew they had a 20 second deficit from Marlow Regatta to overcome, which clearly was not going to happen.

The Quad had the American School on the first day and while favourites had only been 4 seconds ahead at the Marlow time trial so expected a good race. We led from the start, but American School were pushing hard to stay with us and there was little in it at the barrier. We managed to move slightly further away by halfway at Fawley, but by then the opponents had spent their energy and we opened up to a 5 length  win. The GMS time for this race was the fastest of the day for the Fawley Challenge Cup, and in fact this time was only beaten by one other crew during the whole regatta.

This took us into Thursday’s race against the US National Champions, Los Gatos from California. By way of background, Los Gatos is a rapidly growing community and is home to Netflix amongst other tech businesses. In previous years, we may well have looked at this as similar to our Eights’ chances in their first round, but the Quad is a top class crew and we expected a very tough race while remaining optimistic of our chances.

From the start, Los Gatos were rowing at a very high rate and took an early slight lead. By the barrier were up by half a length. Over the next minute and a half they extended this to one length. From Fawley, half way, to the ¾ mile nothing much changed. The GMS crew has always been strong in the last section of the race and with Los Gatos consistently over rating us, we were hopeful that we could pull them back. Sure enough, as they came into the enclosures the GMS boat began gaining: half a length down , quarter of a length down. Passing the progress board there was nothing in it and by the end, sitting in the umpires’ launch, no one knew.

The photo finish shows GMS ahead by a metre before the line, but as rowing boats do Los Gatos bows lifted with their catch and passed ours by a very small margin.  A fantastic race that our crew should be very proud of: undoubtedly, they will remember it for the rest of their lives. It was, however, devastating for this talented and determined bunch of boys. This is what Henley should be about  – great racing against top international crews.

Other exciting news is that two of our Alumni won their events to pick up Henley medals, Blaise Ivers Dreux stroked for Oxford Brookes.

Toby Lassen was in the 7 seat of the Brookes Grand Eight. Winning the Grand Challenge Cup is something legends are made of and is a truly spectacular achievement.

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