Rowing: Wind blows Henley crews off course: Difficult conditions cause series of collisions on opening day of the Royal Regatta

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The Independent Online
A BRISK wind cutting across the course meant slow times and a fast exit for some crews on the opening day of Henley Royal Regatta yesterday.

In the Wyfold Cup for coxless fours, Thames Rowing Club veered sharply off track from the start and within 10 strokes were embedded in Temple Island at an angle of 45 degrees to the river. Thames were refused a re-row because they could not produce the object they claimed had caught in their rudder.

In another Wyfold Cup heat, Kingston's hopes of catching Quintin were dashed when they let the wind shift them across the course and they collided with the booms at the bottom of the enclosure.

Vesta R C were luckier in the Britannia Cup for coxed fours when the blame for a clash with Staines Boat Club at the end of the island was apportioned equally. The race was rerowed, with Vesta coming through over the second half of the course to win by three- quarters of a length.

One of the most unexpected casualties were Melbourne Grammar School, who had swept all before them after arriving from Australia three weeks ago. Selected by the stewards as one of the faster crews in the Princess Elizabeth Cup, the Melbourne first eight never got on terms with Hampton School, who had failed to make the final in the National Schools Regatta a month ago. The Melbourne coaches may regret their decision to race at Marlow immediately on landing instead of resting for the customary seven or eight days.

Today's programme includes the first round of the Diamond Sculls, which is also a stage on the four-race cycle of the Fisa World Cup. Most of the winners from the European circuit earlier in the season will start tomorrow, but Nicolae Taga, the Romanian who now trains on the Schuykill in Philadelphia and who finished fourth in the World Championship final, and Jason Day, who won the Australian championships, beating the Olympic double sculls winners Peter Antonie and Steven Hawkins, will row today.

Peter Haining, the Scottish lightweight world champion who will probably meet Day in the second round tomorrow, chose a typically eccentric preparaation. He tested the boat in which the Hon Rupert Guinness won the race in 1895 by racing it against one of his own modern boats.

After the Clasper boat, which has been kept in Thames R C's club room for most of this century, had been restored by John Russell, the Thames boatman, it was found to be 1kg lighter than the modern Fisa regulation minimum. At 34ft long, it is 7ft longer than today's norm.

Haining did four 1,000-metre rows, three in a Simms wooden boat built in the 1980s and one in the Clasper. Although it was rowed last, the Clasper was between three and six seconds faster than the modern boat. The speed gauge showed that its top speed was lower, having a greater wetted area (the amount of hull in contact with the water) than modern boats, but it slowed down much less between the strokes. This, it is assumed, is because the longer hull reduces the amount of pitch and yaw as the sculler slides up and down.

Haining is now keen to take a mould from the Clasper boat and have a modern plastic version built to his specification. It should be little different. Haining raced at 11st 3lb and Guinness won 90 years ago weighing in at 11st 2lb.

(Photograph omitted)