IT was so near and yet so far for two Wye rowers after they lost out in hard-fought finals at Henley Royal Regatta on Sunday, reports NICK HARTLAND.
The Leander boat of Old Monmothian Jack Tottem, who steered Oxford’s men to Boat Race glory last year, came within three feet of rowing down Oxford Brookes’ powerhouse crew in the final of the Ladies Plate 8s.
And former Monmouth Comprehensive pupil Violet Holbrow-Brooksbank and her Wycliffe junior girls’ quadruple scull had to give second best to London club Tideway Scullers in their first loss of the year.
But there was some Wye success, with Old Monmothian two-time Olympic gold medal coach Robin Williams - a fluent Spanish speaker - overseeing Spain’s first ever win at the 184-year-old regatta, as their national world silver medal double scull downed the colours of the GB national duo.
Sadly though, fellow OM and world U23 gold medallist Robbie Prosser’s Henley challenge ended before it began, as he was ruled out by illness.
Racing at the historic River Thames event took place over six days, with boats entered from more than 20 countries, including the Canadian, Polish and Dutch national teams, and numerous top boats from America and Australia.
Crews and scullers go head-to-head in gladiatorial style on a purpose boom-built upstream 2,112m course, with a cross headwind for much of the week making it even harder work.
Tottem steered his Leander boat to a 1 1/2L win over Brookes B in the quarter-final, before then downing the Dutch Hollandia boat by the same margin in the semis.
That put them into the final against the mighty Brookes A crew, containing Wales and GB caps Matt Rowe and Sam Bannister - with the Oxford outfit having now the most successful rowing programme in the country.
But the world’s oldest and most prestigious club Leander were determined to defend home Henley waters and threw everything at it urged on by Tottem.
The pace was furious and Brookes led by a single foot at the 1/4-Mile, 3 foot at the Barrier and 1/2L at the roughly half-way Fawley mark.
It was 3/4L at the 3/4-Mile, but hitting the packed enclosures Tottem called his crew up to 40 strokes a minute to get back to 1/2L at the Mile and 1/8th.
And in an incredible surge over the last 25 strokes in front of a thunderous grandstand they almost caught Brookes, running out of water just three feet short.
Former Monmouth Comprehensive rower Violet Holborn-Brooksbank at 3 racing for Wycliffe in the Henley Royal Regatta final
Violet, 17, who rowed for Monmouth Comprehensive last year, was promoted to the top Wycliffe boat for Henley Women’s, where they launched their Diamond Jubilee Cup campaign in style beating Marlow’s Sir William Borlase by 2 3/4L.
They then beat Sydney RC, Australia, by 2L before disposing of junior powerhouses Henley RC by 1 1/2L in the semi to set up a final with Tideway Scullers, who they had beaten in the Henley Women’s final.
This time Scullers took an early lead, stretching a few feet at the top of the Island to 1/2L at the Barrier.
Wycliffe then began to close, reducing the margin to feet and looked set to burst through.
But Scullers had something left and responded to push away again to nearly a length up hitting the enclosures before going away to win by 2 1/4L.
Wye rowing star Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne takes on Australia's national sculler in an epic Henley Royal Regatta race
Tokyo Olympian and new mum Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne from St Weonards fought out an epic women’s round one singles race with Australia’s Cara Grzeskowiak, with the lead repeatedly changing hands before the visitor finally took a 1L win.
Former Monmouth School rower Iwan Hadfield stroked the Leander/Oxford university boat against the Dutch U23s
Earlier in the Ladies Plate, Old Monmothian and California Berkeley US college champion Iwan Hadfield missed out to Dutch outfit Skadi/Proteus by 2/3L in his Leander/Oxford University composite 8.
Former Monmouth Comprehensive pupil Katie Kearsey at 7 in the Nottingham crew racing Newcastle at Henley Royal Regatta
Former Monmouth Comprehensive pupil Katie Kearsey’s Nottingham University women’s 8 beat Newcastle B in the women’s college 8s before missing out to US stars Pennsylvania, who made it to the final, by 2 1/4L.
And in the same event, former Monmouth School for Girls’ pupil Darcy Birkett’s London crew lost out by 1L to Edinburgh, who then lost to event winners Brookes by the same margin as two course marker records were broken.
Monmouth Comprehensive alumni Sarah Lewis at bow in the Greenbank Falmouth double racing the GB U23 world medal double at Henley
Monmouth Comprehensive alumni Sarah Lewis and her Greenbank Falmouth partner fought hard before losing out in the first round to the GB U23 world medal duo in the women’s doubles by 3 3/4L.
Monmouth RC junior George Coates racing at 2 for Hartpury in a Henley cracker against Americans Seattle
But Monmouth RC junior product George Coates’ Hartpury junior boys’ quad scull held off Americans Seattle by 1/2L in a first round cracker, but then missed out by 3L to Windsor Boys, who went on to lose to event winners Leander by just 3ft.
Monmouth School came through the Henley Regatta qualifiers, but were up against it racing Australian seeds Brisbane
Monmouth School’s boys’ 8 fought through the qualifying time-trial the previous Friday to grab one of eight places out of 19 boats in the 32-strong regatta draw, and also had a tough first round draw, losing out to Australian seeds Brisbane Boys College by 4L.
Monmouth Rowing Club's men racing at Henley Royal Regatta for the first time in 14 years
And Monmouth RC’s Wyfold Cup club four enjoyed the club’s first HRR race since 2009 against Upper Thames, but had to give second best by 4 1/4L.
See all the Henley Royal Regatta races on their YouTube channel.