Rowing: World Cup enhances Henley programme: The enduring secret of the Royal Regatta lies in its endearing mixture of abilities. Hugh Matheson reports

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THE first Henley Royal Regatta to include women racing over the full distance opens this morning. Sixteen women row in a new single sculls competition at the fifth of sixth regattas for the World Cup, organised by Fisa, the international governing body.

For the men today there are three different grades of eights, from the Princess Elizabeth Cup for schools, a leading event in its category, to the Thames and Temple, which rank as third and fourth class for adult eights, as well as the second-class events in coxed and coxless fours, the Wyfold and Britannia Cups.

The top-grade events start tomorrow and gradually the pace will accelerate to finals, which will be of the highest quality on Sunday. However, the secret of Henley lies in this mixture of the great and the also-rans. No regatta in the world, even the finals of the Olympic Games, can match the crowds and the noise at Henley.

When, as they must, Matthew Pinsent and Steven Redgrave win the Silver Goblets on Sunday, it is unlikely that they will be setting a new standard for the event as they did in Banyoles, near Barcelona, last year. But they will be cheered over the whole course by most of the oarsmen who have covered the same distance with as much effort, if less speed and grace, earlier in the week. There is a curious understanding, or sympathy, between athlete and spectator which is unmatched in other places.

For a few years before the recession this relationship was muddied by the huge numbers of corporate entertainment guests, who clogged up the lawns, with their backs to the water, while clogging up their arteries with cream and gin. But although they do not control all the bank by the course, the stewards have reined in the excesses over the past three years and the crowd has rediscovered its feeling for what is happening on the river.

The new chairman, Mike Sweeney, need not indulge the commercial pressures because the regatta, under his predecessor, Peter Coni, has been put on a very secure base, and produces annual profits around pounds 350,000. But he has inherited one innovation, which should be of lasting benefit. Almost the last important decision taken by Coni was to secure the Fisa World Cup sculling event for Henley. The six-round competition spans the world, starting in Melbourne and travelling via Mexico, Germany and Finland to Henley, before culminating in Lucerne on 11 July.

For the men the World Cup has been pasted on to the existing Diamond Sculls and will be the introduction to Henley of the German Thomas Lange, twice Olympic champion and three-times world champion. He will be challenged by Vaclav Chalupa, of the Czech Republic, who devastated the old record by 14 seconds when he won in 1989. Chalupa is now leading the Fisa Cup, but has never beaten Lange in a final.

It will be a first for women because, except for some invitation races in 1980-81, none has raced here. After decades of trying to embarrass the stewards, who have owned and run the regatta since its foundation in 1839, into offering a full programme of women's races, the Henley women's regatta was founded six years ago. It uses the lower half of the course and has matured rapidly into one of the best two days of racing on the Thames and has been given considerable help by the much relieved stewards.

In the World Cup, the Olympic champion, Elisabeta Lipa of Romania, and Annelies Bredael, who finished second in Barcelona, will face Maria Brandin, of Sweden, and Brenda Lawson, of New Zealand, who have both shown good form in the early rounds. The lightweight New Zealander, Philippa Baker, is a tough competitor and could cause an upset, but placed in the top half of the draw, she will have a succession of hard races to get near the final.

The only disappointing entry is the Grand Challenge Cup for eights, which has attracted three crews, the Germans from Hansa Dortmund - the dominant power in eights for five years, in spite of finishing third in Barcelona - a new eight from Spain and the British selection for the World Student Games, which though stuffed with talent is a couple of years away from maturity.


First name on Berkshire station

9am: Thames Challenge Cup: Upper Thames B v Liverpool Students. 9.05: Thames: Agecroft B v Vesta. 9.10: Temple Challenge Cup: Newcastle Univ v Univ Col, London. 9.15: Wyfold Challenge Cup: Walton v London Welsh. 9.20: Britannia Challenge Cup: Auriol Kensington B v Molesey. 9.30: Thames: Thames Tradesmen's B v Univ of London. 9.35: Thames: London B v Quintin. 9.40: Temple: Jesus Col/Downing Col, Camb v Southampton Univ. 9.45: Wyfold: Hereford v Nottingham Univ. 9.50: Britannia: Bath Univ v Furnivall Sculling Club.

10.00: Thames: Auriol Kensington v Upper Thames A. 10.05: Thames: Molesey v Dartmouth, USA A. 10.10: Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup: Bedford Modern Sch v Shrewsbury Sch A. 10.15: Wyfold: Upper Thames A v Bewl Bridge. 10.20: Britannia: Cambridge v Tideway Scullers' Sch. 10.30: Thames: Thames Tradesmen's A v Durham Univ B. 10.35: Temple: Queens' Col, Cambridge v Edinburgh Univ. 10.40: Princess Elizabeth: Pangbourne Col B v Kingston GS A. 10.45: Wyfold: Sons of the Thames v Thames. 10.50: Britannia: City of Oxford A v Auriol Kensington A.

