Rowing Eton recover in style to break record

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reports from Henley-on-Thames

Strong tailwinds helped the crews to fast times on the opening day of Henley Royal Regatta. On stage were the clubs, colleges and schools contesting the restricted events - the Thames, Temple and Princess Elizabeth Cups for eights and the Britannia and Wyfolds for coxed and coxless fours.

Hampton School, one of the two selected crews in the Princess Elizabeth, threw down the gauntlet for the favourites, Eton, breaking the 3min 6sec to the Fawley halfway mark by a second and beating their powerful rivals, Shrewsbury, by a length. Later Eton struck back when they broke the signal Barrier record by a second against Canford and were four seconds faster to the finish. However, the unselected American schoolboy champions, St Joseph's, also equalled the old Barrier record of 1min 50sec and will be tough semi-final opponents for Eton on Saturday.

The large contingent of American crews had a mixed day. Williams College, in the Temple Cup, were the fastest eight of the day, beating Queen's University, Belfast, in 6min 25sec; but Nihon University from Japan were only two seconds slower in winning against the Americans, Trinity Hartford, by three-quarters of a length.

Syracuse University were the fastest in the Thames Cup event, winning comfortably against Defence Forces Ireland, while London University were even easier winners over Reading.

There was a hard introduction to Henley for the youngsters of King's School Chester's B crew. The juniors were drawn against their own first eight in the opening round, and went down fighting by two lengths. "Well, I suppose there's one good thing about it," their despondent boatman, John Blackwell, said. "Now I'll only have one crew to look after for the rest of the regatta."

University of London also showed well in the Wyfold Cup for coxless fours, but they were pushed hard by Monmouth, while the experienced Lea, who equalled their time to half-way, were not thereafter pressed by the Upper Thames veterans, who had 48-year-old Walter Scott on board. Lea finished the course at an easy 24 strokes a minute, but Nottingham were quickest overall. Wallingford's coxed four looked very powerful in the Britannia Cup, winning with something in hand against Tideway Scullers.

Today sees the start of the open events - and Steve Redgrave's campaign to win a record seventh Silver Goblet title with his pairs partner, Matthew Pinsent. The reigning Olympic and world champions will face huge enthusiasm but limited resistance from 16-year-old Robert Sanders and 17-year-old Richard McElroy, from Newcastle Royal Grammar School, and are so confident of overall victory they have combined with the Oxford Blues, Laird Reed and Jo Michels, to enter a coxed four as well late in the week.