Imperial College Boat Club clearly made the most of a year’s training in lockdown and came out on the other side of it with successes at the largest domestic rowing regattas in the world. Imperial’s boat club has a long standing history of success at both Henley Royal Regatta and Henley Women’s Regatta.
This year was no different and the university’s rowing club showed why they are known as one of the highest performing sports clubs at Imperial. The format of the Henley Regattas is a gladiatorial style knockout system. Two crews race side by side over the course and only the victors will race again the next day. Racing in this format leaves no margin for error, whilst the compounding fatigue of day upon day of racing can leave the athletes feeling off their best at the start line.
Henley Women’s Regatta, which is usually held a few weeks before Henley Royal, on the same course, is an amazing race which can attract crews from around the world. While the timing and course were slightly different this year, it was no less important to those who took part. From Imperial, the team consisted of a quad and a coxless four. Most of the girls travelled to Henley the night before racing began, on Thursday 1st July, staying in a house near the course, which they were delighted to learn had a pool. It would have to wait until later though as they had an early start the next day.
The first round was a qualifying race, a time trial over the course from which the top crews go through to race at the weekend. As a result of their time trial performance, the coxless four received a ‘by’ through the first two rounds, meaning they did not have another race until Sunday. Unfortunately, the quad were up against some tough competition and just missed out on qualifying. Once boats and equipment had been sorted, the team all headed back to the house to enjoy dinner together. After a session very early Saturday morning before the day’s racing started, everyone spent the day relaxing, watching some of the other events and preparing for the next day.
The first round, against Oxford Brookes, went smoothly with Imperial winning by a comfortable margin. Now, with spirits in the crew verging on nervously optimistic, despite any mention of actually winning being completely banned for fear of ‘jinxing’ it, the girls rested up, awaiting the final race. It was to be against the University of London, fellow tideway inhabitants and long-term rivals of Imperial.
The race did not start as planned with UL getting an early lead and some steering issues throwing off the rhythm. The crew collected themselves, however and by halfway had drawn back to level with shouts of support from the bank spurring them on. Their momentum continued, pulling them past the opposition and into the lead. Now, with the finish line approaching, and the Imperial crew still moving away it was not long before the race was over. This was a first win at Henley Women’s for all the girls in the four and an incredible end to the season for the women’s squad.
This year Imperials men’s squad had three crews entered into the Temple Challenge Cup. This showed off the depth of the Imperial squad as it had the most athletes entered in the student’s eights event. The Temple Challenge Cup starts on a Wednesday and the eventual winner isn’t decided until the Sunday. The mens squad had some avenging to do as the last time the sqaud was at Henley, due to extremely difficult draws, every crew entered got ‘Wednesday-ed’. However, this was not to be this year. After some grueling racing and a tough five day schedule the Imperial 1st eight made it to the final against a Dutch international crew ASR Nereus. Unfortunately, the 1st eight didn’t have the speed to beat the Dutch crew in the final after a long week of races where the crew had lead all others right from the start. The 2nd and 3rd eights from Imperial also had good days racing with a particular highlight being the 2nd eights commanding win over the Cambridge crew from Caius and Homerton. Another highlight for the mens sqaud was having the 2nd eight race agaisnt the 1st eight on the Thursday of Henley Royal Regatta, even if it was with the expected result.
Even though the mens sqaud came away with no Henley medals, it will be a year that the sqaud will always remember. Watch this space next year as the men’s squad looks to take it one step further and win the competition. Special thanks to AllMarkOne for sponsoring us this year and the photos they take.