This weekend at Henley Women's Regatta, Sue Appelboom confirmed what we'd all suspected: she had been hanging on for that magic-number trophy. In an elegant lightweight single sculls final, she swept to her tenth consecutive win, this time over Tegwin Rooks from Kingston, and immediately announced her retirement from active competition. No talk of "shoot me if you see me in a boat again", but despite Rooks having pushed her closer than in some previous years, she is clearly keen to step down while still dominating the event. In a choppy and variable cross-head wind, Appelboom's time of 6:01 was well inside the range of Open races, and she looked very at home, even in the wash set up by a passing umpire's launch.
The Open single final was one of the best races of the day. Rebecca Romero, from last year's Under-23 squad and rowing for Kingston, was well down to Alison Watt of Clydesdale for the better part of the race until the Enclosures. Watt could have been forgiven for thinking the win was a possibility, but when Romero passed the landing-stages, she attacked hard, forcefully closing the gap. A nip and tuck finish left Watt unable to combat the challenge, and gave a verdict of just two feet.
Clever entering, composites and doubling-up have become a feature of recent Women's Henley Regattas, and this year Upper Thames went for the magnificent number. All seven crews carrying UTRC members reached their finals. Six trophies resulted, only their composite eight with Twickenham, Star, Kingston and Thames being outclassed, by a confident-looking Commonwealth eight calling themselves "The Identified", in the Open Eights. Kingston were equally busy, joining in with this composite as well as providing a member of the Commonwealth eight, and also entering racers for five other trophies (the only loss being Teg Rooks to Sue Appelboom). The composite Open crew split into two to take the coxed and coxless open fours, the latter having former Olympian Ali Gill stroking with world champion Juliet Machin behind her. It was a tough final, against Molesey, in which the UTRC/Twickenham composite was just able to hold off the black-and-white challengers, who never gave up.
This year's American attack was slightly muted, only a handful of crews making the effort to cross the Atlantic. In return the University of Sydney, Australia, entered the College eights, rowing over once and then losing to the University of East Anglia to leave them muttering "a thousand pounds a race", before promptly heading to the bar to contribute further to the regatta's profits. Wesleyan University were stuck into Club Eights on the basis of their US record, and came from the lower half of the draw to meet Thames in the final. The Tideway club left nothing to chance, having a canvas at the end of the island and then slowly drawing it out to a three-length victory in stiffening wind. Earlier in the morning a desperately unhappy Queen's Tower 2-girl had her blade-handle come loose in the very first few strokes during their race against Wesleyan. The breakage zone was removed from the ARA rules a while ago, so despite muttered conferring between umpires in the launch, there was no re-row. Wesleyan added much colour to the regatta, both from their lurid red-black kit, and from their lively Team Song, which spectators were treated to every time one of their eights launched. At one point on Saturday afternoon the only description was "incongruous", as with this happening on one side of the river, Fawley Court the other side was playing host to a posh, hats-and-blazers style wedding.
College eights had shown some spirited battling, with a reasonable number of close races. Oxford University's lightweights stomped over all opposition, until the University of Bristol put up a bit more of a fight, Oxford winning eventually by half a length. Meanwhile on the other side of the draw California State University (CSU) was beating Cambridge Head crew Emmanuel, who had themselves knocked out a despondent-looking UL eight. In the final the CSU heavyweights beat the lightweights at their own game to take a lead of half a length after the island, and were never very seriously troubled after that, pulling out to 1.5 lengths as the stiffening wind hit both crews beside Upper Thames.
Junior crews spread the honours this year, LEH walloping the American St. Andrew's School in the eights, Oundle outclassing KGS in the fours, and Henley successfully pulling off an impressive double-up in the J2x and J4x. The double, who were both in the quad, barely broke a sweat in their 2x final as they strolled past York City. Neither girl is seventeen yet: watch this space. Eames, from Evesham, beat Billings (King's School Chester) in the final of the junior sculls, sadly with no time taken, but both showing respectable speed in the earlier rounds.
There were the usual selection of thrills and spills this year, QT's unfortunate incident aside. Perhaps the most notable was when the rudder of the Westminster School coxed four dropped out beside the island, leaving them literally climbing the walls. I have been told that the cox is Griff Rhys-Jones's son, which is obviously the cue for many bad jokes about needing a sense of humour.... In the straight final for the lightweight coxless four's trophy, Twickenham hit the booms in the last third of the course, leaving Nottingham to row over unhindered, although they had already taken a dominant lead.
Wallingford's Helen Casey also managed two trophies, compositing with Upper Thames in both the open doubles and the lightweight quads. Another UTRC crew beat Hereford and Stourport in the lightweight double, and despite frequent challenges from Walbrook & Royal Canoe Club, Kingston held them off to take the open quad title. A further UTRC composite with NCRA trounced Liverpool in the lightweight pairs, while the open 2- was won by Kingston/UL over Tradesmen/Strathclyde.
For such a heavy boat, the coxed fours races displayed some gutsy spirit, and must have been particularly exhausting to those in the big club/college events, racing two or three times each day to reach the final. Wallingford A showed Nottingham the door in the club event in 5:37, and in the college races Oxford Brookes held off a low-rating but very strong University of Cape Town crew to win in a time three seconds slower, but still as quick as the open 4+.
O8+ KRC/UL/TSS/NCRA bt UTRC/Star/KRC in 1.25 L 4:53 /Mar/Mol/TRC /Twickenham/TRCCl8+ Thames bt Wesleyan in 3 L 5:10Col8+ Calif. St. U bt OUWLRC in 1.5 L 5:08J8+ LEH bt St. Andrew's USA in 1.5 L 5:08O4+ UTRC/Star/KRC/TRC bt Worcester in 2 L 5:40Cl4+ Wallingford A bt Nottingham in 1.75 L 5:37Col4+ Oxford Brookes bt Univ. Cape Town in 2.5 L 5:40J4+ Oundle bt KGS in 2.5 L 5:46O4- UTRC/Twickenham bt Molesey in 0.75 L 5:14L4- Nottingham bt Twickenham verdict Easily 5:34O4x Kingston bt Walbrook & RCC in 1.3 L 5:23L4x UTRC/W'ford bt TTRC in 1 L 5:16J4x Henley bt Wycliffe College in 1.5 L 5:13O2x UTRC/W'ford bt Walbrook & RCC in 1.75 5:48L2x UTRC bt Hereford/St'port in 4 L 5:51J2x Henley bt York City verdict Easily 6:09O2- Kingston/UL bt TTRC/Strathclyde in 2.75 L 5:42L2- NCRA/UTRC bt Liverpool verdict Easily 6:04O1x Romero bt Watt in 2 feet 5:58L1x Appelboom bt Rooks in 2 L 6:01J1x Eames bt Billings in 1.25 L NTT.
Article copyright Rachel Quarrell, 1999.