Five British wins at a Henley Royal Regatta marked by the setting of 33 records

British crews won five of the top trophies on a spectacular finals day at Henley Royal Regatta watched by triple Olympic Champion Sir Chris Hoy who presented the prizes.Whilst Britain was triumphant in the events for men’s fours and pairs and all three open-weight men’s sculling disciplines, it fell to Germany to take the honours in the Grand Challenge Cup for men’s eights thus denying Greg Searle and his British men’s eight a victory in the front of the packed crowds.Racing as Hansa Dortmund, the German national eight broke all the course records to win in 5:57 symbolising the tone for the Regatta during which 33 records fell and 24 were equalled across the five days of racing.“It has been a fabulous Regatta”, said Henley Royal Regatta Chairman Mike Sweeney.  “The standard of racing has been immense with crews from around the world making Henley part of their Olympic qualifying year plans”.Germany’s victory probably denied Henley Steward Greg Searle a final Henley win of his career and gave the British combination, themselves world silver medallists, something to ponder en route to next weekend’s world cup in Switzerland.“They seem to get away quickly and we match them for speed in the middle of the race but, by that time, they have too much on us”, said SearleWhereas Searle might have been disappointed, his men’s quadruple scull team-mates of Stephen Rowbotham, Tom Solesbury, Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend were delighted to have beaten the World Champions from Croatia to win the Queen Mother Challenge Cup.Britain’s double scull of Matt Wells and Marcus Bateman were winners of the Double Sculls Challenge Cup, beating the Olympic Champions Scott Brennan and David Crawshay.  They were quick, though, to underline that Brennan is only recently coming back into the sport after a two year break.American Esther Lofgren will remember this Regatta for a while. She won two titles in one day – as part of  the all-powerful American women’s World and Olympic Champion eight that won the Remenham Challenge Cup from the GB national squad eight and as a substitute for an injured compatriot in the women’s quadruple sculls.The Henley crowd also roared home Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge to victory over Italy in the Silver Goblets and Nickall’s Challenge Cup for men’s pair, equalling the overall record of 6:56 set by Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave in 1995.Alan Campbell achieved a hat-trick of Henley wins in the Diamond Challenge Sculls with victory over Nicholas Hudson of Australia.The Stewards’ Challenge Cup also fell to Britain when Matt Langridge, Ric Egington, Tom James and Alex Gregory beat a strong American quartet.  “We can now go to Lucerne with confidence having won here”, said Gregory.One of the most eye-catching crews of the Regatta fulfilled its promise when the University of California, Berkeley, USA, student eight beat a Dutch University crew, racing as A.S.R. Nereus, in the Temple Challenge Cup.Abingdon School put in a strong performance to win the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for school eights, holding off St Andrew’s School from America in one of the closer races of the day.For further information contact the Henley Royal Regatta Press Office on (01491) 572 153 or (01491) 579387

