Edinburgh University breaks 177-year Henley Regatta hoodoo

The Edinburgh University team celebrates its success. Picture: Edinburgh University Boat Club

The Edinburgh University team celebrates its success. Picture: Edinburgh University Boat Club

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EDINBURGH University Boat Club has become the first Scottish higher education institution to win an event in the 177-year history of the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta.

Timing the Prince Albert Challenge Cup men’s coxed fours final to perfection, the Edinburgh crew of James Temple, Kieran Tierney, Calum Irvine, Rufus Scholefield and Rosie Margolis came through from a length down to beat Newcastle University.

Edinburgh had expected two-time winners Newcastle to go out hard but they kept composed and, by the halfway mark, had reeled them in before extending an unassailable lead on the way to finish.

“I told our crew to expect Newcastle to go off extremely hard in the first half,” said head of rowing Colin Williamson.

“Newcastle knew that we were probably a little bit quicker than them so they would have to do something a little bit different to try and shake us.

“So we needed to be calm and trust the boat. Fair play to them, they were really cool and calm, never panicked and they came through in the end. It was really impressive, mature rowing.”

Edinburgh, whose team had beaten international crews from Holland and the USA on the way to yesterday’s race, was the first Scottish university to make a Henley final in the regatta’s history.

Aberdeen Boat Club had won the Wyfold Challenge Cup back in 2002.

The win marks the latest milestone for Edinburgh and its partnership with Scottish Rowing and the Sportscotland institute of sport, which began investing in the university’s programme in 2010.

“When I started the job just under three years ago, I said we would win Henley in five years,” said Mr Williamson.

“I think I was a little bit bullish because back then we were absolutely nowhere. So, to have won a final within three years is just beyond what I thought we could do. But it’s testament to all the athletes buying in what I’ve asked them to do.

“You do not win at Henley without going through tough times and working really hard. But I would not want it any other way; it’s not worth doing unless it’s hard.”

Paying tribute to Edinburgh, Lee Boucher, Scottish Rowing’s high performance manager, said: “Winning at Henley Royal Regatta is always special but to come from behind to make history for your university is something that will live with these young athletes for the rest of their lives.”

The university has invested heavily in the Edinburgh programme through coaches, more boats and better facilities including a performance gym.

newsen@edinburghnews.com