Sudbury wins at Henley
Henley Royal Regatta 2002 - the story is one that will be told within Sudbury RC for many years. From beginning to end our athletes have exceeded their goals, made us all proud.
On Thursday Aidan & Sam formed the first ever Sudbury RC crew to have made it to the startline of the Henley Royal. And in an 'open' event, The Silver Goblets & Nickall's Challenge Cup, facing opposition from one of the most famous of American rowing institutions, Yale University. The race was given the honour of being Started by Sir Steve Redgrave. The boys appeared serious, wound up but produced a magificent performance to leave Yale in their wake. Literally, as it happens, as the crews formed a procession up the middle of the course. Matthew Pinsent was heard to remark from the Umpire's launch that both crews showed a marked dislike of the booms - we thought he looked worried....
As the race approached Stewards Enclosure one of our senior members was seen diving into the Bar and dragging people out to look: "You hadn't heard of Sudbury? Didn't know where we were? Well have a look, we're HERE now!" And thus they earnt the right to face the World Champions on the Friday.
But first up on Friday was the quad scull listed on the entry as Peterborugh & Star (rather mysterisouly, as prior to going to a certain club for signature it had been "Peterborough & Sudbury) but containing at 2, Sam Dixon. In the Fawley Challenge Cup they faced a 'selected' (seeded) crew Hamburg & Germania. But, rowing in our new and proudly labelled boat the boys showed the Germans the way home. A great achievement for a newly formed regional combination.
Then it was the pair's turn again. In a prime racing slot in the middle of the afternoon our heroes were determined to enjoy the experienceand give it a go. On the start they managed to steal the limelight by claiming the hearts of a launch full of lovely young ladies (well that's what Aidan claimed anyway), much to the amusement of the Leander crew. Thundering off the Start stroke for stroke, the Leander pair had some fairly serious steering issues as they struggled to get away from our crew, taking first to the middle, and then over the bouys before getting back on course. We overlapped for a minute before size and professionalism took it away from us.
Finally, late in the day, Pete Gostling, rowing in Leander colours and also in the Fawley dismissed Royal Chester from the regatta, more of an achievement than it may have at first appeared as the crew had had to have a late replacement for illness and had raced in an unfamiliar boat, their habitual craft having been trashed by a drunken launch driver the previous day. So Saturday....two rounds of the Fawley.
Sam's crew was the first race of the day and suffered ill-luck as ducks, who had failed to flee the course were mown down. Bow hit one on stroke 5, losing a blade and causing stroke to get caught in in the consequent lurch. The Henley RC crew opposing them took full advantage and try as our boys might they could not get back on terms. But they fought the good fight to the end.
Pete's crew, selected by the Stewards, faced American opposition who had looked 'smart' on the Thursday, but were never let into what was a fairly hard race. Then they faced up to everyone's secret favourite/fear, the crew from Brisbane, in the evening. The Brisbane boys had posted the fastest times throughout the event and looked well up to the challenge. Australia lead from the start, with both crews giving a lot, pushing and pushing. Up to the Mile, with but half a mile to go, the lead was in antipodean hands, but with herculean effort and shouted home by massive crowds, the english quad overhauled them and made them pay for their temerity by winnng by 3/4 l So we had a competitor in the finals at Henley Royal.
And then, there was illness in another Leander crew. Their Thames Cup 8 was down a man and Pete was asked if he would be prepared to sub in. He said Yes. History is made, as Leander won from a fine Notts Country RA 8. Pete has collected a winner's medal at Henley (though he may donate it to the sick crew-member) Can you imagine how tired he must have been? With two HARD races on the Friday and another one under his belt in the Thames Cup he now faced the Final of the Fawley against a hungry Windsor Boys School crew who must have also known of the weakness in the Leander crew with the drafted in Chris Mollison showing clinical signs of exhaustion on the Saturay night. It was a tight race, tighter than anyone cold have expected. But they won, the Leander crew, powered by Sudbury beef and determination triumphed.
There is so much to treasure in these events. So many memories. And such a challenge to surpass..... Next year....... Andrew