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…

GB men’s eight hold off Australians to book place in tomorrow’s final

Henley Steward and 1992 Olympic gold medallist Greg Searle, on the Olympic comeback trail after a ten-year break, was part of the GB men’s eight that held off Australia in today’s semi-finals of the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta to win in 5:59.The GB eight, stroked by Dan Ritchie and coxed by Phelan Hill, will now face the German World Champions in tomorrow’s final in what should prove a re-run of their close-fought World final last Autumn. Germany came through from their semi-final today after a stern test from the American eight.Marcus Bateman and Matt Wells were in jubilant mood after winning their semi-final of the Double Sculls Challenge Cup, setting a course record of 6:50 in the process.   “We are going well as a crew and feeling great. Bring it on”, said Wells of the British crew’s final tomorrow against reigning Olympic champions David Crawshay and Scott Brennan of Australia.Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed were comfortable against the Gkountoulas twins of Greece in their men’s pair semi-final. The British World silver medallists now face the Italian duo, who were world cup silver medallists in May, in the final of the Silver Goblets and Nickall’s Challenge Cup.The Stewards’ Challenge Cup for men’s fours saw a major upset today 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.   Britain’s four will be America’s opponents tomorrow. The quartet of Ric Egington, Matt Langridge, Tom James and Alex Gregory looked very much on song today.The American women’s eight were in complete control of their Remenham Challenge Cup semi-final today, beating a British crew containing U23 oarswomen and will now face the British national squad eight tomorrow.In the Queen Mother Challenge Cup for quadruple sculls the British crew’s victory over another strong USA entry was impressive. Stephen Rowbotham, Bill Lucas, Tom Solesbury and Sam Townsend have booked a place to meet Croatia’s reigning World Champions, who beat Australia impressively today.The verdict in the big inter-University men’s eight semi-final today in the Temple Challenge Cup went the way of the University of California, Berkeley, who beat their rivals Harvard by a length and a quarter. Racing starts at 11.30am tomorrow with the prize giving at 16.30.For further information contact the Henley Royal Regatta Press Office on (01491) 572 153 or (01491) 579387

