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Henley Royal Regatta: Local rowers take part as rowing event makes a return

Rowers from across the area were back in action at the world's most prestigious rowing event as Henley Royal Regatta returned after its absence last year due to Covid.

Despite the ongoing disruption, which forced the event to be staged some five weeks later than the traditional date and prevented many international crews from making the trip, the event still attracted 481 different crews and included nine overseas nations.

Pangbourne College entered two crews in different categories and both safely came through the qualifying time-trial races held at the Eton Dorney Olympic Lake on the previous Saturday.

Tideway Scullers A v B
Tideway Scullers A v B

First in action on the Wednesday was the Junior Men's eights in the Princess Elizabeth Cup and Pangbourne faced a strong crew from their local rivals Reading Bluecoats School, who proved too strong from the start as they raced to the first timing point at the Barrier in 1:58 where the event as a spectacle was all but over.

The young Pangbourne crew did their best to make a race of it, however, and pushed hard to the line, but lost out by three-and-a-half lengths to the stronger crew from Reading.

Next up on the Thursday was another Pangbourne crew in the Men's Four and it was always going to be tough in an event which had previously been won by fellow Newbury and GB Team stalwarts, George and Matthew Rossiter.

Drawn against an adult crew from Newcastle University, the youngsters were down at the barrier and eventually lost by a verdict of “easily” (more than five lengths).

Woolton Hill rower Katie Metalli was also in action in the Tideway Scullers School A boat in one of the three new women's races introduced this year, the Wargrave Cup.

The 2019 Regatta had just women's eights race and Metalli and her Oxford Brookes student crew was eliminated in the second round by the Great Britain team.

With the new categories, the regatta saw a fantastic 43 women's crews enter, up from 15 in 2019.

Because of previous results at the Metropolitan and Henley Women's Regattas earlier in the year, Scullers were pre-qualified and meant their first race was against their own B Team.

Such is the depth at Scullers that only two seconds had separated the crews in their last training race before the regatta and so it proved to be again as the B team pushed Metalli’s crew all the way to the line with the A team being forced to break the course record at all three timing points along the course in order to hold them off for a win of just half a length.

This then set up a repeat of the Henley Women's regatta semi-final in July where Scullers took revenge and knocked Thames RC out of the competition after Thames had taken the honours at Met in June.

Katie Metalli in action with her team
Katie Metalli in action with her team

In the Saturday race, however, it was not to be for Metalli as Thames took an early lead in a new record time to the barrier in 2:06 and TSS could never get back on terms despite a concerted “long wind” towards the finish.

Thames were then beaten by a Leander crew in the final that contained four full time and funded rowers, which saw the Henley crew lift the Women's Club Eights trophy for the first ever time in the event's 172 year-old history.

A disappointed Metalli said afterwards. “In reality this was the right result and a fair reflection of where we are.

“We did our best as a crew and I left nothing in the tank.

“I reached a round further this year and my first ever semi-final and we were the third best crew at the world's greatest regatta.

“However I did not come here to come third, there are no medals for third at Henley; we came to win and we did not do that.

“I gave my absolute this week – especially against our B crew who were phenomenal but it's hard to take right now.”

Four of Katie's former Oxford Brookes crew mates won one of the other new women's events as they lifted the Island in an emphatic victory over University of London in the final.

Metalli said “I am so happy for these girls and they thoroughly deserve their victory.

“I was with them for four years of their journey and it great that they can finish on such a high.

“It helps the pain of losing a little and it would have been nice if we had joined them on the podium but it was not to be this year.”

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