Henley Royal Regatta 2023

The rowing season always rounds off in style with Henley Royal Regatta. Qualifiers took place on Friday 23rd June, this year the University of Surrey had three boats entered.

The Temple challenge cup:

Stroke: Henry Clowes, Joe Wright, Jack Webber, Orlando Williams, Tom Fortnum, Jack Cope, Jack Heylen, Bow: Max Williams, Cox: Ella Collins

The Island Challenge cup:

Stroke: Amy Lavelle, Sacha Kennedy, Ellen Green, Eleanor Stratton, Elysia Rushworth, Elsie Overend, Freya Spurling, Bow: Léonie Kennedy, Cox: Ellie Hamilton-Davies

The Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup:

Stroke: Jamie Gamble, Bow: Sam Bodkin

The crews turned up on Friday morning for a pre-paddle with a buzzing atmosphere. First up to race was the Women’s 8 in the Island Challenge cup, racing 27 crews for 1 of 8 spaces. The girls raced hard, but unfortunately came up against some tough competition, and didn’t make it through.

The Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup qualifying race took place later in the day, with Jamie Gamble (former Surrey President) and Sam Bodkin, both alumni of the boat club. They were racing 13 crews for 1 of 3 spaces. Competition for these places was tough. Despite some amazing racing, our pair unfortunately didn’t make it through.

The Temple Challenge cup qualifying race was hugely subscribed to. The boys were racing for 60 crews for 1 of 13 spaces. Even more impressively, 8 out of the 9 crew members, (including the cox) had learnt to row at Surrey as part of Surrey’s Development programme. Four of the rowers, Henry Clowes, Jack Cope, Jack Heylen and Max Williams took their first strokes in October 2022. The boys threw everything they had into the race, fighting with every stroke. Once across the finish line, all the Surrey crews gathered in the boat tent for arguably the most nerve wracking part of Henley Royal Qualifications: waiting to hear the qualifying crews on the speakers.

The announcers started reading out the names, with Surrey athletes counting off the remaining spaces on their fingers. Then, as they reached their 12th name, University of Surrey was called out. With an electric atmosphere, the boys that were previously exhausted were flooded with adrenaline and completely ecstatic. The day had suddenly become a huge highlight of the year.

“It was incredible to see all of the support from everyone there at Henley. Especially in the clap out for our race and how happy everyone was for us after the qualification announcement.”

Jack Cope

This meant the boys progressed to side-by-side racing on Tuesday, where they faced Cornell University, USA.

A huge group of athletes turned up to clap the boys out, demonstrating the culture in the club. The boys walked out with the boat on their shoulders and huge grins on their faces. They pushed off the landing stage with cheers ringing in their ears and the sun beaming down on them.

The rest of the squad made their way up the riverbank to cheer the Men down the track. It was a tough draw against Cornell, but the atmosphere coming down was incredible.

Speaking to Surrey athletes after the races, it was clear how much being able to race at Henley Royal meant to them.

“I am very grateful to this club and crew to allow me to compete at Henley Royal and to row on the Henley stretch between the booms. I have had so much fun rowing with this crew over the campaign. This week has been an amazing experience”

Henry Clowes

Tom Fortnum, our outgoing president, said

“Qualifying for the temple is one of the best performances of any crew I have been in during my four years at Surrey. We really didn’t have a right to qualify and had to pull something out the bag to beat all of the crews anywhere near us. […] I think this genuinely opened up new eyes to Surrey as a HP program and I am so happy that I could contribute that. The beginners in the crew learned so much and will take that into the squad next year so as a graduating member of the crew with my last race in a Surrey crew boat ever being our race against Cornell I am delighted to have had one last impact on the future of the club.”

“ I will never forget the feeling of hearing our club get announced and I will never forget the feeling of stepping out of a Surrey crew boat for the last time. I am going to miss this program so much and all that university rowing has to offer but I am so glad that it happened.”

And so, this brought the racing season to an end for another year here at the University of Surrey boat club.

Looking back, the entire club should be proud of what has been achieved this year. We say goodbye to our graduating athletes, including our outgoing president and vice-president, Tom Fortnum and Jack Webber, our coxes, Natasha Dunt, Ella Collins, and our now Dr Eleanor Hamilton-Davies MRCVS BVMSci, one of our most highly decorated athletes. We wish them and all other leaving athletes the best with their future. 

Our eyes as a club turn to next year, already counting down the days until we can get back on the water, excited to see what the upcoming season will bring!

Until then, we hope everyone has a well deserved summer break, and see you all in September!