The main aim of each year, Henley Royal Regatta. After the long winter season, every erg session, every morning session at Newburn, every weight lifted, this is the aim. To row the same course as Olympians, sometimes against Olympians is for most the pinnacle of their rowing career. For some it will be another learning experience, for others an opportunity to be presented with a famous red box. This year Newcastle University Boat Club sent eight crews, more than any other year, to compete in six events. Four boats would go with the intention of qualifying while our top ranked boat would hope to go one step further than they did last year.
The Second Temple Eight
With the aim of qualifying this was a very young crew of eight freshers and James Waller. Three of this crew had started rowing at the start of the year in September and for six of the crew this would be their first time at Henley Royal Regatta. Forming after exams finished the run up to Henley had its ups and downs with lots of changes in positions in the boat but a strong performance at Marlow Regatta gave them confidence. After seeing the pre-qualification list and knowing they had already shown they were faster than some of the 23 pre-qualifiers they knew they deserved to qualify. However, it would be a tall order to be one of the 9 places left in the Temple Challenge Cup. Friday the 23rd of June came and there was a very strong head wind coming up the famous course. The eight set off after Monkton Combe School and closed the gap the whole way down the course. With the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration behind the crew not putting them under any pressure they were left with no one to push off. Despite a strong performance from a very inexperienced crew they were just 16 seconds off qualifying. This crew learnt a lot from their Henley experience and many of them will be returning next year.
Crew – Richard Derry (bow), Hal Wheatley, Robbie Britton, Freddie Strawson, Hugo Storey, James Waller, Peter Robins, George Nelson, David Stephenson (cox)
The Second Prince Albert Coxed Four
The second Prince Albert four made up of 5 first years were one of the crews who had not gained a pre-qualification spot, therefore they were one of the three men’s crews who had to race on the friday before the regatta in a time trial. The boys, led down the course by Fred Beaty in the stroke seat, had a strong row moving away from the Oxford Brookes crew that were going off after them. Sadly, this effort was still not quite enough to get them though the qualification process as they were outclassed by other boats in a stronger field than normal. The crew and their cox Will Burden will all return next year.
Crew – Owen Stratford (bow), James Steel, Freddie Crawshaw, Fred Beaty, Will Burden (cox)
The Remenham Eight
A composite boat made from the Senior eight that made the final at Henley Women’s Regatta and the Academic Eight that won was entered into the Remenham Challenge Cup. This is an open event for women’s eight and as such attracts top international crews. The Newcastle eight had to go to qualifiers and having formed only a week earlier after Henley Women’s this would be a tall order to be one of 4 places available. Racing well in the slow conditions the girls came out as the third fastest non-qualifier and only three seconds of the Leander eight. This was yet another very impressive performance from the NUBC women’s squad.
Crew – Lucy Stanhope (bow), Fiona Chestnutt, Anna Van de Braak, Charlie Dobson, Leanne Kinght, Lydia Davis, Harriet Roddy, Megan Barry, Charlotte Hill (cox)
The Prince of Wales Quadruple Sculls
The first of our lightweight crews to go to Henley was entered in the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup. Given that there are no lightweight events at Henley and the fact that this is an Intermediate event meant there would be some very fast opposition. With eighteen crews entered and only sixteen places available our quad was one of eight crews required to qualify. Knowing that they would have to race well to not be one of the two crews heading home after qualifiers they executed their race plan and secured a place for the start of their event on the Thursday. The draw came out and the Newcastle Quad would be racing Edinburgh University in the first round. This Edinburgh boat was loaded with international experience with two of the crew having raced at the recent world cup in Poznan in the GB senior team. Off the start the Newcastle crew were holding onto the quad from Edinburgh but as the race progressed the power from the opposition was shown against the lightweights. Edinburgh moved out to a strong lead and controlled the race to the finish line winning by 1 and ¾ lengths. The lightweight quad will now look to move on before competing at the European University Rowing Championships in Serbia.
Crew – Jack Smith (bow), Liam Arnot, Alex Laws, Adam Kennedy
The Visitors’ Coxless Four
The second of our lightweight boats competing at Henley were also in an Intermediate event, the Visitors’ Challenge Cup. With the exact number of crews allowed entered this crew were pre-qualified and drew Taurus Boat Club for their race on Thursday. Off the start there was an issue with the steering which resulted in the Newcastle boat crossing the buoys and having to turn a lot to get back on a straight course. Despite this steering they were still holding the heavyweight Oxford Brookes old boys past the island. Into their rhythm the 20kg weight difference was obvious and the Taurus boat slowly edged away into a comfortable lead. A strong performance by the top lightweight boat from Newcastle wasn’t enough to gain back all the distance and the final verdict was Taurus Boat Club by one and a half lengths. This crew will also be going to EUSA to compete in the lightweight coxless four.
Crew – Ryan Ballantine (bow), Tom Long, James Stevenson, Rob Fuller
The Women’s Coxless Four
After winning Senior coxless fours at Henley Women’s Regatta this four had to go to qualifiers to try to gain one of two remaining spaces in the new event. They were in a field with boats stacked with international oarswomen and every boat was of a very high standard. The girls performed well into the strong headwind and secured one of the two spaces left putting them straight into racing on Friday the 30th. Drawing Hollandia Roeiclub for the heats they had their best row of the season but unfortunately they couldn’t overturn the Dutch U23 four, losing by three lengths. With two freshers in the boat this was an incredible performance and finished off a very impressive year for NUBC’s women.