Inside Lines: Sunday 3rd July, 2011: Edition 2

Daily briefing notes from the Press Office at Henley Royal RegattaToday at HenleyWhen the German eight broke all the course records to win the Grand Challenge Cup in style from the British national crew, it symbolised a fantastic Regatta where new times were set, World Champions were overthrown and the massive crowds got the chance to see their Olympic heroes perform with just over a year to go before the London Olympics.The Grand’s record had stood since 1989, when it was set by a German eight coached by Ralf Holtmeyer. Twenty-two years later, the same man produced a new crew to finally crack that time and they did so from the first stroke. Despite a spirited burst in the middle, the British could never get on terms to challenge the Germans and went down by one length.But Henley’s course showed that it is no respecter of World Champions, when the British quadruple sculls produced a stunning race to defeat an outstanding Croatian crew. The British coach Mark Banks showed why he is such a superb technical coach, when his crew kept their cool in the face of repeated Croatian challenges.  For the British, to win by over a length, must have been beyond their pre-race dreams.The GB quadruple sculls’ victory came in the middle of an outstanding series of British wins. There were five in the Regatta’s major international events. The Leander and Molesey crew showed why they have established themselves as the world’s best four this year by breaking their own course record on the way to defeating a strong USA crew by the significant margin of two and a half lengths. The British were never headed during the race.The same was not the case for Hodge and Reed in the Silver Goblets and Nickall’s Challenge Cup, who were led early on by their Italian opposition. But, unlike in 2010 when the British men’s pair lost to New Zealand, the men from Leander and Molesey were not fazed. They got their noses in front by the 1/4 mile and proceeded to power away. Their sprint finish was simply awesome and meant that they not only recorded an “Easily” verdict over the Italians but also equalled Redgrave and Pinsent’s legendary time of 6:56, set in 1995.There were no new records for Marcus Bateman and Matt Wells today in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup. But that will not have bothered them in the least, especially since in winning by two and a half lengths, they beat the Australians who are the reigning Olympic Champions. Once more the British established an early lead. When they crossed the line, Matt Wells was jubilant. Just three years ago, the Leander man had to settle for a bronze medal behind the Australians in Beijing.By contrast, the US women’s eight, who also won in Beijing, were in no mood to surrender their dominance in the Remenham Challenge Cup here. The crew coached by Tom Tehrar defeated the British national crew by a length and three-quarters and set a record time in the process. But the British could realistically think that this result showed that their crew was continuing to make progress.The American women’s quadruple was also in sparkling form as it defeated a very strong Australian crew, with a lower rate of striking.   Esther Lofgren was part of this quad as well as the US Remenham eight, giving her two titles in a day.But in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup, the US single sculler Genevieve Stone had to suffer a second successive defeat to the Czech Republic’s Mirka Knapkova, sculling here in a borrowed British boat.The Diamond Sculls Challenge Cups was won for the third time by Alan Campbell, who beat the Australian Nick Hudson easily.Germans take the Ladies’ Plate but Leander strike twiceThe German eight from Berliner R.C. did not have an easy race as they came from behind to defeat a Leander crew that gave their all in the final of the Ladies’ Plate. But the Henley-based club, famous for its salmon pink livery, did make amends with their oarsmen winning two more of the intermediate level events.Though Tideway Scullers’ men pressed hard all the way down the course, they could not prevent Leander’s quadruple scull from winning the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup by a length. The Leander men were rewarded for their efforts by setting a new course record. And three of the men who powered the Leander and Imperial College four repeated last year’s success – this time against the only Irish crew represented in this year’s Henley’s finals.Three of the London four that won the Wyfolds Challenge Cup this year against Nottingham B.C. had tasted an agonising defeat last year against the men of Nottingham and Union RC. This year, though, they made no mistakes and led from pillar to post, winning by two lengths.Although Upper Yarra R.C., the race favourites, led their final of the Thames Challenge Cup all the way, they were harried all the way by an outstanding British club crew from Star R.C. The relatively narrow margin of one length will have been some comfort to the Bedford based crew.There was also a close verdict in the Britannia Challenge Cup won by Banks R.C. of Australia but that came as scant comfort to the London R.C. crew who had three from four of last year’s runners-up on board.The Temple Challenge Cup for student eights seemed to have the name of Cal Berkeley’s freshmen written on it from the off. Their margin of victory over the Dutch students was a comprehensive four and a half lengths. But Harvard made sure they didn’t come away from the Regatta empty handed when they came from behind to win a very close race and break the hearts of the Oxford Brookes four in the Prince Albert Cup.Abingdon School’s win in the Princess Elizabeth Cup for schoolboy eights had just as much excitement. But the British crew rowed an incredibly mature race to hold off every challenge from St Andrew’s school…

Searle wants to bow out at Henley with a win

Olympic gold medallist Greg Searle takes centre stage at the Henley Royal Regatta today for a classic head-to-head final between the two fastest boats in the world – aware it is likely to be his last top-class race at the prestigious event.The 39-year-old from Marlow, who is bidding to win gold at London 2012 in the GB men's eight 20 years after his 1992 triumph in Barcelona, wants to bow out in front of the Henley hordes with a win."For me, personally, this will probably be my last Henley when I'm fully fit and you enjoy it a lot more when you are winning," he said.The GB eight, racing at 15.30 today in the Grand Challenge Cup final, were just six-tenths of a second behind the Germans at the World Championships and a few feet at the first world cup of 2011 in Munich.Yesterday they went faster than their rivals in their respective semi-finals but Searle knows numbers mean nothing until they cross the line ahead of the German crew racing as R.C. Hansa Dortmund – and even then, that Henley is a unique animal."Being close to the record and being quicker than the Germans is really nice for our confidence but it doesn't win us anything," said Searle."It was a great performance having not done any racing for five weeks. We've been in a little bit of a training phase, and we have to remember Henley is special and different."The GB crew will face their rivals next weekend at the final world cup in Lucerne before heading off on a summer training camp to prepare for the World Championships in Slovenia at the end of August which double as qualification for 2012."What happens in Lucerne on a six-lane course in much more sanitised conditions could well be different," said Searle who had 10 years out of the GB Rowing Team before deciding to make his comeback for the London Games. Searle, who is a Steward of the Regatta, will line up with crewmates Alex Partridge, James Foad, Cameron Nichol, Nathaniel Reilly O'Donnell, Mohamed Sbihi, Tom Ransley, Daniel Ritchie and cox Phelan Hill for the 2,112m race – the crews last international competition on home water before London 2012.Stroke Ritchie said they don't intend on forever being "bridesmaids" to the German boat – and believe they will close the gap at or before 2012 by putting their faith in their German coach Jurgen Grobler."It is quite a positive feeling we're getting closer and closer to beating the Germans," he said. "It is trusting Jurgen's programme and knowing it will deliver eventually, whether that is here (at Henley) or 2012," he said."I try not to make any changes from multi-lane racing but it is different."We know the Germans and we speak to them on the podium and we show them respect. We just want to win fair and square."The GB eight, racing as Molesey B.C. & Leander Club, according to the Regatta rules, will start at 3:30pm on Sunday.The prize giving will take place at 4:30pm, with the trophies presented to the winners by four-times Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.For further information contact the Henley Royal Regatta Press Office on (01491) 572 153 or (01491) 579387

