Seventh-seeded Radcliffe Varsity Eight Takes Second at Henley Women's Regatta

The Radcliffe heavyweight varsity eight brought home a second-place finish in the Henley Women’s Regatta in Henley-on-Thames, England, on Sunday, easily beating Thames/Henley before losing in the last race of the regatta to Tees Composite, a team of elite U-23 British rowers.

The second varsity eight won its first race against Reading before losing in the quarterfinals to the crew from Molesey Boat Club.

The 1V was granted a bye in the first round of the regatta, meaning it did not have to race in the rough conditions on the Thames on Saturday. That set Radcliffe up for an unlikely victory over Thames/Henley, a local squad which had extensive experience on the distinctive River Thames and which had easily beaten Holy Cross the day before.

While Radcliffe’s victory over Thames/Henley came by a length and a half, the crew fell to Tees Composite in the finals by just half a length. Tees Composite completed the race in 5:20—the fastest time in the entire regatta, and 22 seconds faster than it had rowed in the semifinals.

The Black and White fell behind Tees Composite early in the race, according to rising senior and 1V stroke Shelley Pearson, as the Brits managed to put open water between their stern and Radcliffe’s bow. But Radcliffe came back from the deficit to pull within just half a length, which Pearson said, in an email, the crew was “very excited with.”

“I think generally, everyone gave a very impressive fight in all of our races and had an invaluable experience figuring out such challenging conditions,” Pearson wrote.

Liz Soutter ’12, the 1V six-seat, wrote in an email that the Black and White had one of its “best races of the season against the Tees Composite crew.”

Conditions dramatically improved between Saturday and Sunday. Crews which won races on both Saturday and Sunday rowed, on average, a full minute faster on Sunday, dropping from 7:18 to 6:20.

The regatta is held on the River Thames and is described by British Rowing as “one of the highlights of the regattas season for women rowers across the globe.” It is unique in that, due to the river's narrow width, races are all one-on-one, unlike most races, in which multiple boats row against each other. In addition, the race is 1500 meters long—500 meters shorter than a standard race and about 500 meters shorter than the Henley Royal Regatta, which takes place along a similar stretch of the Thames.

Staff writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at mayajonas-silver@college.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Radcliffe 1V lost to University College Dublin in the finals. In fact, the Black and White fell to Tees Composite.

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