From Caroline Searle
More than 1,600 rowers from 18 nations will this year race in 301 crews at Henley Royal Regatta which starts tomorrow and runs through to Sunday (July 6).
The oldest and most prestigious regatta in the world has attracted 98 overseas crews, including entries from the USA, Japan, Estonia, Australia, South Africa and Russia among others.
Olympic gold medallists Kieran West and Johnny and Greg Searle as well as former world champion Toby Garbett are among the star GB names on the start lists. West is rowing for Kingston RC whilst the Searle brothers are rowing for Molesey BC. Garbett will feature in a Leander Club menâ€™s eight, racing in the Grand Challenge Cup.
The USA, Estonia and South Africa are all fielding Beijing-bound crews. The Estonians are racing in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup, the top event for quadruple sculls. Americaâ€™s Elliot Hovey and Wes Piermarini will be contesting the Double Sculls Challenge Cup. South Africaâ€™s Ramon Di Clemente and Shaun Keeling will contest the Silver Goblets & Nickalls Challenge, the menâ€™s pair event. Each will be looking to gain an Olympic edge from Henleyâ€™s side-by-side racing opportunity.
Other crews, like the national German lightweight menâ€™s eight, racing here as Mainzer Ruder-Verein & Ruderclub Berliner in the Ladiesâ€™ Challenge Plate, and the British lightweight womenâ€™s quadruple sculls, contesting the Princess Grace Challenge Cup, are tuning up for the non-Olympic classes World Championships due to take place in Austria later this month.
The largest event is the Temple Challenge Cup, for university eights, with 75 initial entries being reduced to 32 after a qualifying round. Overseas entries for this event include Stanford, Cornell and Harvard Universities from the USA, the University of Witwatersrand from South Africa and the University of Western Ontario from Canada.
The newest event is the Prince Albert Challenge Cup for University coxed fours, established in 2004. Henley Royalâ€™s menâ€™s quadruple sculls event has also been renamed and is now the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup. It features a combined services crew this year â€“ the first time that a Forces crew will race a quadruple scull at Henley. Chairman of the Committee of Management Mike Sweeney said: â€œWe are delighted that we have been able to attract such a significant entry for this year’s Regatta despite the pressure of this being the Olympic Qualification year. All the planning and preparation has gone well and we are now ready for racing to startâ€.
There will be 80 races tomorrow beginning at 9am and finishing with the last race at 7.20pm. Thursday will see more opening round races with quarter-finals generally on Friday, semi-finals on Saturday and finals on Sunday.
For more information please contact: The Henley Royal Regatta press office at the Regatta itself on 01491 572153 ext 232