For the first time in years Leander Club, bastion of British rowing and home to dozens of Olympic medallists, has been permitted to enter crews in the club events at the Royal Regatta here. Their young development crew carried the heaviest man in the club eights event, the 18-stone, 20-year-old Patrick Fields, but his strength was not enough to stop his crew trailing home behind the selected Thames 'A' eight.
Fortunately, the Leander coxless four, selected in the Wyfolds, won their heat against the more experienced Royal Chester. The first day of racing saw 80 crews knocked out of the competition, after an initial 503 entries, the fourth largest in the regatta's history, was reduced to 302 last week during the qualifying races.
The Wednesday of Henley Royal belongs to the oarsmen, featuring the club and student events for eights and fours. Conditions were blustery and changeable, and perhaps contributed to a larger number of tight races than are usually seen this early in the competition, partly through the wind making steering difficult for coxless crews. These included most entries in the Wyfolds Challenge Cup for fours, who had great trouble staying clear of each other and the wooden boom-planks which line the course.
Bacon Boat Club, named after their long-serving boatman, registered one of the faster times in the Thames Cup, cruising to an easy win over Tideway regulars Quintin. The ex-Nottingham University oarsmen and mates could be dark horses in this club eights event, unselected despite having only minor crew changes since finishing 11th in the Head of the River Race in March.
The Temple Challenge Cup for student eights is always hotly contested even in the first rounds, and yesterday was no exception. The Universities of Oxford (rowing as Isis) and Cambridge both put in entries, each containing five oarsmen plus the cox from the reserve crews who battled down the Tideway last March.
Cambridge became the first selected crew of the week to be knocked out, losing to Dutch students Skoll by a length. Isis had to row at full tilt to get past the Imperial College 'B' crew, who led from the start and only began to drop back as Isis found their form at half-way. "We go much better against better opposition", the Isis cox Peter Hackworth said, and they will need to, as today they face one of the top crews, the selected Harvard freshman eight.
In the schools eights, the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, domestic favourites Radley College demolished Brooks School USA by four-and-a-half lengths. Radley swept the board at the National Schools Regatta in May, five of their eights winning trophies just a week after their renowned guru Harry Mahon lost his fight against liver cancer. Keen to play down their chances, Radley are nevertheless the best hope of regaining a trophy they last won in 1998, and which is carried off by American schoolboys overseas one year in two.