MONMOUTH SCHOOL’S rowing eight threw everything at Britain’s top junior crew, but a stone and a quarter a man disadvantage into a brutal Henley Royal Regatta headwind proved too much to overcome as they missed out by just over a length to Abingdon’s defending champions.
In their last ever race as a crew, with six of the Wye eight leaving school this week, they did coach Robin Fletcher proud as they took the race to their illustrious opponents, blasting off the blocks to reach the top of Temple Island level.
Abingdon, winners of the Princess Elizabeth Cup school eights for the last three years, knew they had a race on their hands as Monmouth kept their rating two strokes a minute higher through the half-mile mark where they were still overlapping the National Schools’ champions.
At the half-way Fawley mark, the Thames school finally got clear water, but Monmouth tenaciously kept pressing, with a push at 36 strokes a minute approaching Remenham Club and a brave final effort along the enclosures of the 2,150m upstream course before losing out by just a length and a half in seven minutes 17 seconds.
GB junior cap and Monmouth School Head Boy Will, who is targeting the world juniors in August, said: “It was a really good effort. We just went for it and gave them a bit of a scare off the blocks.
“It was always going to be tough giving away that weight into such a strong wind, but we held onto them, had a really good push in the middle and made them work for it all the way to the line.
“For six of us, it’s probably our last race for Monmouth, but we couldn’t have done any more. They had all the horsepower, and they had to use it to hold us off. They’ll win it again or get to the final.”
Having beaten Emanuel School, London, by 2 3/4L in Wednesday’s first round, Monmouth had to race Abingdon, coached by Welsh GB world medallist Dave Currie, in the second round for the second year running.
“Last year, they dominated us, this time we really took the race to them,” said cox Gabriel. “They’re the benchmark in British junior rowing, so I’m really proud of the boys that we pushed them so hard. We wouldn’t let go of them, and every time I called for a push, the crew responded.”
Coach Robin Fletcher, who followed the race in the Umpires’ Launch at the 175th anniversary regatta, said: “Early on when we were with them stroke for stroke, I thought go for it now guys, and they were moving on them. It was always going to be a big ask into that wind with such a weight disadvantage, but we said beforehand, don’t leave anything on the river, and they raced themselves into the ground.
“I’m so pleased with the way we raced. We were good enough to make the last eight, but the draw is what it is. For the second year probably, we’ve had to race the best crew in the event.
“There’s no doubt the wind made a hard job even more difficult, as well, but we really tried to overturn them, and it was an impressive effort.”
Monmouth School Head of Rowing John Griffiths added: “That was really gutsy, the guys can really hold their heads up.”
In another gutbuster of a race, Old Monmothian Alex Butler and his City of Bristol Wyfold Cup club four came within half a length of sending Sydney, Australia, packing, as they all but overhauled them on the line.
Fellow OM Dai George and his City of Cardiff crew lost out to Tideway Scullers in the same event, but Monmouth School product Steve Tuck goes today in the quarter-finals of the Ladies Plate international 8s, stroking his University of California crew in an ‘oar-some’ clash with a New York/California composite crew containing seven US Olympians.