Inside Lines: Sunday 3rd July, 2011

Daily briefing notes from the Press Office at Henley Royal RegattaToday at HenleyToday is Finals day at the Henley Royal Regatta with a programme of races starting at 11.30am.  A host of Olympic and World Champions will be in action from across the world.  Trophies for the winners will be presented by Sir Chris Hoy MBE the triple Olympic cycling champion at Beijing 2008.Yesterday at HenleyThe GB Rowing Team eight beat Australia’s national team eight in the Grand Challenge Cup semi-finals on a day of high drama at Henley Royal Regatta. By doing so, the British eight laid to rest their semi-final blues from last year when they unexpectedly lost to New Zealand. Their time of 5:59 was only one second off Germany’s 1989 record. The British crew, with veteran Olympian Greg Searle on board, will now face the re-vamped German world champions in Sunday’s final.The Stewards’ Challenge Cup for men’s fours saw a major upset when the fancied Australian crew, with the legendary Drew Ginn on board, went down to the USA’s top four by three-quarters of a length. The verdict confirmed a great day for a USA men’s team on the comeback trail – their new eight was only narrowly defeated by Germany in the other Grand semi-final.The American women’s eight have consistently remained at the top of world rowing for some time now. They looked in complete control as they beat a British crew containing U23 oarswomen in the Remenham Challenge Cup. Today they will face a stronger home challenge from the British women’s eight, who progressed comfortably in their semi-final against Oxford Brookes and Molesey.And the big crowds watching from the bank had the chance to applaud some more great performances from Britain’s 2012 Olympic hopefuls. Triggs-Hodge and Reed looked imperious in disposing of a very strong Greek pair with an‘easily’ verdict in the Silver Goblets and Nickall’s Challenge Cup for men’s pairs. They will face Italy on Sunday for the title. Earlier, Britain’s classy new four, with Olympic champion Tom James on board comfortably beat a strong crew from Belarus in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup.The verdicts weren’t so comfortable in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup, where Britain’s Wells and Bateman beat an improving USA double by three-quarters of a length. The British were thrilled, though, by the speed of their boat over the course. All three course records fell to them and the British finished in 6:50.There were no records in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup for quadruple sculls in which the British crew’s victory over another strong USA entry was impressive. They controlled the race and booked a place in today’s final against the Croatian reigning World Champions. The Croatians controlled their semi-final against Australia impressively. An Australian women’s quadruples sculls containing their heavyweight and lightweight doubles beat a very strong USA crew impressively.The same was true of Cal’s freshman eight, who were once again in awesome form as they beat their rivals from Harvard by a length and a quarter. And Harvard had to taste another defeat when their all-conquering Varsity eight were beaten just afterwards by a magnificent Leander performance in the Ladies’ Plate.Two incidents made sure that the Wyfold Challenge Cup was packed full of drama. First London’s A crew were hit by a canoe on the way to the start. The collision damaged their boat, necessitating their coaching team to change boats, for a later race. Then Nottingham BC headed Tideway Scullers School in their semi-final by three-quarters of a length, only for Scullers to successfully appeal after chunks of weed became attached to their rudder just after the start.Truly amazingMartin Sinkovic simply could not believe the noise from the Henley crowds as his world champion quadruple scull tasted the unique atmosphere at the Royal Regatta for the first time. “It’s truly amazing”, said the 21 year old Croatian. “There are people shouting for you, or drinking and just making lots of noise. I’ve never experienced anything like it. You have to really focus”.Sinkovic’s crew recorded a one-length victory over Australia, who had beaten Poland’s Olympic champions on Friday. “They gave us a really tough race but when you get a lead in this type of racing you can control the race more easily”, said SinkovicThe Croatians came to Henley after an amazing win in the last World Cup regatta in Hamburg, where they grabbed a last-gasp victory over a seemingly invincible German crew. “That was a really, really tough race but we were so pleased to have won it”, said Sinkovic who added: “Tomorrow I think we’ll have another tough race against the British quad, especially because they have the home support. But we won’t make it easy for them”.A small club success storyStar Club’s victory after overhauling Thames R.C. at the Mile marker in the semi-final of the Thames Challenge Cup was a stunning result but also a real small club success story. It was crafted by former Olympic rower and Bedford stalwart, Pete Mulkerrins. His coaching efforts have proved that clubs like Star can challenge at the top end of Henley’s big events.“It’s a David versus Goliath story”, said Mulkerrins. “When I look at the size of my lads shaking hands with their opposition I have a real laugh. Our strokeman is only 5’6”!”  Mulkerrins went on to explain how Star’s members had clubbed together to rent a new boat for the crew, rather than their six year-old shell.That spirit made the crew determined to take a crack at the Thames Challenge Cup.“We had a talk after the Met Regatta and the boys said they wanted to go for the eight. So we avoided racing at Marlow and went up to Chester for a week’s camp”, said Mulkerrins.So the crew that will race in Sunday’s final was brought together from Club rowers and juniors, from both private and state schools, some of whom learnt to row in Star’s Project Oarsome scheme. “Callum Beasley is a great example of someone from a state school who has come up…