Inside Lines: Saturday 2nd July, 2011

Daily briefing notes from the Press Office at Henley Royal RegattaToday at HenleyToday’s racing includes a full programme of semi-finals starting at 09.30 and finishing at 19.30. There will be 42 races featuring world and Olympic champions and medallists as well as leading crews from Universities, Colleges, Schools and Clubs across the 19 events.Yesterday at HenleyIt was a stunning day at Henley and the crews racing here took every opportunity to set a hatful of new records. The women of Princeton Training Center showed what has made them the reigning Olympic champions by smashing their 2006 finish time by a full six seconds in the Remenham Challenge Cup.University of California, Berkeley’s sensational freshman crew continued to impress breaking both barrier and Fawey records early on. But they were reminded that this event is far from over, when their rivals from Harvard, later set a new finish record of 6.12.The morning’s session also saw the Silver Goblets and Nickall’s Challenge Cup come alive, with Carboncini and Mornati of Italy nipping a second off Redgrave and Pinsent’s old Fawley time.Not to be outdone, Triggs-Hodge and Reed stormed to the Barrier at a rating of 41, breaking that record by two seconds.As the morning session progressed, it was hard to keep up with the records falling. The British double of Bateman and Wells had always looked set to break the Barrier record in their race in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup and it duly went. Their main opposition here, the reigning Olympic champions from Australia, didn’t break any records but still looked impressive.Later in the afternoon another British squad four wrote their names in the record book when they set new Barrier and finish records against a strong Australian lightweight crew in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup. The Australian’s top four here, who could face the British in Sunday’s final, were pushed all the way by the Swiss lightweights.Steering was a problem for both women’s quads in a heat of the Princess Grace Challenge Cup. The crews from the USA and China clashed just after the start. As the US steerswoman said, “my heart was in my mouth when we stopped because I thought one of us might get disqualified. But the umpire said we’d hit each other in neutral water and ordered a re-start”. The crew from the USA made no mistake the second time around.And there was a superb trademark sprint finish from the Aussie Dan Noonan, as he stroked his quadruple scull past the might of Poland’s Olympic champion crew – albeit without their usual stroke man Adam Karol – to win by 3/4 of a length in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup.But there were much closer finishes than that, which thrilled the crowd. Hampton School’s brave effort in the Princess Elizabeth was ended by St Andrews School of the USA, who rowed through the Surrey school to win by a canvas. And Agecroft and Durham’s quad took their heat from Sport Imperial and Reading by just two feet in the Prince of Wales. In the process, they equalled the finish record – it was that sort of day!Redgrave records brokenThere aren’t many records in rowing that the five times Olympic champion, Sir Steve Redgrave, hasn’t broken.  The records which held a special place in his heart were the  times the Henley Steward had set at the Royal Regatta. Up until yesterday he still held four records in both double sculls and pairs. By 1220 on Friday 1 July, 2011, he had lost three and all that remained was the finish time of 6:56, that he and Matthew Pinsent set in a heat of the Silver Goblets in 1995.Earlier in the day, Redgrave had looked at the fast conditions, thought about the quality of the entries in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup event and reflected: ‘My old double sculls record is bound to go today.’ He’d set the time to the Barrier of 1:58 with Adam Clift way back in 1982. In fact it was the longest standing record in the book.It was fitting that he heard the news his record had fallen to Wells and Bateman, the British double scull, from Jurgen Grobler his old coach. But Britain’s Chief Coach for Men also had some surprising news for his former protégé.“It was about time that record went”, explained Redgrave to Grobler. The 49 year old then confidently added: ‘I think it will be a bit longer before my Goblets records go though.’ Quick as a flash, Grobler shot back: “You’ve lost one of them already. The Italians just took your Barrier record by a second”.Lorenzo Carboncini and Niccolo Mornati have impressed here this week with their superb pace and fluency of movement. Afterwards, they said: “We weren’t trying to break the record but conditions were very good at the start”. Then a couple of hours later their likely opponents in Sunday’s finals, Peter Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge, made their own smash and grab raid on another of Redgrave’s records.“We’d done 2:01 to the barrier without trying yesterday”, said Pete Reed. The British pair kept the rating high at 41 strokes per minute this morning, in a deliberate  attempt to both break Redgrave and Pinsent’s record and send a signal to the Italians. They succeeded, breaking the time by two seconds. It now stands at 1:56. And to make it all the more sweet, their race – which they won comfortably – was umpired by none other than Sir Matthew Pinsent.Other records also tumbledRecords tumbled again at Henley yesterday and more could follow as two of the record-breaking American crews go head-to-head in the Temple.The University of California broke the records they set on Thursday to the Barrier (1:44) and Fawley (2:58) yesterday and today face the Harvard University freshman crew who broke the overall course record for the Temple Challenge Cup, yesterday finishing in 6mins 12 secs.George Gebhard from the Cal crew said: "We had a real nice tailwind. It was a good race. We knew Imperial were a really…

