Upper Thames crews won the Wyfold and Britannia Cups this year at Henley, breaking the club’s duck at HRR after fifty one years.
Last year the Thames Cup eight lost in the final, an event which acted as an effective spur for the 2014 season, culminating in two historic wins within an hour of each other on Henley Sunday.
In the first race of the day, The Britannia crew of Luke Wootton, Graham Hall, Sam Barnes, Jake Davidson and cox Scott Smith beat Bayer Leverkusen of Germany by nearly three lengths. The Upper Thames crew took an early lead which developed into three quarters of a length at the Barrier and became clear water before Fawley.
Once a gap had been opened up there was no getting back for the Germans and the home crew pressed their advantage past their own boathouse to set up a historic win. Club founder, Diane Sutherland, following the race in the umpire’s launch, was visibly moved to see her dream of an Upper Thames win at Henley finally become a reality.
“It was an extraordinary achievement and I must thank everyone involved for making it happen,” she said in the boat tents afterwards.
Fifty minutes later, the Wyfold final featured another UTRC crew against Tideway Scullers. Starting strongly again, Upper Thames (Ed Couldwell, Michael Nagi, Joe Perry and Lewis Beech) went into another three quarters of a length lead at the Barrier only to be rowed back level at Fawley by a determined Scullers four.
Scullers were warned for their steering before half way and again at Remenham, where the crews rowed stroke for stroke in a race that promised an exciting finish. As the crews raced beyond the Mile, Scullers were repeatedly warned for their steering, as they pressed the Upper Thames crew towards the Berkshire booms in an attempt to stay out of the stream up the Enclosures.
However, after the sixth warning from umpire Mike WIlliams, they pushed it too far, fouling Upper Thames with twenty five strokes to go. The race was allowed to continue as Williams sought to let the result, which looked like it would narrowly favour Upper Thames, play out but, with ten strokes left opposite the progress boards, the crews came together in the middle of the river and the race was stopped in dramatic fashion.
Williams informed Tideway Scullers that they had fouled Upper Thames further back down the course and that, as a result, he was disqualifying them.
After the race Justin Sutherland, Upper Thames Coach, said, “We thoroughly deserved both wins today and, despite a difficult situation for them in the final of the Wyfolds, Tideway Scullers were extremely generous in defeat, which is a huge credit to them. I am so proud of our lads and incredibly pleased for them after the hard work they have put in this year following last year’s knock-back.”
“I guess the challenge now is to repeat today’s success somehow next year which will be a tall order, but we have some great guys already in the squad and I’m positive about our chances. What an unbelievable day we have had, quite unforgettable.”
Anyone wanting to get involved at Upper Thames next season should contact Justin in August.