Thu, 27 Jun 2019
Two Newbury athletes rowed to success at Henley Women’s Regatta on Sunday as they claimed victory in the world’s premier regatta for women.
An estimated 30,000 spectators lined the banks to watch more than 400 different crews and nearly 2,000 rowers from all around world.
It was the culmination of a four-year journey for Woolton Hill's Katie Metalli who finally collected a winner’s medal in the Academic Eights, making up for last year when she lost her seat in the winning boat through injury.
Rules mean that previous winners are not allowed in the AA8 category, so it was a brand new crew for the Oxford Brookes boat, although three others were with Metalli in the B boat that lost in the semis last year.
Having broken the course records at both the Met and historic Reading Am Regatta in successive weeks, they came into this regatta in stunning form.
And in Friday’s qualifying time-trial they clocked an astonishing 4:38 into a fierce head wind, a full 10 seconds clear of the rest of the 24-strong field.
Times are kept secret until after the whole regatta has been completed, but it was clear that Brookes were the team to beat as they beat Birmingham in the first round by four lengths and Cardiff in the quarter finals by an “easily” verdict in times of 5:25 and 5:18.
In the semi-finals, they faced the Oxford University crew, which contained seven of the Osiris boat from the Boat Race earlier in the year.
Brookes showed their strength as they dismissed their Oxford rivals by three lengths in 4:58 and had reduced their stroke rate down to just 18 through the finish.
This meant a final against old rivals Newcastle, who easily beat Tyne rivals Durham in the semi in 5:10.
Newcastle have been the bogey team for Brookes as until this year they had beaten them in every event and knocked out Metalli’s B crew last year before losing to Brookes A in the final.
This time Brookes showed their class as they dominated from the start to take victory by four and a half lengths and smash the course record by five seconds in 4:42.
It got even better for Newbury as Georgia Francis made a successful return to competition in the GB Development boat, also in the eights, but this time in the Championship class for previous winners and internationals.
Francis, who has won Henley Women’s in sculling, was returning to sweep rowing and although there were only four entries in the elite category they had to undergo time-trials for seeding.
GB won by 12 seconds ahead of the next crew – DSRV Laga from the Netherlands – in 4:34.
The GB squad dismissed the Princeton USA National Development squad in the semi- final by four lengths in 4:43 and then beat the Dutch crew easily to equal the elite course record in 4:36.
Pangbourne College just missed out on qualification as they finished 18th in the time trial with 16 crews to qualify.
Metalli said: “After that defeat last year I was determined to come back and win this.
“Our game plan was to go out hard, stay hard and finish hard and to beat Newcastle by as much as we could.
“We did that and I have achieved my goal of winning at Henley Women’s. This is what I said I wanted to do when I started Brookes and I’ve done it.
Francis added: “I did not have a great GB trials this year so had a little time off to sort my head, shake off some niggles and just re-evaluate, but my back is now strong and I’m really enjoying rowing again.”