The return of the men
The return of the men
Over the past 25 years, Thames has returned to prominence in men’s rowing. Steady improvement from the late 1990s onwards culminated in an emphatic and highly emotional win in the Wyfold Challenge Cup for club coxless fours at Henley Royal Regatta in 2003 – the first Thames win at Henley in 47 years, and 133 years after Thames first came to prominence by winning the very same trophy.
Finals appearances in the Wyfold and the Britannia Challenge Cup followed in 2005 and the club took another Wyfold win in 2006.
From 2010, the focus moved to the quest to win the Thames Challenge Cup for club eights. It was back in 1934 that Thames last won the event, and both 1988 and 2001 had seen the club lose in the final. The frustration was to continue, with losses in the semi-finals in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014, and in the final in 2012.
Finally in 2015, coach Ben Lewis (in his second year at the club) took the men through a superb season. At the Head of the River Race, the first eight won the Vernon Trophy, for the fastest Tideway club, for the first time since the 1960s. The club also won the Intermediate 3 and Novice pennants.
At Henley, TRC qualified a record four eights for the Thames Cup – but importantly the first of these won the event, beating Rudern, Tennis und Hockey Club Bayer Leverkusen, Germany in the final.
Significantly, the majority of this crew had been in losing crews in previous years – the difference being Ben Lewis’s ability to get them training and performing at a higher level.
The following year saw four of the 2015 Thames Cup crew enter the Visitors’ Challenge Cup. Early-season results showed they were competitive but they steadily progressed through the rounds to face University of California, Berkeley, in the final. Cal were the favourites and got out to a lead of just over a length, but the Thames crew held on and piled on the pressure in the closing stages. Cal caught a crab, veered towards the booms and hit them, leaving Thames to take the win.
In 2017 Thames qualified three crews for the Thames Challenge Cup, plus one in both the Britannia and Wyfold Challenge Cups. In the open events we had crews in the Silver Goblets & Nickalls and the new women’s pairs and double sculls events.
By Saturday the Thames Cup A and B crews and the Britannia and Wyfold fours were both still racing. The Britannia crew lost to a strong NSR Oslo outfit by 1/2 a length, and the Wyfold four to Sport Imperial – both Oslo and Imperial went on to win the finals.
Thames B beat Agecroft in their semi-final and there was then a tense wait for the Thames A semi against Leander. On Friday the crew had only just hung on to beat NSR Oslo but on Saturday they nailed it, stretching clear by Remenham and setting up a Thames-Thames final in the Thames (at Henley-on-Thames).
The occasion was marked by some unashamedly partisan on-course commentary, a launch full of Thames blazers, and ultimately a straightforward win by Thames A. The club’s third HRR win in three years sets us up well for a bright future.