‘This is the stretch that I pulled on my first rudder strings, and I really do see it as home’

Olympic bronze medallist Henry Fieldman coxed Leander Club A at the Head of the River on Saturday 26 March. Henry reflects on the day’s racing in his blog below


Coxing the GB men's eight (c) AllMarkOne

Leading cox Henry Fieldman steered the GB men’s eight to a fabulous Olympic bronze at the Tokyo Games last year. He learned to cox on the River Thames so it’s no surprise that the 33-year-old feels right at home on the Tideway and his substantial experience includes coxing Cambridge in the 2013 Boat Race.

Last weekend, Henry was steering the top Leander men’s boat – read on as he shares why the Head of the River is a challenge he always looks forward to…

“Last week was one of my favourite times of year. It’s a chance for us in the national team to put on our club colours and race for the Head of the River. It’s been a long time since we’ve had that chance, what with the pandemic and everything to do with that. I must say it was great to be back in amongst it with so many crews from all over the country racing hard on the Tideway stretch.

“My club is Leander. For many of us in the squad it’s particularly special to go back to Leander, the club that developed them from junior level into the athletes they are today. For me it’s a bit different: I came up through school and university programmes and then spent a few years at Molesey Boat Club and then finally moved to Leander to challenge myself and continue my development path in the sport. However, it still feels incredibly special for me to go back and represent them when we have the chance.

“Another part of the week that I absolutely relish is getting back on the Tideway. This is the stretch that I pulled on my first rudder strings, and I really do see it as home.

“We were lucky enough to have a week in our clubs, which for us meant heading to Henley and the Pink Palace, before moving to the Tideway and Fulham Reach Boat Club a few days before the race.

“In terms of build-up, I think we used the time well, keeping our focus simple. Our coach Matt Beechey expertly took the reins, technically working on how we place the spoons around the front and then release around the back and do that together.

“We were aiming for the win, but unfortunately had to concede that to an excellent crew from Oxford Brookes”

“Credit to the crew who pushed and refined these points each day as we approached the race. We did have our challenges with a few Covid cases and injuries along the way, but that seems to have been the norm with most of the racing crews. What it did mean was that we had the opportunity to row a crew of rowers from the national team mixed in with club rowers who are based at Leander. It was hugely useful for us to hear from them, and their perspectives and I hope we were able to teach them a few things as well.

“In terms of the race itself, we raced hard and executed our plan well. Conditions were much more favourable than what we are used to for this race, and we were able to make a good showing of what we could do. We were aiming for the win, but unfortunately for us had to concede that to an excellent crew from Oxford Brookes. Most of those guys are our teammates on the national team as well and I’ve been doing a lot of technical work with them, so it was great to see that being put into practice, helping them to get the win on the day.

“That’s exactly why I came to Leander – to be challenged”

“I am, of course, being very cheeky here. In all seriousness they were a fantastic crew who did a great job. Well done to them, their programme, their coaches, and also to their second crew who ran us uncomfortably close at the finish line.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the umpires and marshals who ran – what was from my perspective – a great event. Thank you also to Fulham Reach Boat Club who hosted us during our time on the Tideway. I’d also like to thank our coaches Matt Beechey and Ali Brown who went above and beyond to give us every opportunity to show what we can do on race day.

“Again, unfortunately we weren’t able to emulate the success of the Leander women a few weeks ago at the Women’s Head of the River – we’re the underdogs now. That’s our challenge. And that’s exactly why I came to Leander – to be challenged.

“I can’t wait for the next opportunity to put on our club colours and work to reduce the deficit.”

Catch up on all the HORR results here.