Henley Royal Regatta 2021 – Fawley Challenge Cup

By Ed Fuller

From the 11th to the 15th of August this year, four of Exeter Rowing Club’s junior boys competed on the hallowed waters of Henley on Thames at the infamous Henley Royal Regatta in the Fawley Challenge Cup (junior boys quads). After a positive season for these boys leading up to this event, including gold medals at both the National School’s Regatta in the Ch1x event and the British Championships in the Op2x event, they knew they stood a good chance at a solid result at this prestigious regatta.

After two training days on the course, Wednesday the 11th saw the Exeter boy’s quad take on Northwich in the Fawley at 2:10pm, a crew which they had previously beaten at The National Schools’ Regatta earlier this year. It’s safe to say that there were a lot of nerves in the boat at the start line of such a unique regatta that none of the boys had competed at before, which was reflected in a tentative start off of the Berkshire station.  Despite this, we found ourselves just over a length up on Northwich off the end of the Temple Island (250m in) which we extended to a comfortable 2 lengths lead coming past The Barrier (637m) and then Fawley (1047m), from here we decreased our effort marginally and enjoyed leading into the Steward’s enclosure and winning our first round at Henley Royal Regatta with a very solid row.

Day 2 of Henley saw us draw Enniskillen Royal Boat Club for an 8:40am race. The general mood in the boat had changed from that of nervousness to confidence as we lined up on the Berkshire station once more. Off the start, Enniskillen did almost exactly what we predicted they would, throwing everything at us with an extremely quick start to the end of the Island. Despite this, they only led by less than a canvas and by keeping relaxed and swiftly took the lead of the race by The Barrier and stretched out to a length lead. From here onwards, we hit an exceptional rhythm and increased our lead over Enniskillen to two lengths coming into Steward’s, we didn’t need to sprint as we had a solid buffer, yet we still saw Enniskillen lose two lengths to us in the last 200m, most likely a result of their ferocious start that ultimately cost them at the line and allowing us to take another comfortable win.

Day 3, the Friday of Henley Royal Regatta saw us draw Lea Rowing Club in a matchup that we knew would be extremely close. We had beaten the Lea crew when we won the Metropolitan Regatta, however they had replaced one of their crew members with the silver medallist from the National School’s Regatta in the single. We raced off the Berkshire station once again, getting an incredible start, dropping Lea by over a length by the end of the Island. However, the gap swiftly stabilised and we knew the race was far from over. From The Barrier to the ¾ Mile mark, Lea inched back until we were level entering the Enclosures with 500m to go. Lea put in a big move that we couldn’t respond to, taking half a length on us that we simply couldn’t close before the line resulting in a 2/3 of a length loss for us to the better crew on the day.

I would like to take this opportunity to say how proud I am of the three boys I raced with at Henley, making it to Friday was such an incredible experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. I would also like to express my immense personal gratitude to Exeter Rowing Club for helping me achieve more that I could have ever imagined over the last 7 years, and I believe that Henley was a fitting conclusion to an amazing chapter in my life as I move on to new challenges in September. Thank you.

Bow – Tommy Fuller
2 – Ollie Wickham
3 – Ed Fuller
Stroke – Tom Shipton

Links to watch our races on YouTube:

Day 1 vs Northwich

Day 2 vs Enniskillen

Day 3 vs Lea

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