Another day of positives at Henley

Another excellent day of racing at Henley Royal Regatta saw positives results for a number of the GB Rowing Team crews, representing a variety of clubs.

The first GB race of the day saw the women’s quad of Beth Rodford, Kristina Stiller, Vicki Meyer-Laker and Olivia Carnegie-Brown contest the first semi-final of the Princess Challenge Cup against GB’s lightweight quad for next week’s World Cup III in Lucerne. This crew is comprised of Charlotte Taylor, Brianna Stubbs, Ellie Piggott and Ruth Walczak.

The heavyweights put in a strong performance to win by an eventual margin of two lengths, in a time of 7:42. However, in murky conditions with a strong breeze going against them, the lightweights produced an extremely competitive race, particularly given the average weight difference between the crews of 2.6 stone.

Vicki Meyer-Laker commented on the race afterwards, saying: “There was a bit of shelter behind the island which was good for that start. I think we took a bit off them there and then they really fought back at us for the rest of the race. We held the margin but it was good rowing”.

Kristina Stiller added: “There was definitely a bit of added pressure racing the lightweights. As heavyweights there was a bit of pride at stake and we wanted to make sure we beat them. We knew they would be gunning for us and they were never going to give up, which made it a really tough race for us. I think both crews rowed really well, but I’m definitely happy to have won”.

In spite of the loss, the performance from the lightweight crew was another source of real encouragement, especially looking ahead to next week’s World Cup where this quad will again race in the open weight category.

“We looked at today as a real opportunity. We’ve got this two week project which started with Henley going through to Lucerne as us behaving and feeling like heavyweights and not feeling like a second crew. We’ve got an opportunity to perform on the world stage as equals and that’s how we approached the race today. Obviously we’re all a bit gutted but there was so much good stuff in there and I think we managed to do ourselves proud”, said Charlotte Taylor.

She added: “Next week [in Lucerne] we want to make sure we’re competitive on the heavyweight stage. We’re small things but we’re powerful as well and we’re going to make the most of it. It’s all a big learning experience, every opportunity we get is a great chance to learn about the races and the international stage”.

The next GB race of the day was the first performance at the Royal Regatta from the in-form men’s four of Alex Gregory, Moe Sbihi, George Nash and Andy Triggs Hodge. They came up against a strong Club France ‘A’ crew in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup semis and produced another powerful race, winning by two and three quarter lengths, in 6:55.

Moe Sbihi spoke about how the race went afterwards, saying: “I think we did a fairly good job in the first 500m or so and then after that it’s hard to say because you’re still in a race and there’s still a lot going on. Certainly, job done in the first 400-600m. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow now”.

Sbihi also commented on the tricky conditions on the course, with intermittent wind and rain and constant river traffic making for choppy water: “It was good to get out there and have a bit of a challenge with the conditions. It’s always nice to come to a place like this and get your first win as it can fill you with a bit of confidence”.

Alex Gregory in the bow seat added: “I feel good about racing the French tomorrow. We can’t underestimate anyone as we always say for every race”.

Chief Coach for the men Jurgen Grobler also spoke of the confidence he has in this crew: “We’ve had a very good season so far. The European Championships and the second World Cup worked very well for us and you could say that they have dominated the opposition. It is still early days though, there is still some space for improvement. I hope we’re learning something again from this weekend and developing our own way to race”.

First up after the lunch interval was Great Britain’s single sculler Alan Campbell, who was up against the imposing figure of Dutchman Roel Braas. Campbell was unable to match the power of Braas who eventually went on to win by three lengths.

Campbell spoke after the race: “It wasn’t my day today, I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I felt all right before the race but once I got in I just didn’t have the beans”.

Next up were the GB men’s quad in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup. The crew of Pete Lambert, Sam Townsend, Charles Cousins and Graeme Thomas were racing Craftsbury Sculling Centre of the USA. In an evenly-matched raced, Craftsbury took an early lead but the quad rowed aggressively to take a lead at the three quarter of a mile mark. They managed to maintain this lead through to the end to win by half a length.

Cousins commented on an encouraging start to the quad’s racing this weekend, saying: “I think today was good, we’re through to tomorrow and that’s always the aim so there’s a big box ticked. There was a lot of good stuff in the race and some stuff we can work on. It’s pretty hectic out there, though, the water is really bouncy”.

Graeme Thomas added: “We’ve had a really good, solid block of training but perhaps you could say we weren’t quite race ready today but that’s a really solid result we got. It’s woken us up again and made us remember how hard you have to race here and we’re ready for tomorrow’s final”.

Leander teammates John Collins and Jonny Walton were next to race in their semi-final of the Double Sculls Challenge Cup, against the South African lightweight pairing of John Smith and James Thompson. Collins and Walton sculled very quickly into a commanding lead which gave them control of the race. They went on to win comfortably by a distance of three and a half lengths.

Collins commented on the dominant performance following the race, saying: “ It was pretty textbook as far as Henley races go. We got our noses in front early then just kept on chugging away and getting more distance, then when we felt like we’d done enough to secure our place in the lead we just went into cruise control and stayed on top of it”.

GB’s scullers will race against France’s double in tomorrow’s final. Walton spoke about the prospect of the race: “We’re looking forward to it. It’s a learning process but it feels like it’s going well”.

The GB women’s eight produced another excellent performance to beat the Australian crew in the semi-finals of the Remenham Challenge Cup. The crew won by a distance of a length and three quarters against their potential rivals at Lucerne next week. This sets up a final against the Netherlands national eight tomorrow.

Donna Etiebet, a new member of the eight for this season, was pleased with the results: “It felt really strong out there today, really powerful. That’s what we’ve been looking for since we got off the water in Aiguebelette – we really wanted to get back in that strong rhythm which we knew we had, we just hadn’t quite executed it perfectly in race conditions but I think that’s what we did today”.

One of the more experienced members of the crew, Katie Greves, added: I think we’re confident ahead of racing the Dutch tomorrow. We beat them convincingly at the European Championships but obviously that was nearly six weeks ago and things can change completely in that time. I think we’re certainly physically stronger than them but they always row technically well, they have a lot of skill. We’ve got to make sure we’re on the same strong rhythm as today and we don’t give them the chance to get back on us, because we know they can finish really strongly”.

The final result of the day came in the Silver Goblets & Nickalls Challenge for men’s pairs’ where Alan Sinclair and Scott Durant were beaten by the French-Dutch pairing of Julien Bahain and Mitchel Steenham. Bahain was a bronze medallist at the Beijing Olympic Games and Steenham a bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships. Both men put in strong performances to hold off the British pair and eventually win by one and three quarter lengths.

Great Britain’s men’s eight will be in action tomorrow in the Grand Challenge Cup final against the French, in what promises to be a thrilling race. Will Satch, who sits at stroke for the eight, is excited to be racing in his home town: “I’m really excited to be back racing here, it’s always great fun for me. This is a really fun regatta. Having to wait until Sunday to race can be quite frustrating because I just want to get out there on the course so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow”.

The men’s eight has seen a number of changes to the crew this season but Satch is confident they can produce here at Henley: “I don’t think it’s record breaking conditions out there but some of the guys who have come in have a lot of power and they’ve got a lot of good qualities. We’re just trying to bed them down and get them technically sound. Getting a Grand win under their belt would give them a lot of confidence which would be fantastic”.

Another fantastic day of racing is in store tomorrow, and all of the GB crews left in the competition will undoubtedly want to put on a show in front of the home fans.

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