Record-Breaking Henley Triumphs!

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Day three of the Henley Royal Regatta witnessed exceptional conditions and a series of impressive performances in the women’s events. With each passing day, the pressure intensifies as world champions and Olympians gear up to commence their campaigns on Friday.
A highly anticipated clash between Newcastle University and Durham University awaits in the Island Challenge Cup, the Student Women’s Eight competition, after both teams triumphed over international opponents. Newcastle University ‘A’ continued their impressive run, following their comfortable victory over Princeton on Wednesday, by defeating the Dutch boat, R.S.V.U Okeanos, on Thursday morning.
“We’re ecstatic,” expressed Jess Proctor-Crozier, Newcastle’s 4-seat.
“It’s amazing that we’ve actually managed to get through to this point because you never know what the Draw is going to be like, and so you’re always a bit unsure. Being able to make it into Friday is amazing. We’d like to make it to the weekend, but we’re just going to see who we’re going to be racing against tomorrow and then take it from there.”
Shortly after, Durham University secured a commanding victory over Harvard’s Radcliffe Crew ‘A,’ setting up a thrilling quarter-final against arch-rivals Newcastle. While Durham has dominated Newcastle in multi-lane racing throughout the year, Newcastle emerged victorious in their previous head-to-head encounter.
“Last year we were knocked out in our first race, so it’s nice to turn the tables on that,” commented Hermione Hill, Durham’s coxswain. “Tomorrow, we’re taking on Newcastle, our home rivals. We traveled all the way from the north just to end up racing each other again! We’re looking forward to it. The last 1 v 1 match we had was against them at Boat Race the North, and they won on both our home waters. So let’s see if we can stick it to them tomorrow.”
On paper, Durham holds the advantage over Newcastle, trailing just a second behind record-breaking Oxford Brookes at both the Barrier and Fawley in the initial part of their race. However, the 2,112m head-to-head Henley Course often defies form guides, making the upcoming clash a thrilling prospect.
Adding to the success of the north-eastern teams, Tyne A.R.C secured a controlled victory over London Rowing Club in the Club Women’s Eight and elite pathway event from the Island.
Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ demonstrated that their women’s program is as potent as their men’s, setting new records in The Island as they defeated Edinburgh University ‘A.’ Brookes established new records of 1:58 and 3:19 to the Barrier and Fawley, respectively. While Brown University won the Island in an all-international final last year, Brookes appeared determined and well-equipped to change that narrative. Furthermore, their ‘B’ boat clinched a thrilling victory over the University of Pennsylvania ‘B’ in the afternoon session.
“It was a good first race, it really just gets the nerves out of the way,” stated Brenna Randall, a stroke of the Canadian Brookes crew. “We wanted to get our start down and then just try and get a feel for the course. I think Edinburgh is a really good boat, so it’s nice to have competition like them to go against in the first round.”

Martha Birtles, the 7-seat of Brookes, added, “We’ve made a lot of leaps and bounds this year. I think we’ve made some good improvements, and we’re really excited to keep racing. We’re a really close crew that’s done a lot of racing, and every race we do, we’re getting better and better.”
Such performances from Brookes bode ill for their competitors, although it comes as no surprise given their esteemed reputation at Henley over the past two decades.
“Funding, you know, financially, puts more money in,” highlighted Hugo Gulliver, the women’s head coach at Oxford Brookes, emphasizing the impact of funding on the women’s program’s rapid development. “We’ve got the most expensive women’s boat ever purchased in the UK.”
Richard Spratley, the director of rowing, and Henry Bailhache-Webb, the head coach, have been relentless in their efforts to advance women’s rowing at Brookes. As a united team, the women’s and men’s squads strive for success. Gulliver affirmed, “It’s competitive, so everyone’s pushing everyone up. But, it’s 2023, and men and women, when they leave the university, they’re going to work in offices together. They’ve got to get ready for the real world after this. I think having both teams pushing each other the whole time, but then also training together, coming in from training sessions and having breakfast together, means actually your whole experience is brilliant.”
The Prince Philip Challenge Trophy, the Junior Women’s Eight events, has emerged as one of the most fiercely competitive races of the regatta, with international entries setting an increasingly rapid pace. Winter Park from the USA showcased their dominance by defeating a formidable Hinksey Sculling School. Winter Park established a new record to the Barrier with a time of 2:05 and maintained a 1 ¼ length lead, finishing with a new course record of 7:13, beating last year’s mark by a significant 8 seconds.
Shortly after, St. Catherine’s School from Australia, a different crew from the ones that defeated Winter Park in the final last year, took up the challenge and broke Winter Park’s record for the Barrier by a second, clocking in at 2:04. They held a 2 ½ length lead and matched the time to Fawley in 3:29 before finishing comfortably in 7:20, just shy of a new record.
As conditions on the Henley Course constantly evolve, the remaining crews are acutely aware of the challenges they face. The stage is set for thrilling battles as the Henley Royal Regatta continues to captivate rowing enthusiasts worldwide.

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