On Sunday 6th March, Radley's First Eight enjoyed a useful training match against one of the country's leading men's eights on the Thames at Henley.
At first the prospect of racing on the world renowned Henley Royal Regatta course, against a top-twenty nationally ranked men's eight on their own water, might have seemed rather a daunting prospect for a school crew to contemplate. In the first of two 1500m pieces it looked as though the Radley vs Upper Thames Rowing Club contest might turn out to be a disappointing mismatch as the home crew stamped their early dominance on a rather green-looking group of schoolboys. However, as the race ran its course it became clear that the Henley men had to work hard for their victory, using all of their home advantage, a higher stroke rate and greater race experience to achieve their one boat-length advantage.
In the second contest Radley settled to a more solid and sustainable rhythm than they had achieved in the first race and by the time they passed the UTRC boathouse, with cries of encouragement ringing out from the home supporters, Radley had established a commanding lead over Upper Thames and were drawing away whilst taking fewer strokes per minute than their rivals.
With the iconic Temple Island and the end of the race drawing closer Radley were not quite able to break clear and the hirsute Upper Thames men, realising they were about to be humiliated by a crew of fresh-faced schoolboys, threw everything they could into getting back on terms.
Sadly, for the relatively inexperienced Radley coxswain, local knowledge and the more assertive tweaking of the Upper Thames rudder strings saw him manoeuvred out of the best line and somehow Upper Thames just managed to cross the finish line with their bow ball just in front. All in all it was a hugely rewarding and valuable experience for the Radley crew, and the UTRC men completed the morning with their reputation still - more or less - intact.
Caption: Radley lead Upper Thames R.C.
Caption: Eyeing up the opposition before the race.
Photos by Hugh Elwes.