Win For Molesey In The Britannia Challenge Cup AT Henley Royal Regatta!

Foreword - Club Captain Ali Douglass

Henley Royal Regatta 2019 - what a year it was. Molesey Boat Club has come away with another successful year, winning the Britannia Challenge Cup, having two women’s crews racing at the Regatta in Open events and our first full Molesey crew in the Ladies Plate for over a decade.

On behalf of all the athletes racing at Henley, I would like to say thankyou to everyone that has supported the club to get to this point, especially those that have donated to the Athlete Support Fund. Your contributions have enabled us to send athletes not only to Henley, but out to Ratzeburg regatta and to support individuals in representing Great Britain. So keep those donations coming!

Now, onto the main event, we’ve brought together some race reports from our crews racing at Henley so you can get an inside perspective. Enjoy!

Wyfold: by Jon Broadest

The Wyfold crew this year enjoyed a good practice time trial at Marlow and again at Henley qualifiers. They successfully made it through to the main regatta and drew Thames on Wednesday. Off the start, Thames clashed with our boat, but the four picked themselves up and rode the waves, slalom course, a couple of hook sinkers mid-enclosures, to close the campaign just 3/4 length down.

The crew were proud to paint both lanes black, to show James Nally (17) the sights and finish up an enjoyable fortnight together with some dodgy blade work from Jon broadest (32y11m). Alex Chisholm and Rich Laney declined to comment.

Princess Royal - by Elo Luik

This was my second year racing the Princess Royal Challenge Cup. It’s an event I love for the personal challenge of racing the single at Henley, but also for the consistently high level of international and local athletes that the category attracts. This year was no different, with athletes from China, New Zealand, The Netherlands and Ukraine. I got lucky in the draw so after a comfortable first round where I was able to conserve energy, I got to face Emma Twigg of New Zealand on Friday. This was such a special opportunity for me because I have followed and admired Twigg’s sculling for years.

I knew Emma would be incredibly fast and I was only recovering from a cold I picked up over Henley Women’s Regatta. So my plan was to go out big and try to get my bow ahead, even if only for a few strokes. For those of you who know my sculling history better, you might remember that my start has not exactly been a strength… But I had nothing to lose and decided to have fun with it. It was crazy to look over to my left and see one of my heroes right there next to me. I stayed with her for the first 500m and then she moved away. I was determined to race it all the way and Emma was also kind enough to slow down a fair bit once she got ahead. The verdict was 2 ¾ lengths in the end. I never felt out of the race thanks to the many Molesey supporters on the bank. After the race Emma gave me a big hug and complimented my fast start, making me the happiest sculler ever to lose a race.

Thames Cup - by Andrew Turner

Molesey’s 3rd boat at Henley was racing in the Thames Challenge Cup. From stroke to bow: Adam Giambrone, Josh Burke, Toby Piggott, Andrew Turner, Ollie Daly, Kalu Varney, Andy Warren and Tom Cross, coxed by Charlotte Fuscone. The crew raced in various combinations at Ghent Regatta and The Metropolitan Regatta putting in strong performances against other club crews, before having the crew and order finally set in the week before Marlow Regatta.

At Marlow the crew placed 4th in the B final of Championship 8s, making them the 3rd fastest Thames Cup crew at the regatta and only 1.6 seconds behind the top Thames Cup crew, Kingston.

Buoyed by this result, the crew had a good final preparation into Henley with no clear favourite. Although they were disappointed not to be seeded, the crew produced a strong race on the Wednesday beating Cardiff University Alumni RC. For two man Andy Warren, this meant his first race win at Henley after 9 attempts, breaking the ‘Wazza curse’.

On Thursday the crew faced a tough battle against Thames RC, a crew containing three previous winners of the event, including cox Connie Lester, who had won twice before. Both crews had a good start, with Thames RC edging out to a ¾ length lead by the Barrier. Despite a strong mid-race pace from Molesey which closed the gap to ¼ of a length through the middle, Thames proved too strong in the closing stages, and eventually won the race by ½ a length.

Thames progressed through to the final, where they lost a tightly fought race to a Dutch student crew by one length. With this being the second club level boat from Molesey and with the majority of the crew returning, 2020 is set to be another strong year for the club.

Town Challenge Cup - by Marie Grant

Our women’s 4- has been through a lot just getting to Henley Royal regatta, with last minute injuries meaning changes to the boat just days before the qualifying races. A gutsy row saw us safely qualified into the regatta and a few days later we drew Leander in the first round! It was exciting for us as our times at Henley women’s regatta were very close so we knew it would be a tough race... and it was. A fast start from both crews made for an intense battle to the island, as we transitioned into our race rhythm, Leander took the advantage out to just under a length. We battled hard with them the whole way down, constantly pushing on at each checkpoint. Unfortunately it was not to be as Leander found a way to respond to each push and maintained their lead through the finish line.. Although not the result we wanted, we produced a race worthy of the quarter finals and one we were certainly proud of!

Ladies Plate - by Ali Douglass

Entering the Ladies Plate was a big statement of intent for the Men’s Programme at Molesey. Our crew was made up of experienced athletes, all of which had won at Henley before in Club events.

The logistics of making an eight oared shell go fast are complex, none so more than this one. With all but one of the athletes coaching at local schools and universities we resorted to training in the early morning and late evening. Despite these challenges, the boat progressed well in the run up to Henley, including a win at Ratzeburg regatta against the German u23 8+ and €1000 won for the club.

The last few weeks of preparation flew by and before we knew it we had moved into Henley for race week. We were drawn against tough opposition on the first day in the form of the Dutch u23 8+. Sitting on the start line we had an absolute belief in our ability to produce our best race. The Dutch flew out of the blocks and established a length lead by the barrier, we dug our heels in and produced a strong race to finish with just overlap. Although the loss on Friday hurt, our morale was boosted when the Dutch went on to beat Leander Club by a similar margin on Saturday and break the course record in the process. The Dutch then went on to lose the final by 1 length to Oxford Brookes.

The entry and outcome has put Molesey back in contention with the top programmes in the UK and we hope has laid a foundation for next year to attack these top level events and chase the elusive win.

Britannia challenge cup - by Kenny Gray

Sitting on the start line for the final I was going over how the race might play out and the tribulations of arriving here. I was quietly confident, but at Henley anything can happen.

Off the start Mercantile took the lead, as anticipated. But they kept going until they were out of our sight. Bec, our cox, yelled ‘scratch the plan, we need to go now!’. In my head I started telling myself that I’d done well to make the final and that it wasn’t meant to be… almost immediately I shook that idea out of my head, this race was far from over and we had come too far to give in now. We settled into our rhythm and trusted in our speed through the middle of the race that we had shown time and time again.

Getting closer to Remenham, I remember being completely locked into the rhythm that Matt was setting. Every stroke we were trying to get an inch back on the Australians. In the corner of my eye I started to see their puddles getting closer and the confidence in the crew grew. Our two man, Jens, shouted ‘Go now or lose’ and we took off. We let the rate come up a pip and started to move out to a length. Coming into Stewards, Mercantile pushed back hard and we were called into our final sprint for the line. About 20 strokes later I see Matt starting to falter and almost stop rowing, In my head I screamed “Not yet, please!”. At that moment, I looked over and we had crossed the line. It took a brief moment for me to break away from the trance and rhythm we were just in, and then I was taken over by a sense of disbelief and sheer exhaustion. I had actually achieved my dream of winning Henley, some kid who started at Staines boat club with no athleticism or natural talent, had just become a Henley champion.

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