Henley a royal success for New Zealanders
It was a thrilling final day of racing at the Henley Royal Regatta with the New Zealand elite team scooping five trophies from six events.
The finals, held in match racing style as is the Henley tradition, saw the cream of the crop going head to head on the one mile 550-yard course down the Thames River in Henley-on-Thames in Great Britain.
Matt Dunham claimed the prestigious Diamond Challenge Sculls in an outstanding performance against John Graves from the USA.
Matt Dunham with the Diamond Challenge Sculls Cup
CREDIT: STEVE MCARTHUR/ROWING NZ
After trailing the American in the first half of the race the 22-year-old lightweight took his chances and surged to victory in an exceptional move, crossing the line close to two lengths clear of Graves.
The win of the coveted trophy is a first for Dunham, who joins the likes of rowing legends such as Mahe Drysdale, a five-time winner of the pre-eminent event.
Dunham, coached by Calvin Ferguson, surprised himself by making the final of the event.
“I was just really happy to be a part of it. I was stoked to be final” Dunham said following his win.
“I knew Graves would come out blazing and that I would have to rely on my fitness to wear try to wear him down. I had to really chip in a big wind up at the end though, and luckily I came through.”
Olivia Loe and Brooke Donoghue claimed a historic win for the women’s double sculls title, as well as the Henley best time.
The duo, coached by James Coote, were untouchable as they powered down the course, leaving the Dutch combination of Marloes Oldenburg and Roos de Jong simply unable to match their relentless pace.
The women’s event was added to the Henley Royal Regatta this year. Loe and Donoghue will be the first to have their names engraved on the trophy, and their race time of 7:27 will be recorded as the time to beat in future regattas.
The women's eight on their way to victory in the Remenham Cup
“We’re really happy. We set out to do the best we could and I think we achieved that” said stroke Olivia Loe.
“It’s great to have equality between men and women” she said in response to their historic victory.
“It’s so cool to have been a part of it. It’s a great atmosphere, and so different to anything we’ve experienced before.”
The men’s double scull of duo of Chris Harris and John Storey also followed the women’s lead, taking home the title.
Chris Harris and John Storey faced the French lightweight Olympic champions Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou in the final of the Men’s Double Sculls Challenge Cup.
Harris and Storey muscled their way into the lead out of the start, defending their position with composure down the course as Houin and Azou hung on to the heavyweights.
The New Zealanders, who are coached by Calvin Ferguson, won in a time of 6:49, just one second behind the previous record time set by Michael Arms and Robbie Manson in 2013.
Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast have asserted themselves as the women to watch with a dominant victory in the women’s pairs.
World record holders Gowler and Prendergast lined up against the vastly experienced Olympians Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser in the event which was added the event schedule just this year.
The duo, who have been training under coach Gary Hay, looked unbothered as they gradually pushed out to a clear water lead to take home the cup in style.
The women’s eight hoisted the Remenham Cup after a rip-roaring battle against Leander/University of London.
The two crews sat alongside each other in a tight first 1000 metres before the New Zealanders nudged their nose into the lead. The British crew put up a strong fight however, staying in contact and forcing a mammoth effort from the Kiwis, who crossed the line less than a boat length ahead.
The men’s quad of Giacomo Thomas, Nathan Flannery, Cameron Crampton and Lewis Hollows couldn’t quite match a powerful British crew from the Leander Rowing Club in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup.
The British crew featured a class line up with two members of the Olympic quad and two from the Olympic double with each each also being a previous Henley winner.
With a straight final it was the first time the quads had raced this week.
The New Zealanders put up a valiant challenge against the pre-race favourites, pushing the British crew for the full course and finishing just three quarters of a length down.
The New Zealand elite rowing team will now travel to Switzerland where they will contest World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne next weekend before returning to New Zealand.
Full results and race footage for the Henley Royal Regatta can be found at hrr.co.uk.