Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Henley Royal Regatta, 2015: RR Picks and Predictions for the Weekend

Things are already heating up in Henley-on-Thames (Photo: B. Kitch)

While the first day of racing at Henley is nearly over, there are many events that have not yet begun. Wednesday was a hot one, both in terms of the weather and the action on the water, and we don't see any reason what that should change (in the case of the latter, at least) throughout the week on the Thames. Here are a few choice picks and predictions for the racing to come, thanks to the RR International Research Department.

Henley Royal Regatta 2015 sees the largest entry for many years, including a record 59 US crews. Potential temperatures in the 90s (F) will add a further variant to racing as school, student and club crews look to manage their energies to negotiate potentially five consecutive days of racing. Look for further behind-the-scenes images from RowingRelated as the weekend's racing approaches!

Mike Sweeney's decision to step down as Chairman of the Regatta following last year has seen Sir Steve Redgrave promoted in his place and usher in significant changes to the media coverage of the event, the most significant of which will see the event broadcasted live on YouTube for all five days, with cameras covering each race from the Umpire's launch and key landmarks along the 2,112m course. In addition, screens will be available for spectators in the Grandstands within the Steward's Enclosure, potentially challenging the previous pre-eminence of the Commentary Team's announcements and also the Progress Board.

The prospect of a showdown between Great Britain's reigning world champion crew and the German reigning Olympic champions in the Grand Challenge Cup was the potential highlight of the regatta as soon as entries were announced. The Australian men's eight, as yet unseen in international competition, is the potential stumbling block to the match-up everyone is waiting for, and the draw in Henley Town Hall last Saturday has rewarded the German crew with a bye to the final. The strengthened British crew with the returning Stan Louloudis in the two seat will therefore have an opportunity to test their form the day before. We don't foresee an upset on Saturday, and while Louloudis's return would suggest that the British crew will be given a further advantage following their victory at Varese, the timing and training cycles a week before Lucerne, the unpredictable nature of match racing and the additional race the day before makes the potential match-up on Sunday too close to call! One thing we're certain of is that space on the tow path and the enclosures will be hard to come by for both of these contests!

The other events for eights contribute to this being the stand out boat class at this year's event. The seven crews who take to the start line in the Ladies' Challenge Plate represent some of the strongest U.S. colleges, Britain's best club eight, and an-all star Australian crew featuring a number of recent national squad members. This should see some of the most exciting racing of this year's regatta, starting from Friday, and it goes without saying that the Washington Huskies will be a significant obstacle for any of the other six challengers. We're calling the winners of Saturday's potential showdown between Leander and Yale's Ivy League champions as facing off against UW in the final, but there may be feet in it either way—not to be missed!

The British and Canadian national women's eights (racing as Leander & Imperial College and Western Rowing Club respectively) finished second and third to the all-conquering U.S. eight recently and look the picks to prove their speed in the Remenham Challenge Cup.

Oxford Brookes have been in great form all season and will be the crew to beat in the Temple, however Cornell's unbeaten IRA champion lightweight eight will look to challenge that, having posted times comparable to that of the Brookes crew. Their potential clash on Saturday for the second consecutive year should decide the winner in this fiercely contested event, though Cornell may be at a disadvantage now given their extraordinarily close race earlier today with the Brookes 'B' crew.


Domestic Club rowing in the U.K. this season has seen the programme at Thames Rowing Club continue to assert itself as the leading centre. This can be witnessed by the four rights qualified for the Thames Challenge Cup (8+) in addition to their strong Britannia Cup (4+) entry. This strength in depth will mean little to head coach Ben Lewis however, unless one of these crews can succeed where so many have failed in recent years and claim the club's first Henley title since 2006. Their foremost opposition in the Thames Challenge Cup is likely to come from overseas (following the decision by other domestic clubs to prioritise other events in the light of Thames's dominance) particularly Mercantile Rowing Club of Melbourne. The controversy of the regatta could be made however depending on the progress of a certain crew number 527 from Mülheim, Germany. Readers who have been keeping tabs in the lead-up to the regatta may have read the official press-release that accompanied the announcement of entries announcing 526 crews. However the draw has seen crew no. 527 added to the Thames Challenge Cup, not asked to qualify, and selected furthermore. We wait to hear more on this one! Also look to see if the Tideway Scullers' School entry in the Wyfold Challenge Cup can avenge last year's controversial disqualification in the final, however the opposition from Tyrian Club and Molesey looks fierce. So far, so good for Tideway, though.


While the depth of competition in some of the other open events is relatively limited (Alan Campbell's withdrawal from the Diamond Challenge Sculls should make Mahe Drysdale's attempt at a fifth title straightforward) one straight final that stands out is the Queen Mother Challenge Cup (M4x) between the British and German quads that finished first and second respectively at the recent Varese World Cup. Still waiting for GB trials champion Charles Cousins to return, this crew caught the eye with a perfectly paced race to scull through the field—a different approach may well be needed in the winner-takes-all environment of a Henley final however.

Hope everyone has enjoyed the first day of racing and continues to stay appropriately hydrated! It's a long, but great, week ahead!

-RR

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