Shrewsbury School – Rowing season reaches an historic climax at Henley Regatta 2019

01 Aug 2019

This year’s Henley Royal Regatta will go down in the annals of the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club for an exciting series of historic and signficant firsts.

For the first time ever, three school crews qualified for the Regatta – a rare achievement.  The Boys’ 2nd VIII had to go through the qualifying races for the Temple Challenge Cup, which includes University crews. They put in their best performance of the season to be the only 2nd VIII to qualify for the regatta. The Boys’ 1st VIII and the Girls’ 1st Quad were both selected crews due to their strong performances through the season. The alumni crew, Sabrina, were also delighted to qualify for the Thames Cup.

On the eve of the Regatta all three school crews got together for a wonderful dinner at The Crooked Billet. The dinner was a great opportunity to acknowledge the significance of their achievement and inspire them to relish the racing to come.

The first day of the Regatta saw the 2nd VIII take on Edinburgh University in the first round of the Temple Challenge Cup. Despite a spirited display, they couldn’t catch the pre-race favourites.

The 1st VIII took on Abingdon School in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup just after the lunch interval and justified their selection with a convincing win in a race that they controlled from start to finish.  The win put the 1st VIII into a match against Monmouth School on the Thursday – a repeat of their encounter in 2018. The Monmouth crew had put in strong performances over the season and the race was expected to be a tight contest. The 1st VIII put in one of their most impressive races of the season to dominate proceedings from the very first stroke and set up a quarter-final showdown with event favourites Scotch College.

The Scotch crew came into the quarter-final unbeaten through the season and the 1st VIII knew they faced a challenge.  Once again they produced an outstanding row, but they couldn’t overcome the Australians and finished three-quarters of a length down in a closely-fought race.

The Girls’ 1st Quad had to wait until Friday to start their campaign for the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup, having avoided the first round as one of the selected crews. They took on a local crew from Henley Rowing Club and were keen to get racing, having had the build-up of nerves that come from competing at the most significant event of the season. They won in impressive style – and made history as the first Shrewsbury girls to win a race at the Henley Royal Regatta.

The racing format for the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup meant that, if successful, the girls would have to face two races on the Saturday. The Saturday at Henley can draw crowds in excess of 100,000 spectators and the added challenge of significant river traffic and TV crews.

The girls raced in the second race of the day against Lea Rowing Club and dealt well with the spirited challenge posed by Lea, to set up a semi-final against Headington School at the end of the day. There was an electric atmosphere around the event on the Saturday evening, unlike anything the crew had experienced before. The girls had won silver at the National Schools’ Regatta and were facing off against the bronze medal winners from Headington School.The tension was palpable as the crews took to the water. Both crews made a strong start, but Headington moved into the lead after the first 400m and controlled the race extremely well to deny the girls the opportunity of a shot in the final. Nevertheless, the crew of Olivia Moir, Abby Adebiyi, Maggie Page and Maddy Hollins can be extremely proud of their achievement.

The Regatta was a tremendous celebration and fantastic finish to the year for all the crews. We wish all the best to the departing Upper Sixth who have made a significant positive impact on the Club in their time at the School.

Athol Hundermark, Director of Rowing