Rowing / Henly Royal Regatta: Notts County in search of a double first: Hugh Matheson on the Henley Royal Regatta, which starts today

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BECAUSE the Olympic Games have stolen the internationals who would normally blow the domestic competitors out of the top events, the Henley Royal Regatta is left to play impresario to middle England at play.

There is the usual spread of foreign crews to trip up the unwary, though, including the South Africans. Although they happened not to be here last year, Trident Rowing Club, in fact, was never banned by Henley, which enjoyed (and still enjoys) the sponsorship of de Beers, the diamond miners, even during the years of isolation from the rest of the world's sporting community.

Drugs are banned and random tests may be carried out by the Regatta. This is a cat-and-mouse game, with the Regatta unwilling to reveal its tactics. But the chairman, Peter Coni QC, has been one of the most powerful advocates of random out-of-season testing throughout the sport, with the result that there has been little suspicion of abuse at any level for several years.

There are 88 races in all to sift out the quality, such as the Wyfold Cup for coxless fours and the new Temple Challenge Cup, both of which have more than 32 entries and require five days of racing to find the winner. The headline events like the Diamond Sculls and the Grand Challenge Cup will begin later in the week.

The Thames Cup for eights is the senior event today, and with a total draw from 48 entries it is also the largest. There are 10 foreign crews, and because there are strict limits to participation in the event, based on past achievement, which means that international-calibre men are excluded, the quality is likely to be unchanged.

Several of the crews are also entered in fours events and may fade from a surfeit of racing toward the end of the week. Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association, with several finalists from the 1991 Wyfold Cup for fours, may do well, although they are entered in two events this time. The Notts County crew which won the 1991 Wyfolds as Nautilus and went on to become world champions in the lightweight fours in Vienna, is also challenging for the Stewards' Cup, the senior fours event, which begins on Saturday.

The stewards who run the regatta make selections in the draw to ensure the best racing. Selected crews are not graded in the manner of seeded crews, on quality or past results, but are chosen simply to ensure better racing in the finals. In the Grand Challenge Cup, the senior event for eights, the German national and British national lightweight boats, which finished second and third at Lucerne two weeks ago, are selected to keep them apart and, as Coni puts it, 'We are not suggesting they are fastest or slowest; we simply don't want them to meet in the first round. Selecting is often cosmetic, to produce the best interest and fairness in racing.'

The Princess Elizabeth Cup for Schools, which has been won for the last two years by Eton, looks likely to change hands, going either to Shiplake, Shrewsbury or Westminster of the English schools, or one of the three Canadian schools entered.

The new schools event, the Fawley Challenge Cup for quadruple sculls, represents a personal triumph for Mark Banks, the national junior coach who campaigned for an event to promote crew sculling and to give the smaller schools a chance to compete on equal terms with boat clubs who have several hundred members.


(first-named crew on Berkshire station)

8.30am: Thames Challenge Cup: London A v Nottinghamshire County. 8.35: Thames CC: Thames v Queen's Tower. 8.40 Thames CC: Durham University B v Quintin. 8.45: Wyfold Challenge Cup: Auriol Kensington v Upper Thames A. 8.50: Britannia Challenge Cup: University of Wales College, Cardiff v Exeter University.

9.0am: Thames CC: Vesta A v Bedford B. 9.05: Thames CC: Sons of the Thames v Kingston. 9.10: Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup: St George's School (Can) v St Paul's School. 9.15: Wyfold CC: Pengwern v Reading. 9.20: Britannia CC: Gloucester v New York. 9.30: Thames CC: Molesey v Oxford University Lightweights. 9.35: Temple Challenge Cup: Hampton School v Worcester and Balliol, Oxford. 9.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: Monmouth School v Brentwood College (Can). 9.45 Wyfold CC: Bedford A v Derby. 9.50: Diamond Challenge Sculls: T J Murphy (St Catharine's, Can) v D E Jillings (Cygnet).

10am: Thames CC: Alfred (SA) v Nottingham and Union. 10.05: Temple CC: University of Bristol v Southampton University. 10.10: Temple CC: University College, Cork v Phillips Academy (US). 10.15: Princess Elizabeth CC: Oratory School v Tiffin School. 10.20: Wyfold CC: Cambridge '99 v University of London. 10.30: Thames CC: Thames Tradesmen A v Tideway Scullers School. 10.35: Princess Elizabeth CC: King's School, Canterbury v Bedford School A. 10.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: Radley B v Shawnigan Lake School (Can). 10.45: Wyfold CC: Stirling v Upper Thames. B. 10.50 Diamond CS: J J A Burton (Queensland) v W J Baker (London).

