Claire Connon wins at HWR!

No Cambridge club had won at Henley Women’s Regatta since 2010 and the Cantabs Women entered four crews into this year’s regatta, looking to put that right.

The Cantabs Women’s crews comprised two Club Fours, an Elite Pair, and an Adaptive Single.

Rowers from the Coxed Four waiting to boat

Rowers from the Coxed Four waiting to boat for their heat against BBL

The Intermediate Club Coxed Fours event was fiercely competitive with 40 entries being cut down to just 16 after the initial time trial. Despite having had at least two practice outings together, the “Fun Four” didn’t quite make it through the time-trial and were able to hit the wine early on! The more serious four made it through and were excited for their first race against Barnes Bridge Ladies.

The unofficial times from the time-trial suggested that this was going to be a close race, and so it proved – with both crews blasting off the start at over 40. Barnes Bridge took a slight lead at the end of the island, but neither crew really settled, both staying at 36 or above. It was a great race for the observers on the bank with both crews holding a brutal pace. Barnes Bridge Ladies managed to hold on to their lead, gradually extending it through the enclosures and stretching it out in the last 100m to take the win.

Sir Matthew Pinsent has time to relax after umpiring the Cantabs-Tentham race

Sir Matthew Pinsent has time to relax after umpiring the Cantabs-Trentham race

The Elite Pair boated for their first race against Trentham which they won ‘easily’ with a margin of 45s at the finish. The crew was looking long and loose and Umpire Sir Matt Pinsent said that he was impressed with the quality of their rowing, but the quarter-final was to present a much sterner test.

The quarter-final was against a Molesey crew which had raced well at GB trials and was part of the eight that had finished 6th at WEHORR. While we had raced and beaten them at Ghent, and been faster than them at the Metropolitan Regatta, we knew that they were a fast crew and that this was going to be a real fight.

Ellie and Myriam; photo by Christopher Anton

Ellie and Myriam; photo by Christopher Anton

Off the start, the Cantabs pair moved out to an immediate half length lead, but were warned for their steering and had to move back across the course, losing some speed as they had to make adjustments on the rudder. While their lead increased to a length through the first 500m, it was clear that all was not well in the pair, with the steering requiring constant correction, timing not quite being there and the relaxed rhythm just not coming.

They managed to stay ahead right up until the last couple of hundred meters, when the steady Molesey crew were able to close the gap just by moving consistently together. When Molesey got through they didn’t look back and crossed the line 2L up on Cantabs. It was a deeply disappointing result as we’d previously beaten the Molesey crew and believed that we’d had the speed to go all the way in this event – as evidenced by our previous performances at Ghent, Nottingham and Met. In the end, Molesey ended up losing the following round to the eventual winners, the Norwegian U23 pair, by 2L, showing how close we could have been.

The last Cantabs crew to compete was Claire Connon in the Trunk and Arms Single Sculls. Having made the final last year, where she lost out to an Irish International, Claire was ready to take it further this year. While last year saw a larger entry, this year’s competition for The Grosvenor Cup comprised a straight final between Claire and a previous winner, Sophie Brown (Sudbury).

Claire heading to the start, with shoulder remaining in the proper place!

Claire heading to the start, with shoulder remaining in its proper place!

Claire unfortunately suffered a dislocated shoulder half an hour before the race when she came out of her chair while being lifted up the stairs outside Upper Thames, but in true Connon Style, put her shoulder back in and continued regardless.

 

Claire opens out an early lead

Claire opens out an early lead

Off the start Claire took an immediate lead and was two lengths clear by the end of the island. Under strict instructions from her coach she then started to control the race, rather than blasting ahead into the headwind, and crossed the line with another ‘easily’ verdict. She was, of course, annoyed with her coach for telling her to control the race when she found out that she was just 10s off breaking the course record…

Claire Connon and her coach Tom Copeland receive prizes from Naomi Riches MBE, Paralympic gold medallist.

Claire Connon and her coach Tom Copeland receive prizes from Naomi Riches MBE, Paralympic gold medallist

Claire’s next focus is likely to be the Home International Regatta, and then the Brit Champs regatta, which was cancelled for the para-rowers last year due to high winds.

Congratulations to Claire for her win and to Tom for coaching all the crews to their HWR achievements!

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