Cantabs enjoyed a successful weekend at Henley Women’s Regatta. Winners last year of the Club 8+ event, this year we returned with a top 8+ to race in the new and more competitive ‘Aspirational’ category. This year saw the most entries that we have ever sent to HWR, with an Aspirational 4x and Aspirational 2x from the Senior Squad also racing and performing well, and a Junior 4x taking part.
The first race for all 3 Senior crews was the time trial on Friday morning. Each crew had a good race, and progressed to side-by-side racing.
Hannah Stewart and Helen Fishwick, lightweights racing in an openweight event, did particularly well to beat 19 other crews to qualify their 2x. In the time trial, each of them exceeded their expectations by finishing in the top 16 and beating a crew from Wallingford RC who beat them the weekend before at Reading Amateur Regatta. The 2x were unlucky to be drawn in the first round against an Ipswich/Sudbury composite, losing by 1.5 lengths. The composite went on to compete in the final, with their margins of victory in the quarter and semi-finals larger than that against Hannah and Helen.
Hannah and Helen’s race can be viewed below:
Cantabs vs Sudbury/Ipswich
After racing, Helen said,
As two small people in a massively oversubscribed event, Hannah and I went in with very few expectations, but we were both excited to come to our first Henley Women’s and lay down the best performance we could nonetheless. The time trial was a great experience, made even better when we found out we’d managed to beat 19 crews in order to qualify.
The 4x also had a good time trial, despite only having 2 full weeks together as a crew beforehand, to finish 9th of 16. In the heats they were drawn against Gloucester Hartpury – a GB Start Centre. They had a good race, with Ce Collins-Taylor steering Harriet Cross, Georgie Plunkett and Alice Brownjohn a good line, and the crew leading until the last 500m when their opposition’s longer experience together as a unit allowed them to overtake in the final sprint for the finish.
Cantabs vs Gloucester Hartpury
Stroke Harriet Cross said,
We were so pleased at how quickly we were able to come together as a crew, especially as 3 of the 4 of us had an extra blade to what we are used to, and GP had to get used to sharing a boat with 3 others. Rising to the occasion, we produced our 2 best race pieces as a crew for Henley and, although they ultimately knocked us out, we took so much encouragement from having led a strong Gloucester Hartpury crew for over half of our race.
The Aspirational 8+ didn’t need to qualify to race as there were only 15 entries, though time trial performance was used to seed crews for the main draw. The Cantabs crew finished among the top crews in the time trial and in the first round drew Thames B. The Cantabs crew crossed the line with an Easily verdict, enjoying a low-stress first race to settle into the regatta.
Cantabs vs Thames B
In the quarter-finals, the 8+ was drawn against Agecroft, who had been around 7 seconds faster in the time trial. Knowing that they needed to adopt a much ‘racier’ approach if they were to progress to the semis, stroke woman Andrea de Bruin led Ellie Darlington, Anna Suchankova, Valentina Sassow, Ann Laube, Bailee Stratton, Jessie Spivey and Georgia Vann in an aggressive race which saw a fast and committed start pay off, and Cantabs win by half a length.
Cantabs vs Agecroft
Saturday saw the juniors take part in their time trial, hoping to improve on previous years’ performances to see how close they could get to qualification. In a category of 28, the girls had a strong row and finished as the 3rd fastest non-qualifier, less than 2 seconds away from qualification. Despite the disappointment of being so close to qualifying, the girls raced with a split 10 seconds under that that they raced with at Nat Schools in May, showing a great improvement. With A-levels out of the way, the JW4x will now turn their attention to the British Junior Championships in July, which will be the last race for this crew before they go to university.
The semi-final sat Cantabs draw the Thames A crew, who the Cantabs 8+ had been trading blows with at Wallingford and Met earlier in the summer, where the crews were very closely matched in speed. This continued at Henley, where the crews posted similar times in the time trial. The semi-final was described by many as being the most exciting of the Regatta, with no more than 2 seats in it down the whole course, with Thames eventually taking the win on the surge at the finish to win by just 1 foot. Thames went on to lose to an impressive Tideway Scullers crew in the final, many of whom were in the 8+ which lost to Cantabs in last year’s Club 8+ final.
Cantabs vs Thames A
As well as being a first for the 2x, 3 of the 8+ were racing at Henley Women’s for the first time. 4 seat Ann Laube said,
This was my first time racing at Henley Women’s and it was a fantastic experience. While losing out on making the final by such a small margin was gutting, it still showed that Cantabs are amongst the ‘big guns’ in women’s rowing, and it is a privilege to train and compete with such a dedicated squad. Our captain Ellie and our volunteer coaches put their hearts and souls into the club to make such successes possible.
Women’s and Club Captain Ellie Darlington said,
I couldn’t be more proud of all 3 crews for their performances at HWR. The squad keeps going from strength to strength and to perform as well as we did against much larger clubs, often with full-time professional coaches and GB funding, was a real achievement. After last year’s HWR win seemed to surprise quite a lot of people, we certainly showed that it wasn’t a flash in the pan. We have a mixture of experience within this year’s squad and it was really great to see those newer to rowing really rise to the occasion and race so well over the whole weekend.
Thank you to all of the coaches and supporters who made the weekend possible.