Crew – Emily Ford, Lola Anderson, Nicole Lamb, Frances Russell.
The Double Sculls Challenge Cup
A composite of Newcastle University and Durham University was formed by Oli Varley and Hugo Coussens. Both looking to represent GB at the U23 worlds later this summer this was a lightweight double who had shown impressive speed at met Regatta a couple of weeks ago setting a new course record in an event with heavyweights as well. Even with this strong performance they were required to go through qualifiers on the Friday before the regatta started. Racing well they qualified and drew a composite from Fulham Reach Boat Club and Elizabethan Boat Club for their first race on Thursday. A convincing performance saw the lightweight double win with a verdict of ‘easily’, this put them through to racing on Friday against Houin and Azou from France. These were the winners of the lightweight double sculls at the Rio Olympics and showed their experience and quality beating the Newcastle/Durham composite by 4 and ¼ lengths.
Crew – Oli Varley (NUBC) & Hugo Coussens (DUBC)
The First Temple Eight
Prior to Henley the 1st Temple 8 had shown convincing speed up in Newcastle having broken the 1k Newburn straight record in a time of 2:37 but had so far failed to transfer this to racing having been disappointed with their results at Marlow regatta due to the high standards they set themselves. However, having put in some impressive results throughout in the season both at BUCS and Durham the eight was pre-qualified by the stewards. Enthused by this news the entire crew set themselves the task of finding the speed they knew they had but had so far eluded them and after watching some inspirational films (Topgun and Rocky) back in Newcastle, they knew they were ready for Henley.
In the first round, they came up against York University and put into action the powerful start which they had perfected in training and took a lengths lead by the end of the island. The eight continued to sit there throughout the race in what was a controlled and mature performance against their opposition who raced hard to the line. On the Thursday of the regatta it was Newcastle University against the University of Groningen, Netherlands and this was unfortunately the last race the eight would have. This was the last event for Newcastle for some of the crew and the rest were determined to honour this. Newcastle set a furious pace off the start and showed their determination to win, they took an early lead at the end of the island by around 1/3rd of a length but the Dutch crews punishing rhythm and greater power overhauled them and by the end of the course the verdict was 2 ½ lengths to the Dutch crew. Despite being a loss, this was a performance to be proud of, the heads in the Newcastle boat never went down and they raced it all the way to the line.
Crew – Harry Oliver (bow), Ben Holt, Alex Spencer, Ed Johnson, Henry Lambe, David Willcox, Barnaby Stroud-Turp, Mike Trevena, Hannah Taylor (cox)
The First Prince Albert Coxed Four
At Henley Royal Regatta 2016 three of this crew competed in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup and were tipped as the favourites. However, in rowing, there are no guarantees, no givens, and at Henley no second chances. The Newcastle four lost in the final against Edinburgh University. This year the aim was to go one step further and win.
Throughout the summer season the four showed they were fast, setting quick times down the Newburn straight and winning at Marlow Regatta. This performance pre-qualified them and they drew the Université de Lyon from France. A quick start put the Newcastle crew in the lead and set a record to the barrier of 1:57. They set another record to Fawley, from here they controlled the race to a comfortable win of 2 and ¼ lengths. On Thursday they faced a crew from Deerfield Academy in the USA. Another strong start gave Newcastle a small lead but stepping onto rhythm they moved out to a comfortable lead. Controlling the second half of the race made the final verdict Newcastle University by 2 and ¾ lengths. A day off on the Friday meant their next race was on the Saturday against Durham ‘B’. Against a crew they had recently beaten at Durham Regatta this was another comfortable race winning by 3 lengths and conserving their energy for the final. On the other side of the draw Imperial College London had won all their races and shown very similar speed to Newcastle off the start. After losing to this strong Imperial boat at Marlow Regatta the crew from Newcastle knew they would have to use all their experience and the memory of last year’s final to win. A quick start from Imperial gave them a small lead out of the island which they built on past Fawley equaling the course record. The Newcastle boat knew their training prepared them for this kind of pressure and knew they had the power to push back, getting level by Upper Thames. Opening a lead past Mahiki the boat from Newcastle carried on pushing and crossed the line with a verdict of 2/3 of a length. This performance also set a 6 second course record in a time of 6:48.
Crew – Will New (bow), Alex Haynes, James Robson, Will Stewart, Alex Turner (cox)
The Grand Challenge Cup
The GB senior eight raced in the Grand Challenge Cup and Newcastle University Boat Club and Leander Club because of alumni James Rudkin in the seven seat. With a couple of changes from the crew that raced in Poznan at World Cup 2 this would be a difficult race against the world’s fastest ever eight. Against the established German eight the young eight from GB put on a good performance on home water losing by only one length.
If you are interested in rowing at Newcastle in September and would like more information then email our men’s captain – email@example.com or our women’s captain – firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by David Stephenson
Photos by Peter Crawshaw, James Waller, Row2k and Henley Royal Regatta