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…

Sir Chris Hoy MBE to present prizes at Henley Royal Regatta

Four-times Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy MBE will present the prizes at the Henley Royal Regatta this year – following in the footsteps of fellow Olympians Lord Seb Coe and Dame Kelly Holmes who accepted the honour in the past two years.The ten-times world champion track cyclist, who captured the nation’s hearts with his triple gold-medal performances at the 2008 Games in Beijing, will be a guest of the Regatta’s Chairman Mike Sweeney on Sunday and will make a short speech to the guests and spectators as well as handing out the prestigious trophies.And the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year is no stranger to the sport.Amongst his vast collection of international sporting honours, Chris has a silver medal which he won rowing for Scotland in the coxless pairs at the British Championships while he was a teenager.Sir Chris, from Edinburgh, was also a Scottish champion BMX rider before joining his first cycling club in 1992 and breaking into the Great Britain track cycling team four years later.His first world medal came in 1999 and at the Athens Olympics he won gold in the Kilo.  He was forced to switch events after it was dropped from the programme for the Beijing Olympics, but rode to victory in the Keirin, Sprint and Team Sprint to become Scotland’s most successful Olympian and the most successful Olympic male cyclist of all time.Sir Chris will present 19 trophies to international, club, university and schools crews likely to include a number of fellow Olympians.This year’s Regatta, which started on Wednesday, with quarter-finals on Friday and semi-finals on Saturday, features 293 races, featuring a bumper 97 overseas entries.In Olympic qualifying-year, strong international crews from America and Australia, as well as a host of other world and Olympic champions, have chosen Henley as part of their preparation for the World Championships – racing in club colours and rubbing shoulders with the best school and club crews from Great Britain and further afield.The finals start at 11:30am on Sunday and could feature a showdown between World Champions Germany and World silver medallists Great Britain in the Grand Challenge Cup for men’s eights as well as GB Olympic men’s four gold medallists Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge in the Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup for men’s pairs.GB’s top sculler Alan Campbell is also in contention to win the Diamond Challenge Sculls and the GB men’s four, including Tom James from the winning 2008 crew in Beijing, are contesting today’s semi-finals in a strong field in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup. For further information contact the Henley Royal Regatta Press Office on (01491) 572 153 or (01491) 579387