This year's Henley Royal Regatta was a scorcher, both in terms of the phenomenal heat we experienced and the cracking performances on the water. At this regatta, the Club qualified no fewer than 7 boats across 4 events - a total of over 40 athletes.
This year saw the 10th anniversary of Newcastle's first ever win at HRR in the 2008 Prince Albert Challenge Cup. It's a remarkable sign of the club's progress that, in the intervening years since, the Club has won two further times in the same event and set four record times across multiple events. All the while it has increased the number of athletes qualifying for racing, showing that delivering elite performance is not in tension with maintaining a large squad and allowing all who put in the effort to participate in rowing.
In every year since the win in 2008 (with the exception of 2009), the Club has managed to get at least one crew through to the weekend of the Regatta. This in itself is an achievement and shows that, unlike many clubs who win once through luck or having the right people in the right place and never win again, NUBC has strength in depth and numbers.
The main focus of the Men's squad was the Temple Challenge Cup, with three eights entered. The B Eight suffered an early bath, regretfully losing to Eton's 2nd eight by a canvas. The C eight was a lightweight eight, which put up a credible fight against Imperial's heavyweights but also exited on Wednesday.
The A eight had a more successful campaign. After a couple of straightforward wins against Exeter University and UCL, they smashed the USA's Brown University entry by 3/4 length in a time of 6:08 - only 5 seconds off the then course record and 12 seconds faster than any Newcastle crew has gone down the course before. This made them only the second Newcastle crew ever to make the weekend in the Temple.
The Men also entered two quads in the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup. The first was a composite with Edinburgh University and was made up of aspiring GB U23 lightweights, consisting of two Newcastle students - James Stevenson and Dom Jackson. They created universal delight among spectators with an emphatic victory over Durham on Thursday. Unfortunately, they were knocked out on the Friday against the GB U23 heavyweights but went down fighting hard. The second quad was a composite with Nottingham University, featuring Newcastle student Matt Day. This was knocked out on Thursday by Reading University.
Hot on the heels of their brilliant performance at Henley Women's Regatta, the Women's squad triumphed for the Club by qualifying the first all-student NUBC crew for the Remenham Challenge Cup since 2012. The Remenham is an open event and dominated by national squads, and until the Stewards get round to introducing a women's academic event at HRR (hopefully in the not too distant future), there are only the other open events for student women to enter into. Although they were defeated by a Dutch Olympic development eight (outweighing them by 2 stone on average per person), the crew rowed with style and verve as a true credit to the blue star.
In addition to the Remenham, a quad was entered into the Princess Grace Challenge Cup. This was made up of three current Newcastle students - Lola Anderson, Frances Russell, and Amy Bowman - combined with Blue Star alumna Nicole Lamb (who had been forced to race in disguise as Sheffield University). This crew had triumphed at Henley Women's Regatta by winning the Championship Quads event. Unfortunately, they were knocked out on the Thursday by the Norweigan national crew, who had come ninth at the recent World Cup, but this didn't stop them from pushing the Norwegians as hard as they could and they maintained contact all the way to Fawley.
A number of blue stars were on the start line at this regatta (including an all blue star quarter-final in the Goblets, leaving many of us unsure of who to cheer for), but this year saw an extraordinary achievement as no fewer than six blue star alumni made it through to the finals. Even more incredibly all six - a clean sweep - won in their respective events:
Emily Ford in the Town Challenge Cup (Open W4-) - quite probably the first female blue star to win at HRR
Tom Ford in the Stewards' Challenge Cup (Open M4-) - rounding off probably the first ever brother/sister combo to be on the HRR podium
Tim Clarke in the Visitors Challenge Cup (Intermediate M4-) - marking a career first by crossing the finish line ahead in an HRR final
Alex Haynes in the Thames Challenge Cup (Club M8+) - achieving a back to back double win with his PA victory last year for NUBC
Oli Knight in the Wyfold Challenge Cup (Club M4-) - finally getting the win after 7-weekend finishes
Michael Trevena in the Britannia Challenge Cup (Club M4+) - who not only put a dent in the record books (trimming 1 second off the 25-year-old finish time record) but also the trophy itself during prizegiving.
Written by Charles Barry
Photos by Fergus Mainland