Inside Lines: Wednesday 29 June, 2011

Inside Lines: Wednesday 29 June, 2011Daily briefing notes from the Press Office at Henley Royal RegattaToday at Henley – A feast in storeWelcome to the 162nd Henley Royal Regatta.  We have world and Olympic champions amongst the 302 crews competing in 294 races over the next five days which look set to be a feast of rowing. Last chance to see world’s top crews on British waters before 2012The draw for the 2011 Henley Royal Regatta confirmed what many already knew. Whether or not you scored tickets for the Olympic rowing in 2012, there is just one chance to see the world’s top crews compete in Britain before the London Games – that comes during this week’s Henley Royal Regatta, where a host of current Olympic and World champions will go head to head against some of the world’s top ranked rowers in a bid to test their mettle for next year’s Games.Add to that mix some of the world’s most outstanding club, student and schoolboy rowers – some of them will be future Olympians – and you’ll understand why the 2011 Regatta draw has thrown up some outstanding contests. So the famous course over which the 1948 Olympic Regatta was contested – the last occasion that the Games were held in Britain – gets ready to welcome the crowds for 5 glorious days of racing.Some stunning contests aheadIf the draw’s selected crews reach the finals, there could be some stunning contests, chief of which will be the Grand Challenge Cup, where Germany, the current world eights’ champions, rowing as Hansa Dortmund, may well face the British crew that took silver, only feet behind them in last year’s World Championships. Both boats face tough struggles just to make Sundays finals: the Germans face the USA’s top crew on Saturday, while the Molesey and Leander crew, containing the veteran and Henley Steward Greg Searle, must first get past Australia’s top eight.The Aussie entry at Henley is sensational. No more so than in the Stewards’ Challenge cup, where a four containing their very best rowers are seeded in the other half of the draw to a boat which, if their training times are anything to go by, is Britain’s hottest new crew. The Australian combination contains rowing legend and double Olympic champion Drew Ginn. The former member of Australia’s famous Oarsome Foursome, teams up here with the sensational talent of Aussie newcomer, Josh Dunkley-Smith.But with the incomparable Tom James sitting in the Leander and Molesey four, the British have their own pool of talent to draw on. Both crews though must face world-class opposition from Belarus, the USA and Switzerland if they are to progress to the final. Sadly, though, the Australian Olympic champion, Duncan Free, who was to have been rowing with Ginn and Dunkley-Smith, broke his leg in a cycling accident before the Regatta and will have to watch this fascinating event unfold from the sidelines.However, another Aussie Olympian who struck gold in Beijing comes back off the sidelines at Henley. After a two-year break, Scott Brennan is re-united with his Beijing crewmate David Crawshay. If, as expected, they fight their way through to the Sunday, they could contest the Double Sculls final against Marcus Bateman and Matthew Wells, Britain’s top double scull who took a superb silver in last year’s world championships.And if you thought this Regatta was all about the Australians, look no further than the Queen Mother Cup, where the quadruple sculls event boasts a stellar array of talent. The surprisingly un-seeded Polish Olympic champions, will race Australia on Friday and then look set to face Croatia, the current world champions on Saturday. A potential clash with the British or American quads awaits these crews on Sunday.British billingIt’s unusual for Andrew Triggs-Hodge and Peter Reed, two of Britain’s Beijing Olympic champions, to have to settle for lower billing amongst the list of contests, especially as to win the Silver Goblets, they must beat two world bronze medallists from Greece. But the British pair will hope to maintain this season’s winning streak before they are expected to face their Kiwi rivals in the Lucerne regatta following Henley. The Diamond Sculls will provide a similar proving ground for Ulsterman Alan Campbell, who must fight his way past three Australian scullers for the coveted title.Britain’s women’s eight know that they must fight all the way down the course, too, as they face an outstanding crew from the USA in the Remenham Challenge Cup. The USA are the current world and Olympic champions, while the British posted a very strong showing in the recent Munich World Cup. In the Princess Royal, Mirka Knapkova from the Czech Republic must overcome Alexandra Tsiavou, Greece’s world champion lightweight sculler, to reach an expected final against Femke Decker, the powerful Dutch rower, who has turned her hand to sculling this year. And the withdrawal of Britain’s world champion quadruple scull may seem to have left the way clear for Australia to take the Princess Grace title – although the Americans will also want to have their say.Fierce club competitionsThe top club events are expected to provide the fiercest competition. In the Ladies’ Plate, the all-conquering Harvard eight from the USA look set to meet Britain’s fastest club eight from Leander in a mouth-watering Saturday clash, while the very slick German crew from Berliner and ORC Rostock could await the winner in Sunday’s final.In the Visitors Challenge Cup, look out for the Leander and Imperial College four, who will start their campaign on Thursday. This crew will believe they can win this event, despite the power of the Oxford Brookes and Molesey crew who look their probable Saturday opponents.Wednesday’s racing as always will be fast and furious. Spectators will get their first chance to see the form of the fancied Molesey eight coxed by Rowley Douglas, who steered the British eight to gold in the Sydney Olympics. Douglas, who hopes to cox Britain’s eight in the London Games, has been very impressed with the speed of his boat…

