Issue 92 - September 1997
Henley Royal Regatta, July 1996
Headwinds to start with, torrential rain to follow, hydrophobic boats, crabs and steering problems even for the accomplished, ten of the sixteen trophies handed to foreigners by James Crowden, the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, and the appearance of a new pub, the Redgrave Arms, at half way, that was the 1996 Henley Royal Regatta. Vintage? Well... no, but, as always, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, except, as usual, Clement Freud and the ducks.
The only two boats entered en route to the Olympics, Maria Brandin from Sweden in the Women's Sculls and Austria's Andreas Nader and Hermann Bauer in the Goblets, duly won, although Britain's Jon Singfield and Adrian Cassidy gave the Austrians a run for their money in the semi-final. The only threat to Brandin came from the boat she used on the first day. The riggers did not seem strong enough for her, so she borrowed another from Julian Scrivener, a Tideway Scullers' representative. It seemed OK, even though Scrivener was 6 lb lighter than Brandin at 13 st. 3 lb.
Imperial College/Queens Tower won the Grand, their only opponents being the German and Dutch National Lightweight crews. They disposed of them both with some style, obeying a message from Bill Mason, their sabbatical guru on Olympic duty with the women's eight, to
'Win the Grand ... I did.'To make their point, they did return by far the fastest eight's time of finals day, 6 m 11 s.
The closest time to this on the Sunday was 6:23, put up by Goldie in the final of the Ladies' against Leander, an expected hard race which did not really materialise when Miles Barnett, the Goldie stroke, put in an unscheduled early burn before the Barrier and effectively finished the contest.
Only just behind Goldie on time, 6:25, came Brentwood College, Canada, probably the best school crew ever seen at Henley, against St Edward's in the final of the Princess Elizabeth. The writing was on the wall when Brentwood blew away the British favourites, Hampton, by 3 1/4 lengths in the quarter final. 'They tell me they can do 5 m 46 s over 2000 metres in still conditions', said Martin Orviss, the Hampton coach afterwards. 'We could do that in a following gale'. Brentwood then disposed of Derek Drury's Canford, who had enjoyed another giant-killing Henley as a result of listening to trooping the colour records to understand rhythm, and the St. Edward's crew were unfortunate, coxswain excepted, as being the few who did not have the chance to see the Canadians in action, in the final at least. Tony Carr, the Brentwood coach, said,
'I have been coaching for 34 years and this is the crew of my career.'Graham Wells, the St. Edward's coach, will now have the chance to get to know Carr better since he is off to Canada to coach Shawnigan Lake, Brentwood's neighbours.
The standard of Brentwood in the schools' event was probably watched with interest by Eton's first eight who were entered in the Temple Cup this year. Eton went out to University of Wales, Cardiff, after the schoolboys caught a boat-stopping crab on the Thursday. Cardiff then pushed Yale, the eventual winners, to their closest verdict, one third of a length, on the Friday, much the same as the Etonians had done to Yale at Marlow Regatta. Yale's time in the Temple final, against IC, was one second slower than Brentwood's.
The new rules for the Thames Cup this year produced some good, old fashioned, inter-club racing, an appeal by Upper Thames that the German entry from Essen should not have been allowed, and a win for the Irish champions, Neptune. London A, Wallingford, and Nottingham BC were the outstanding home clubs, Wallingford reaching the final after a three foot semi-final win over the Germans.
The sculling event trophies all went abroad, the Queen Mother quads to Germany, the Double Sculls to Greg Walker and Greg Lewis who just missed American Olympic selection, and the Diamonds to Dutchman Merlin Vervoorn, only 20, who subsequently raced in the Nations Cup rather than going to the Olympics as spare man.
'I have chosen to row, not to watch'.
The Prince Philip coxed fours was also dominated by overseas crews, the Germans from Berlin finally winning, and the final trophy export was the Visitors' Cup to Argo, Holland, but only after Isis, with new Oxford President Ed Bellamy at bow, had headed the final until the last agonising 20 strokes.
Four of the Goldie winning Ladies' Plate eight were also in the final of the Stewards' but were beaten by four Nottingham County/London lightweight internationals. One of them, Bill Baker, was a last minute replacement for Andy Butt, whose wife went into labour on the Friday. By Sunday evening, Baker had got a Henley medal and the Butts had got a 6 lb 4 oz son. Both the Britannia coxed fours and the Wyfold coxless produced great overlapping finals. Oxford Brookes won the former, their third Henley win in four years, beating London University. For the two London bow men, Dominic Hill and James Cornell, it was a sad re-run of 1995. Queen's Tower and Molesey, the two 'selected' Wyfold crews, duly met in the final, Queen's Tower doing the business, and, in the Fawley quads, the favourites, Windsor Boys and Poplar, with three members of the GB junior crew on board, also won, but only after being led to half way in the final.
© Copyright Christopher Dodd, 1996.
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