Photo courtesy of Ben Rodford
Hartpury’s rowers won the Henley Royal Regatta title for the third successive year yesterday to wrap up their fourth national title success of a super season.
The girls’ quad, made up of Hartpury students, Freya Webb, Zoe Adamson, Frances Russell and Bryony Lawrence, completed an historic hat-trick of Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup victories in the junior girls’ quad sculls at Henley - the premier event for junior girls’ rowing in the UK.
The victory in the final over Headington School set the seal on an incredible run for the girls, who had already wrapped up wins in the Schools Head, the National Schools and Women’s Henley Regatta.
As the girls had contested much of the summer in the four as opposed to the quad (in the four, each rower only uses one oar as opposed to the two used in a quad), the crew had to go through the qualification regatta at Henley and were not seeded, giving them a tough draw.
In the first round on Wednesday, they faced Glasgow Schools, who were National Schools silver medallists and Henley Women’s Regatta winners in the quad. Their crew contained Alex Rankin and India Somerside, who had rowed with Frances Webb and Bryony Lawrence for the Great Britain junior team in their winning crew at the Munich Regatta.
This first round clash could easily have been the final but Hartpury set their stall out, leading early and maintaining that advantage throughout, despite a late push from Glasgow.
In the quarter-final, they raced local club Henley, who have been their main rivals in the four this season. Hartpury had a close race with them in the semi-final at Henley Women’s Regatta, and this race in the quad proved equally challenging.
Henley led from the start and held on until the final 300 metres, when Hartpury dug deep to push through and win by just over a length in their closest race of the Henley week. In the semi-final, they clinched a relatively comfortable win over another local club, Shiplake, to set up the final against Headington.
While Headington have been the strongest junior girls’ programme in the country for a number of years, winning multiple titles in the girls eight, they had never won at Henley Royal since the introduction of the junior girls’ quad event.
They arguably headed into the final as favourites, having beaten National Schools’ quad champions, Warrington RC, in the other semi-final.
While the Hartpury crew led early on, Headington drew level in the mid-point of the race and looked at one stage as though they may row through. However, a further push from the Hartpury crew took them a length clear and, despite a late push from Headington, they held on to win by three-quarters of a length. The build-up, the race and post-race celebrations and interviews were shown live on BT Sport.
“Of all of our three consecutive Henley Royal wins, this was probably the most rewarding,” said Tom Pattichis, who heads up the rowing programme at Hartpury.
“In previous years, we have gone into the event as one of the favourites, whereas this year, we had very little form in quads in the earlier part of the season, having concentrated largely on the four for the other major regattas.
“It was a fantastic crew performance from the girls, who showed huge resolve and strength of character to take the title up against really strong opposition. The boys’ quad also showed great promise for the future.”
The Hartpury boys’ quad of Alfie Heath, Charlie Bates, Jacob James, Harry Cox also had a strong Henley Royal Regatta. Only the second Hartpury boys’ crew to pre-qualify for this prestigious event, they made it through to the last 16, before going out to one of the seeded crews, Glasgow Schools.
Former Hartpury College student, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, won the Princess Grace Challenge Cup for senior women’s quads as part of a GB development crew. Mathilda will now turn her attentions to the Under-23s World Championships, where she will be hoping to improve on her fifth and fourth placed finishes for GB in 2014 and 2015.
There will be little chance for the Hartpury crew to reflect on their Henley victory. Bryony and Frances have GB final selection trials starting on Friday (July 8th), where they will be hoping to confirm their selection for a GB junior crew this summer. The remainder of the squad will begin preparations for the British Rowing Junior Championships in Nottingham next weekend.