Last week saw an exhilarating display of rowing prowess at the annual Henley Royal Regatta, with current students racing shoulder to shoulder against some of the best student and club crews from home and abroad as they seek to hone their racing skills ahead of the Boat Race 2024 as well as alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities securing wins across multiple different levels of competition.

In the build up to the event we detailed the student crews and alumni crews that we knew of and you can read more about here, and if you want to view the racing action there’s a full catalogue of the races on the Henley Royal Regatta YouTube page

In summary the student crews performed extremely well with several crews racing more than once by virtue of getting through a round of racing, but as has become the norm at the regatta now the quality of overseas competition continues to improve year on year as the regatta broadens its appeal through live broadcasting both on YouTube but also on BT Sport.

It was left to the alumni to see the regatta through from start to finish and there was no shortage of former students collecting a coveted red box from former Prime Minister Theresa May at the prize-giving ceremony on Sunday evening in the Stewards’ Enclosure.

In the student events we saw Martha Birtle (Oxford ‘20-’21) win the Island Challenge Trophy (Women’s Student Eights) racing as Oxford Brookes University in one of the most thrilling finals of the day against University of Pennsylvania ‘A’, USA.

Racing in the club events we had former rivals turned crew-mates in the form of Tom Strudwick (Goldie ‘17-’19) and Ben Thompson (Isis ’19) who were racing for Thames Rowing Club in the Thames Challenge Cup (Men’s Club Eights) where they managed to get the better of the Dutch crew K.A.R.Z.V. De Hoop, NED in a classy final row. 

In the Wargrave Challenge Cup (Women’s Club Eights) we had a similar fate with light and dark blues joining forces as part of the Thames R.C. ‘A’ crew who dominated the event. Sarah Portsmouth (Cambridge ’21-’22) and Antonia Stutter (Osiris ’16) can be particularly proud of this achievement in the year that marks 50 since the Thames Rowing Club first accepted women members.

At the Intermediate level James Doran (Oxford ‘23) was racing in the Ladies’ Challenge Plate with Oxford Brookes University in an event that always entertains with fantastic racing and in a reversal of club rowers’  fortune, in the final he faced a strong Leander Club eight coxed by none other than Jack Tottem (Oxford ‘22). James and his crew left nothing out on the water and managed to secure the win in another fantastic final.

Lastly but by no means least we saw some fantastic victories in the Open events with Freddie Davidson (Cambridge ’17-’19) and David Ambler (Oxford ‘22) winning the Stewards’ Challenge Cup comfortably and Ollie Wynne-Griffith and his pairs partner Tom George (both Cambridge ‘22) winning Tom his first Henley medal in the Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup (first of many we’re sure).

As always, the regatta was a fantastic event to attend and aside from the alumni racing there were hundreds of light and dark blue blazers along the riverbank catching up with old friends and crewmates and enjoying the racing. 

It’s testament not just to the quality of the Oxford and Cambridge rowing programmes but the sport as a whole, that beyond university these athletes leave enthused by their experience and continue their journey into the rowing world. And for those who choose to stay as active participants in the sport we look forward to seeing even more of their impressive accomplishments in the future.

PHOTO: HRR/JamesFinlay