11.00: Thames: Weybridge v Nottingham and Union. 11.05: Temple: Pembroke Col/Downing Col, Camb v Christ Church/Pembroke Col, Oxford. 11.10: Princess Elizabeth: Radley Col v Hampton Sch. 11.15: Wyfold: Bedford A v Tideway Scullers' Sch. 11.20: Wyfold: Worcester v Wallingford. 11.30: Thames: Cherwell v Thames. 11.35: Temple: Westminster Sch/Belmont v Reading Univ/Abbey Sch. 11.40: Princess Elizabeth: Phillips Exeter Academy (US) v Selborne Col (SA). 11.45: Wyfold: Nottingham and Union v Agecroft. 11.50: Britannia: Goldie v Nottinghamshire Co.

12.00: Thames: Lea A v Durham Univ C. 12.05: Temple: Association Sportive (Fr) v Sheffield Univ. 12.10: Princess Elizabeth: Pangbourne Col A v Riverview (US). 12.15: Britannia: Scottish Argonauts A v Univ of London. 12.20: Britannia: Thames v Harvard Univ (US). 12.30: Thames: Agecroft A v Neptune (Irl). 12.35: Temple: Lady Margaret, Camb v Emmanuel Col, Camb. 12.40: Princess Elizabeth: King Edward VII HS (SA) v King's Sch, Chester. 12:45: Britannia: Scottish Argonauts B v Thames Tradesmen's B. 12.50: Britannia: City of Oxford B v Newark.

2.30: Thames: Isis B v Walton. 2.35: Thames: Aberdeen v Harvard Univ (US). 2.40: Princess Elizabeth: Cheltenham Col v Brisbane Boys' Col (Aus). 2.45: Wyfold: London A v Gloucester. 2.50: Britannia: Leander Club v Bedford.

3.00: Thames: Rob Roy v Durham Univ. 3.05: Temple: Univ Col, Dublin v Oxford Brookes Univ. 3.10: Temple: Queen's Univ, Belfast v Colgate Univ (US). 3.15: Britannia: London A v Free Press. 3.20: Wyfold: Scottish Argonauts v Odense (Den). 3.30: Thames: SE Encouragement (Fr) v Utrecht Studenten (Neth). 3.35: Temple: Trinity Col, Dublin v Univ of West of England. 3.40: Princess Elizabeth: Oundle Sch v Abingdon Sch. 3.45: Wyfold: Marlow v Leander Club. 3.50: Britannia: Edinburgh Univ v Nottingham and Union.

5.00: Thames: Dartmouth B (US) v Lea B. 5.05: Princess Elizabeth: Eton Col v Bedford Sch. 5.10: Princess Elizabeth: Shrewsbury Sch B v Holy Cross Sch (Can). 5.15: Wyfold: City of Oxford v Vesta. 5.20: Britannia: Sons of the Thames v Carlow (Irl). 5.30: Temple: Clare Col, Camb v Exeter Col/Queen's Col, Oxford. 5.35: Princess Elizabeth: St Edward's Sch B v La Salle Col (US). 5.40: Princess Elizabeth: Canford Sch v St Peter's Sch. 5.45: Wyfold: Stourport v Thames Tradesmen's B. 5.50: Britannia: Belfast v London B.

6.00: Temple: Leeds Univ v Col of St Hilda & St Bede & Grey Col, Durham. 6.05: Princess Elizabeth: Hampton Sch A v Monmouth Sch. 6.10: Princess Elizabeth: Kingston GS B v St Paul's Sch. 6.15: Wyfold: Lea v Auriol Kensington. 6.20 Britannia: Johns Hopkins Univ (US) v Thames Tradesmen's A. 6.30: Temple: Eton Col v Trinity Hall, Camb. 6.35: Princess Elizabeth: King's, Canterbury v Shiplake Col. 6.40: Temple: Univ of Bristol v Christ's Col, Camb. 6.45: Wyfold: Molesey v London B. 6.50: Britannia: Quintin v Lea.

7.00: Temple: Queen's Univ (Can) v Nottingham Univ. 7.05: Temple: Univ of Wales Col, Cardiff v Nihon Univ (Japan). 7.10: Princess Elizabeth: St Edward's Sch A v King's Coll Sch. 7.15: Wyfold: Quintin v Thames Tradesmen's A. 7.20: Wyfold: Bedford B v Upper Thames C.