Henley Women’s Regatta 2023

On the 16th – 18th June our Women’s squad travelled to Henley-on-Thames to compete in Henley Women’s regatta, the premier regatta for women across the UK. For those new to rowing, Henley Women’s was created 1988 due to a lack of Women’s races at Henley Royal Regatta, and has a slightly shortened course length of around 1500m, compared to Henley Royals 2112m. The event runs over 3 days, with time-trials, heats, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.

This year we had 4 crews enter this event.

Colgan Foundation Cup: Aspirational Academic 8

Stroke: Amy Lavelle, Eleanor Stratton, Ellen Green, Elsie Overend, Elysia Rushworth, Rachel Staite, Freya Spurling, Bow: Bryony Hewitt, Cox: Ellie H-D

Parkside Trophy: Championship Lightweight Pair

Stroke: Sacha Kennedy, Bow: Claudia-Lauren Williams (Molesey Boat club)

Haslam Trophy : Championship Lightweight double

Stroke: Lois Catling, Bow: Amy Hill

The Fiona Dennis Trophy : Aspirational Lightweight Single

Leonie Kennedy

We arrived early on the Friday morning for a pre-paddle, before kicking off time-trials with the 8s. The girls managed to secure 1 of 16 spots and progressed to Saturday’s racing, making history as the first ever Women’s 8 to qualify at Henley Women’s Regatta for Surrey University.

Next up was Leonie in her single, followed by the championship lightweight pair, both of whom also progressed onto the heats.

While most crews headed home for some rest before side by side racing on Saturday, Leonie’s heats began on the Friday, where she faced Nottingham rowing club. She raced brilliants, winning the heat by over 10 seconds, and progressing onto Saturday’s racing.

Saturday saw all the crews racing, including the time-trial for the Championship Lightweight double. Unfortunately, despite racing hard the double faced some tough competition and didn’t manage to qualify for the heats.

Next up was Leonie again, racing N.S.R.V. Phocas, a crew from the Netherlands. Despite a slight wobble at the start, she quickly regained control and pushed away from the other crew. Again she was successful, making it to the semifinals.

The championship pair had their quarter finals next, racing brilliantly and managing to beat Quintin boat club after a close but exhilarating race.

Finally, the 8s had their first side by side race against Nottingham Trent University. The stroke of the 8, Amy Lavelle, said

“It was such a fun race, we were are all so buzzing from having qualified, the atmosphere in the boat was amazing. We went off hard at the start and put everything into pulling away early – which is always such a great feeling when you get it right.”

The 8 won their heat by 20 seconds.

Sunday started with the quarter finals of the Academic 8s against Oxford University Boat club. Rachel Staite (3 seat) said

“Racing Henley Women’s Regatta in the 8 was such an amazing weekend. The race we had against Oxford was so exciting. We pulled off hard and managed to pull away, they made a move and began to inch closer to us we really had to dig deep and find another gear. We fought all the way to the line, crossing the finish knowing that we were progressing through to the semi-final was a feeling like no other. The support from the club was amazing and hearing them shouting from the bank really did make a difference. I’m really proud of the girls and the club for achieving so much this season and Henley Women’s just topped it all off!”

The 8 managed to win their race by 0.7 seconds, a very close race but one the girls enjoyed hugely.

The three Surrey boats were now all in the semi-finals, a huge accomplishment in such a huge event. The first of the semi-finals was Leonie against Birmingham university. Leonie raced incredibly hard, but was unfortunately knocked out.

“I had a lot of fun racing and, as always, the support from Surrey was incredible! I especially enjoyed the quarter final. It was very tough but was probably the best rowing I’ve done all year!”

Next up was the pair, who had drew Princeton. The girls gave an amazing performance, but were unfortunately knocked out.

“It was great project to jump in the pair after being in 8s all year, and to be in a championship event, making it to the semi-finals along with Princeton, (who won every lightweight event at national championships) Harvard and Cambridge – all who have full lightweight programs and squads – was really exciting!” – Claudia

“I really enjoyed racing with Claudia and it was fun to work with her on a lightweight pairs project for the 5 weeks leading up to HWR. As it was a championship event, the competition was tough. We put up a good fight in all of our races and I am proud of what we have achieved.” – Sacha

The last crew was the Academic 8s. The girls, who had already made USBC history by qualifying, had managed to make it to the semi-finals where they raced Oxford Brookes. Oxford Brookes were the favourites to win the event, but the girls went into the race with heads held high, keeping a light, happy atmosphere and a mutual determination to have a clean and powerful row.

Going down the course the girls could hear the support coming from the bank, from the amazing family and friends of the athletes, our own Surrey athletes who had taken time to watch the girls race, but also athletes from different clubs. So despite eventually losing to Oxford Brookes who went on to win the regatta, it was an amazing experience.

It was a weekend of amazing racing from our girls, and shows the strength of the Women’s Squad at USBC as well as highlighting the culture we are so proud of. Congratulations to all who were involved and thank you to those who came to support!