Henley Women’s Regatta: Race Report

Last week the Women’s 1st VIII teamed up with some friends from LMH to end the year at the home of rowing to test themselves against some of the best university clubs in the country in the Aspirational Academic 8+ category.

Cox: Esther Rollinson (LMH)

Stroke: Maddie Burrell

7: Sarah Edwards

6: Philippa Thornton

5: Lydia field (LMH)

4: Amy Holguin

3: Annie Ault

2: Kaja Fenn

Bow: Penny Hyde


W1’s final regatta of the year, and for many of us, our final Oxford rowing experience, was Henley Women’s Regatta. Freshers had exams this week so we were a couple of people short for our boat, but Lady Margaret Hall happily joined with us by providing a rower, a cox and a boat to fill up the crew (thanks Lydia and Esther, and of course LMHBC for the loan of your very nice boat). Six out of the nine of us had finished finals a few weeks before and so were eager to be back out on the water and get out of the library. The crew came together quickly in practices, moving well together and getting rates up fast. With only three weeks of preparation possible, we were feeling nervous but excited to see how we would match up to the big crews who had spent months training together.

After a very early start we arrived in Henley in beautiful sunshine, and rigged our boat ready for our time trials for the Academic Aspirational 8+ category, which was the first of the day. Out of 28 boats, only the fastest 16 would continue through to the next rounds of side by side racing. We had a quick team talk and set off, fitting in a very short warm up before spinning and lining up to go.

After a smooth start the rate was high as we pushed over the start of the time recording for the time trial. Keeping to our race plan we kept this high rate until 40 seconds in when we settled onto our race pace, maintaining the power but lengthening and reaching a rate we could hold for the full five minute race. There was a clear focus among the crew and the boat raced along, with a fantastic level of effort being put in by everyone. Esther continued to shout encouragement as we passed along the course and our bodies began to feel the burn, but we pushed through and held our speed as the pain kicked in. It was a great show of endurance and power from everyone. When we passed the line we were all absolutely exhausted, but really pleased with how the row had felt.

What followed was a tense wait for results. We knew we had rowed well, but also knew how strong the competition would be. When the results came we were sad to see that we had come 17th, and so did not qualify for the next round (although we were the fastest of the non-qualifying crews, coming in ahead of several university crews). We missed out on a spot narrowly to the University of Bath crew by 0:01.1. Although this was disappointing, the day was still a fantastic experience and we stuck around to watch some excellent rowing. We can be proud of how we performed in comparison to crews who had been training together for a much longer time and had far larger pools of students. The memories we will take with us of Hertford rowing won’t be the results; they will be the hours of training together and the joy of racing well.

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