Henley Royal Regatta means different things to different people. For some it is a social event involving nice hats and daytime drinking with people in boats in the background. For others it is an annual opportunity to catch up with old crew mates and support friends and family who are racing.
For us it is the pinnacle of a year’s training and preparation.
Just to qualify to race is a challenge in itself, one that many crews fail to achieve despite hours slogging on ergos and many cold mornings down on the river. This year, the achievements of the Vesta men throughout the year were recognised by the Stewards, who pre-qualified both the Wyfold 4- and the Thames Cup 8+ crews.
The phrase “luck of the draw” has never rung so true as it did in the Henley Town Hall this year. Both the Wyfold coxless four and the Thames Cup eight were drawn against seeded crews. It is a huge knock to a squad’s morale to know that you will not face one of the many crews in the event that you have comfortably beaten all year, or even those with whom you’ve had close races. Instead you must race a crew who has all the statistics on their side. Despite this, both crews continued to train hard down the Henley course in the days preceding the first day of racing, ready to put up one hell of a fight on race day.
At 9am on Wednesday, the eight faced Upper Thames, one of the four seeded crews in the 32 strong Thames Cup. The Vesta boys went off the start with fire in their legs, giving Upper Thames a fright and taking a small lead in the first 20 strokes. Unfortunately as the two crews hit their race pace, the Upper Thames boys moved through and took a comfortable lead. Nonetheless, Vesta fought to the line, with a powerful push in response to the “Remenham Roar.” They came across the line, gracious losers to an elite crew.
A few hours later, the coxless four faced London A in the Wyfolds, again one of the four seeds in the event. They put their foot to the floor and gave everything to try and get themselves a race on Thursday. The London boys took the lead, but like the eight, the Vesta four fought to the line, never ones to back down easily.
Both crews commiserated the results together, a united squad, but also celebrated the successes of the year. Many of the squad will be returning in the autumn, ready to do it all again, hungry for the results they deserve.