11am: Thames CC: Agecroft A v Vesta B. 11.05: Princess Elizabeth CC: Bedford Modern School v Winchester College. 11.10: Princess Elizabeth CC: Royal Grammar School, Worcester v Shiplake College. 11.15: Wyfold CC: Calgary (Can) v Bewl Bridge. 11.20: Britannia CC: Clonmel (Irl) v Union (US). 11.30: Thames CC: Maidenhead v Newark. 11.35: Temple CC: Aberdeen University v Nottingham University. 11.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: St Edward's School B v St Edward's School C. 11.45: Princess Elizabeth CC: Hampton School v Westminster School. 11.50: Britannia CC: Nottingham and Union v Scottish Argonauts.

12 noon: Thames CC: Syracuse Alumni (US) v Hanlan (Can). 12.05: Temple CC: Jesus College, Cambridge v Trinity Hall, Cambridge. 12.10: Temple CC: Orange Coast (US) v Reading University A. 12.15: Princess Elizabeth CC: Canford School v Bedford School B. 12.20: Britannia CC: Sons of the Thames v Wallingford. 12.30: Thames CC: Durham University A v Cambridge '99. 12.35: Temple CC: Exeter College, Oxford v Christ Church and Magdalen, Oxford. 12.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: Oundle v Kingston Grammar. 12.45: Wyfold CC: Bradford-on-Avon v Bewdley. 12.50: Britannia CC: Dartmouth (US) v Goldie. 12.55: Diamond CS: J E Bell (Calgary) v P Anderson (Queensland).

2.30pm: Thames CC: Cambridge University Lightweights v London B. 2.35: Temple CC: Tufts University (US) v Churchill College, Cambridge. 2.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: Abingdon School v Radley College A. 2.45: Britannia CC: University of Bristol v City of Cambridge. 2.50: Britannia CC: London Welsh v Neptune (Irl).

3pm: Thames CC: Marlow v Cincinnati (US). 3.05: Temple CC: Skadi (Neth) v Nihon (Jap). 3.10: Princess Elizabeth CC: St Edward's School A v King's School, Chester. 3.15: Britannia CC: Newark v Athlone (Irl). 3.20: Diamond CS: G P R Reddin (Thames) v G D P Walters (Tideway Scullers' School). 3.30: Temple CC: Sheffield Univ v Oxford Polytechnic B. 3.35: Temple CC: Oriel College and Christ Church, Oxford v Downing and Pembroke, Cambridge. 3.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: Eton College v Shrewsbury School. 3.45: Wyfold CC: London B v Wallingford. 3.50: Britannia CC: Molesey v Bedford. 3.55: Diamond CS: B Dolan (Neptune, Irl) v D W Nicholl (Upper Thames).

5pm: Thames: Rob Roy v Thames Tradesmen B. 5.05: Temple CC: Trinity College, Dublin v First and Third, Trinity College, Cambridge. 5.10: Temple CC: Eton College v Waseda (Jap). 5.15: Wyfold CC: Goldie v Nottingham Britannia. 5.20: Diamond CS: P H Ashmore (St Ives) v C A Maclennan (Leander). 5.30: Thames CC: Mitsubishi (Jap) v Agecroft B. 5.35: Temple CC: University of York v Oxford Polytechnic A. 5.40: Princess Elizabeth CC: St John's (US) v Cheltenham College. 5.45: Wyfold CC: Weybridge v Neptune (Irl). 5.50: Britannia CC: London v Nereus (Neth).

6pm: Temple CC: Imperial College, London v Skoll (Neth). 6.05: Wyfold CC: New York v Bedford B. 6.10: Wyfold CC: Queen's Tower v Hereford. 6.15: Britannia CC: Thames v Kingston. 6.20: Britannia CC: Lea v Bath University. 6.30: Princess Elizabeth CC: Pangbourne College v King's College School. 6.35: Wyfold CC: Quintin v Thames Tradesmen. 6.40: Wyfold CC: London A v Nottinghamshire County A. 6.45: Britannia CC: St George's School (Can) v Henley. 6.50: Diamond CS: R G F Henderson (Leander) v S R Allpass (Thames).

7pm: Temple CC: Newcastle University v Reading University B. 7.05: Wyfold CC: Nottingham and Union v Sons of the Thames. 7.10 Wyfold CC: Thames v Nottinghamshire County B. 7.15: Britannia CC: Quintin v City of Oxford. 7.20: Britannia CC: Thames Tradesmen v Brentwood College (Can). 7.25: Diamond CS: R M W Williams (London) v P Thomas (Oxford University Lightweights).