Wye rowers head to Henley

WYE Valley rowers enjoyed one of the greatest days in their 80-year history when they took four titles at the British Veteran Championships, leaving two Olympic gold medallists and six other former GB stars bobbing in their wake.

And today Monmouth Rowing Club will be proudly pushing out at Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Cup club eights after Friday's qualifying race.

British junior champion Louis Paterson, 19, and Tom Penny, 25, join the old stagers in the Henley crew, who include Nick Hartland and Dave Bowen. With six of the crew aged 43 to 49, they will be the oldest rowers in the 170-year-old event, up against Maidstone's Great Britain juniors and World Class Start racers.

The club's veterans hoped to pick up a few medals at the British Masters Championships last week, but four titles was beyond their wildest dreams.

The gold rush started in the six-boat over-43 coxless four final, where Tyrian looked formidable opponents.

But James Allison, Eric Froggatt, Mark Stewart-Woods and stroke Andrew Barnett blasted into an early lead and pushed through the halfway 500m mark at nearly 40 strokes a minute with a one-length lead. Monmouth came home three-quarters of a length clear with Quintin another length-and-a-quarter back in third.

Allison and Monmouth-based Aussie Stewart-Woods, the former New South Wales singles champion, then teamed up with Dave Bowen, Nick Hartland and cox Hannah Glasson in the coxed four final, where they had already beaten Steve Redgrave's LA Olympic gold medal crewmates Richard Budgett and Martin Cross in the heat. And 25 years on, the Tyrian/Molesey stars had no answer to Monmouth's seering start, which dropped the whole field in the first 250m.

Next up was the six-boat over-43 eights final, where the Monmouth crew including Catbrook's John Owen and Brockweir's Simon Lee kept the rating at 38 through the first minute, and with Quintin and Tyrian locked in a battle for silver, Monmouth at 36 strokes a minute always had enough to spare, crossing half a length ahead.

Just 40 minutes later, an exhausted Barnett and Stewart-Woods were on the start line again with Lee and Paul Downie for the over-36 coxless four final. Incredibly, the Wye rowers shot out into an early lead and the rattled Nottingham stars never got back on terms.

To win all four events was a superb performance and persuaded the club to have a crack at qualifying for Henley, with young bloods Paterson and Penny joining Hartland, Bowen, Barnett, Stewart-Woods, Froggatt, Allison and cox Lisa Froggatt. And racing against the clock over the epic 2,200m upstream course on Friday evening, they duly grabbed one of the 13 slots on offer in the 32-boat Thames Cup draw.

Club chairman Peter Brunt said: "For a small provincial club to beat so many former GB stars, including two Olympic champions, is a massive credit to the work the guys have put in, and to qualify an eight for Henley for only the second time is the icing on the cake."

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