Henley has been a soggy haven of expectation for the past couple of days, but today competition begins in five of the 19 trophies. Some 160 crews will attach to the start pontoons alongside Temple Island two at a time, fiddle about for two minutes getting set while wetting their oar handles or crossing themselves.
The umpire, meanwhile, chats to his guests on his launch until the appointed moment before sending them away up the one mile 550 yards dead-straight course towards the church tower. Three eight-oared events begin today and are packed with talent, the best crews on paper being selected into different segments of the draw.
The Thames Cup for crews below international standard has a multinational flavour among its favourites. The British selected crews are London, Molesey and Nottingham and Union, while Ireland and Germany have two each and the United States one under the flag of Cincinnati Junior. Lady Elizabeth are Trinity College Dublin's old boys, and Lady Victoria are Queen's Belfast's old boys. The German crews are from Homberg and Rostock.
In the Temple for student crews, Oxford Brookes and Imperial College are the home-grown selections. Brookes are possibly less formidable than usual with their best shot in the Visitors for coxless fours, and Imperial are untested since they finished in the top 10 in the Head of the River race in March.
Harvard's lightweights have a first-class record of beating Yale and Princeton and winning the Intercollegiate Rowing Association title. They have also beaten Dartmouth, of the US, three times this season, with whom they may be on a collision course in the third round.
The two Princeton crews are in opposite halves of the draw. The lightweight B crew won the Eastern Sprints and the heavyweight freshmen A crew won the IRA title for their category. Also among the front runners are Nereus, of Amsterdam, and the students of Galway.
The Princess Elizabeth for schoolboys is a great Anglo-American battle with four English schools, three American and one Canadian selected. The home selections are the top four in the National Schools Regatta: Pangbourne, Radley, St Edward's and Abingdon. Holy Spirit High School, of Atlantic City, return after several years' absence with the Stotesbury Cup for US high schools under their belt. They have won the Princess Elizabeth three times before. Brentwood were second in the Canadian National Championships, and the others who have caught the stewards' attention are Phillips Andover and Belmont Hill School.
The Wyfold for coxless fours and Britannia for coxed fours also begin today. Wyfold selections are Potomac, London RC, Thames RC and Hamburger Germania. Britannia selections are Goldie, Nottingham and Union, Imperial College and London University, plus Bowdoin, Tulane University, University of Washington and Bantam from the US.
The Remenham Cup for women's eights, starting tomorrow, has a tasty line-up which includes the Australian crew already selected for August's World Championships and the Canadian squad who will probably meet them there.