Cantabs WIN Henley Women’s & Smash Course Record

The Senior Women’s Squad enjoyed a fantastic victory at Henley Women’s Regatta this weekend, winning the club eights category and beating the course record by a whopping 11 seconds in the process!

Photo credit: Not Just Rowing


The regatta began with a time trial on Friday, where the 29 entrants were reduced to 16 qualifiers. Cantabs finished as the fastest qualifying crew, though only a few seconds separated the top 4 crews, meaning that some exciting racing was in store and it was all to play for.

Georgie Plunkett also qualified for the senior 1x, but after a crab off the start was unfortunately knocked out in the first round by a strong TSS sculler.


The crew of Millie Perrin, Bailee Stratton, Jordan Bruce, Harriet Cross, Alice Brownjohn, Emma Dalrymple, Merodie Rose, Georgia Vann and cox Esther Momcilovic were pleased with their time trial row, but identified areas for improvement when they progressed to side-by-side racing. On Saturday, Cantabs faced a crew from Vesta, and enjoyed an easy race, beating them by 4L in a time of 5:11. The quarter final saw them race Lea, emerging with a similarly comfortable victory of 3.5L in a time of 5:03.


Racing TSS in the final

On the Sunday morning, the crew faced Galway RC from Ireland in the semi-final which saw a dramatic first half of the race, though spectators would be forgiven for not noticing! On the first stroke of the start, the steering mechanism in the Cantabs boat broke, causing the boat to go off at an angle, pointing right at the island! Fortunately Esther was able to think quickly to correct and fix the steering to prevent a crash without distracting the crew, and did similarly about 1k in when the steering had a wobble again. Despite this incident costing the crew about 1L, Cantabs went on to beat Galway by 1 and 3/4 L in a time of 5:03.

Temperatures over the weekend soared up to 30C with high humidity, meaning that competitors struggled to stay cool between races. Fortunately Cantabs’ large support team were on hand and kept the crew cool with ice buckets to soak their heads and feet in, and kept the crew hydrated. The crew were also fortunate to have one of only 6 available gazebo pitches on site, meaning that they were able to stay in the shade.

This proved invaluable, as it meant that when the crew boated for their final against Tideway Scullers, they felt comparatively energised compared to Saturday. TSS were tipped by some for victory, being winners of this event in 2016 and having performed extremely well at Met a few weeks ago. However, due to exams and injury Cantabs weren’t able to race at Met and so were an unknown quantity to many before they arrived at Henley.

Based on results from previous rounds, it was clear TSS were a very fast crew and would push them hard for a win, making for a fantastic race. However, the crew were buoyed with confidence having seen that TSS won their semi-final only 1 second quicker than Cantabs, but with a smaller margin despite the equipment failure suffered in the race against Galway.

Being presented their medals by W8+ Rio Olympic medallist Jess Eddie

Spectators were not disappointed and, after a strong start which saw Cantabs have a lead of about 3/4 L by half way, TSS put in a monstrous push in the closing stages to gain back on Cantabs. After crossing the finish line, both crews fell silent, uncertain as to who had won, and it took the umpire a couple of agonising minutes to annouce that Cantabs had won by a canvas, in a time of 4:47, breaking the 7 year-old course record by a phenomenal 11 seconds in the process! This time was faster than the losing crew in the final of the senior eights category, and 1 second faster than the S8+ course record, though Molesey went on to break that record themselves.

Video footage

Official HWR footage of the final (we’re not fans of the rather biased commentary in favour of TSS!):

Footage from earlier rounds is also available on the HWR YouTube channel.

Footage taken from the launch (make sure you watch until the end when the verdict is announced!):

Thank you

Many thanks to Katrina Purser and Phil Gunning in particular for their help over the weekend in keeping the crew cool between races, and to all friends and family who came to support the crew. It goes without saying that most thanks should go to the crew’s coach, Tom Copeland, whose tireless work this season saw a crew containing 3 lightweights and 2 athletes who learned to row at Cantabs just 2 years ago take home HWR medals.

Thank you to the Filippi reps based at HWR for helping to fix the steering (and replacing the sheared 3 backstay after Emma caught an overhead just after the finish!) and, finally, thank you also to TSS, Galway, Lea and Vesta for some fantastic racing.

A write-up of the event featuring quotes from Tom can be found on the Cambridge Independent website.

Want to get involved?

Are you inspired by the crew’s success and want to be part of a squad of remarkable women coached by one of the best amateur coaches in the country? The Senior Women’s Squad is always keen to welcome new athletes who have a passion for rowing and are prepared to commit to training to get results like this.

This year has not just seen the HWR win, but countless others which show the depth of the squad. The A crew finished a fantastic 14th at WEHoRR, and winning the Provincial Pennant for the first time. The B crew finished 59th were the 11th fastest B crew in the event, with the C crew finishing an excellent 98th. Cantabs also secured victory in W.IM1.2- at Pairs Head (2nd fastest W2-), where all 4 crews racing were the fastest non-Tideway crews in their event. The squad have won every event they have entered on the Cam, and set 2 course records on the Cam in the process. The squad also has a number of masters rowers, who won W.MasC.4+ at Vet Fours Head, and were the fastest W.MasC.8+ at British Masters.

The squad has 3 coaches, including British Rowing Coach of the Year winner Tom Copeland, who are passionate about rowing. The boat house has excellent facilities including £10k of new strength and conditioning equipment and Concept2 dynamics. The fleet of women’s boats is ever-growing and includes many boats which were new in the last 2 years.

Training plans are sympathetic to athletes’ working lives, and athletes can work with the coaches to ensure they can get the most out of their training if their job or studies mean they struggle to find the time to do all of the training. We are supported by Milosz Wrobel for strength and conditioning, and injury prevention and recovery. Athletes hoping to do GB trials or break into the CUWBC system and trial for the Women’s Boat Race are well-supported.

Athletes in the squad are a mixture of ages and experience, ranging from 18 to 60. Two of the winning HWR crew learned to row at Cantabs just 2 years ago, 1 learned to row at Cantabs as a junior. On the other end of the scale, the squad has contained BUCS and Nat Schools medallists, people who have rowed in the Women’s Boat Race, represented England at the Home International Regatta, or even raced internationally at events such as the European Championships and Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta.

If you’re interested please contact Ellie Darlington, the women’s captain:

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