Henley is the last chance to see world’s best crews on British water before 2012

Olympic rowing tickets have sold out but there is still one chance left to see some of the world’s top rowers – including all the GB men’s Olympic boats – in action on British waters before 2012 at this year’s Henley Royal Regatta starting from tomorrow (29 June – 3 July).Britain’s Olympic gold medallists Tom James, racing in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup for men’s fours, Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed, competing in the men’s pair event, will join top-flight boats from the USA, Australia and Germany amongst others on the stretch of water that hosted the last home Olympics in 1948.Over 1,600 rowers in 302 crews, including 97 overseas entries and a host of World and Olympic champions, will savour the Henley experience this year which Sir Steve Redgrave once described as “the nearest rowers get to racing in a football stadium”.“Henley is very special and the great thing is the atmosphere on race days”, said Regatta Chairman Mike Sweeney.“The crowds are almost on the end of the rowers’ blades along the river bank. It’s side-by-side and quite gladiatorial. It’s just a tunnel of noise and quite amazing”.Extra spice has been added to the Regatta this year with many overseas and British crews seeing the Regatta as part of their build-up to the World Championships, starting in Slovenia in late August, which doubles as the Olympic qualifying regatta.“It is incredibly important this year that rowers secure their nation’s Olympic place. So getting the planning right is important and it is great that so many are making Henley part of those plans”, added Sweeney.Racing at Henley is conducted on a knock-out basis. There are also events for the all the top University, College, Club and School crews with future stars, including rowers like 2010 Henley Royal Regatta schoolboy eights winner Constantine Louloudis who today got his first GB world cup call-up today, often making their name for the first time.If the draw’s selected (similar to seeded) crews reach the finals, there could be some stunning contests, chief of which will be the Grand Challenge Cup, where Germany, the current world eights’ champions, rowing as Hansa Dortmund, may well face the British crew that took silver, only feet behind them in last year’s World Championships.The British eight of course features 1992 Olympic gold medallist Greg Searle who is making his comeback to international rowing after a gap of 10 years with the aim of winning gold in London 20 years after his last Olympic victory.But both boats face tough struggles just to make Sunday’s finals. The Germans will race the USA’s top crew on Saturday, while the British, rowing as Molesey and Leander, must first get past Australia’s top eight.Britain will also face scintillating opposition with their arch Olympic rivals Australia in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup for men’s fours.  James rows in this event with 2009 World Champions Alex Gregory, Ric Egington and Matt Langridge. Australia, meanwhile, have a four containing their very best rowers who are “seeded” in the opposite half of the draw to GB and include double Olympic Champion Drew Ginn, a member of the previous Oarsome Foursome, as well as top newcomer Josh Dunkley-Smith.The Australians have also re-formed their Beijing–winning men’s double scull of Scott Brennan and David Crawshay who will provide a tough test for Britain’s 2011 world silver medallists Marcus Bateman and Matt Wells if both crews progress.Perhaps the most stellar field, though, at this year’s Regatta comes in the Queen Mother’s Challenge Cup for men’s quadruple sculls.  Croatia, the World Champions, and Poland, the Olympic Champions, are joined by top Australian and American crews as well as Great Britain’s Sam Townsend, Bill Lucas, Stephen Rowbotham and Tom Solesbury – the first three of whom were last year in the first British crew for almost three decades to reach a World Championships Final in this event.World Champions, the USA, will contest the women’s eight event, the Remenham Challenge Cup, at Henley this week providing a developing British combination with the chance to test their mettle against the world’s best before the world cup finals in Lucerne in mid-July.Early rounds of racing take place on Wednesday and Thursday with quarter-finals on Friday and semi-finals on Saturday. The Finals take place on Sunday starting at 11.30am and there are 293 races on the programme of events over the five days of the Regatta.Tickets are available in the Regatta Enclosure priced from £15.00 for all days bar Saturday which is already sold out.For further information contact the Henley Royal Regatta Press Office on (01491) 572 153 or (01491) 579387